Those of us who attended the USPS’s premier industry conference – the National Postal Forum – this year, held May 21-25 in Charlotte, NC, know that, once again, the NPF delivered everything it is renowned for and more. As a long-time attendee of National Postal Forums – going back to when the USPS used to do two each year, one on the east coast and one on the west coast – I have seen the improvements and changes in the event over the past 20+ years, and the 2023 event did not disappoint!
Having experienced the work involved in putting together this kind of event (though our NAPM annual conference is a much smaller affair!), I know firsthand that a huge amount of effort is involved year-round. Hats off to the NPF and USPS staffs that worked together to bring a ton of value to NPF attendees. NAPM and its members are very involved in NPF, with many of our members exhibiting and attending sessions. Our association always exhibits in the Mailing Industry Pavilion, which is a regular feature of the NPF for attendees to learn more about the industry associations to which many mailers and service providers belong. The NPF staff on site was exemplary in ensuring all our needs were met and everything went smoothly.
How Did the 2023 NPF Compare with Others? According to the NPF, the 2023 event drew 54% more industry attendees than the 2022 event, a clear sign of the value of the event and the interest from the mailing industry. Industry attendance was still slightly below pre-pandemic levels seen at the 2019 NPF – not a surprise given the ongoing challenges businesses continue to face with labor issues, rising costs, and supply chain disruptions -- but attendance was significantly higher than the 2022 NPF.
USPS attendance was higher for this year’s show, and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in his town hall meeting remarks noted that the USPS was combining the NPF event with internal management meetings rather than hold those meetings separately, and that likely would continue going forward. It was great for the mailing industry to have so many USPS managers there to learn about the industry’s concerns and add to the conversations about the future, and enabled many customers to meet with USPS managers who are key to their business success. And the USPS graciously ensured that industry attendees were seated first for the PMG’s town hall meeting (something that may have been good to do for other sessions, as well, as some reported standing room only in popular sessions).
A PMG First! Kudos to the USPS and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy for conducting the first “town hall” meeting at the NPF where attendees could submit questions in advance or ask them on the spot. No topic was off limits, and the Postmaster General responded to all questions with the frankness and humor that he is becoming known for. He shared his perceptions on a long list of topics to a room packed with both USPS managers and mailing and shipping industry attendees. We hope the NPF and USPS keep this on the agenda for future NPFs, and perhaps allow a bit more time as there were so many questions the PMG responded to, it went over time and cut into the next sessions.
Packed Exhibit Hall. There is no other conference where attendees can see firsthand as many different solutions exhibits, from a wide array of businesses in the mailing/shipping industry space, as the NPF includes. It was exciting to see all the new exhibitors at this year’s NPF that brought even more dimension to the types of solutions attendees can learn about in the exhibit hall. According to NPF, 28% of the exhibitors at the 2023 show were new exhibitors to the event, which drew 30% more exhibitors than the 2022 NPF and exceeded the pre-pandemic levels of the 2019 forum. Traffic was steady in the exhibit hall, and the NPF continued its practice of dedicated exhibit hall times as well as lunch and reception being served in the exhibit hall to help drive traffic.
Education Is the Bottom Line. There are many benefits to attending the NPF, including the opportunity to see the latest solutions in the exhibit hall, the networking opportunities, connecting with customers and USPS managers from around the country, and much more. But essential to a successful NPF are the educational sessions, and the 2023 NPF came through in a big way. USPS executives conducted numerous sessions on important topics such as the network redesign, new product offerings, integration of direct mail and digital solutions, the critical work the USPS did in delivering COVID test kits, Informed Delivery developments, pricing and product strategies, and more!
USPS and industry experts presented a long list of educational sessions on topics including general management and leadership, address quality, presort/commingle benefits, optimizing USPS product offerings, Informed Delivery, international mail, return mail and parcels, printing and mail piece design, data security and management, shipping and mailing trends, logistics and transportation, customer solutions, supply chain management, USPS promotions, direct mail, Mailer Scorecards, Seamless Acceptance, and more. From broad policy and management topics to in the weeds discussions on MIDs and CRIDs, the National Postal Forum has it all.
With so many different topics and sessions, it is impossible for one attendee to go to all the ones they may be interested in, but the NPF makes all the session slides (except the USPS officer-led sessions) available promptly on its website for attendees to download.
NPF Brings USPS and Industry Together. One of the best things about the NPF is that it brings representatives from the USPS and the mailing/shipping industry together to work collaboratively. At the 2023 NPF, the USPS brought plant managers, marketing/sales teams, headquarters representatives, and more. The strong USPS attendance was appreciated by the industry attendees as it provides opportunities to network and meet, and provides the USPS managers the opportunity to attend industry-led sessions to learn more about their customers’ needs.
Many may not realize all the side meetings that go on during the NPF, whether they are run by mailing/shipping customers meeting with a variety of USPS managers around the country, or by mailing/shipping associations like NAPM who hold meetings bringing together their members and key USPS managers. The fact that so many industry and USPS managers attend the NPF makes it the perfect opportunity to hold these kinds of gatherings.
Networking, Networking, Networking. One of the best things about the NPF is all the networking opportunities that are woven into the event, offering informal and relaxed discussions between mailing/shipping industry attendees and USPS attendees. After all, we all support the same industry and want the USPS to succeed, so we have a lot in common! With a reception every night of the event sponsored by NPF or the PCC – not to mention the many receptions sponsored by attendee companies – there are plenty of opportunities to socialize and make new connections. The daily breakfast and lunch areas also provided networking opportunities, and kudos to the NPF for making the lunch events easier and more accessible to all attendees this year!
The USPS Awards and Recognition Luncheon with inspirational speakers and the closing event at the NASCAR Hall of Fame both made staying at the NPF until it ended a great decision.
Save the Date for the 2024 National Postal Forum! Save the date now for the 2024 National Postal Forum, to be held June 2-5, 2024, in Indianapolis, IN. Check the NPF website for more information as it becomes available (https://npf.org/). Hope to see everyone there!
This article originally appeared in the July/August, 2023 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.