So Far, DSE 2020 Dropouts Appear Minimal

March 4, 2020 by Dave Haynes

When LG-MRI pulled out of Digital Signage Expo last week, citing COVID-19 worries, I had a feeling this might be the start of a tumbling dominoes thing that could lead to a cancelled or empty show.

So far, my spidey-senses have been off.

Intel cancelled a Wednesday cocktail party, and a small handful of companies – including Create LED from Shenzhen – have pulled out.

Visix has also pulled, but that happened last week and CEO Sean Matthews said in a note: Visix has been an exhibitor and supporter of the Digital Signage Expo for more than a decade. Like most companies, we consistently review our trade show participation to ensure the best possible engagement with potential customers. In 2020, our 40th year in business, we’ve decided not to participate in DSE so we can focus our efforts on other marketing strategies. We may exhibit at DSE again in the future.

He makes no mention of the virus, and I know in speaking with Matthews last year that he was not sure DSE aligned well with his company’s focus on workplace and higher ed. The Atlanta company has always put more emphasis on its presence at InfoComm.

I’ve been watching the DSE exhibitor list lately. There have been a couple of other small companies that have dropped off, but no one has cancelled (at least that I can tell) that has a notably big footprint.

That’s about it for cancelled plans, at least so far. 

Undoubtedly, there will be some people who might otherwise help staff booths, from places like Northern Italy, who won’t make it to Las Vegas. I wonder if the handful of Shenzhen companies on the list will make it there, given the lack of flights out of China. Those with a US office on the west coast could still show, but these are not big exhibitors with never-before-seen gear. 

I do wonder how many end-users from Fortune 500s may come, since they don’t necessarily need to go and their companies may be clamping down on travel for collective health reasons, and for liability reasons. If a company lawyer is asked if sending someone to a trade show presents a risk if he or she ends up getting sick, the lawyer is likely going to advise against travel.

Undoubtedly, overall traffic will be down, but as was noted with ISE, which saw a massive drop in numbers, the companies who exhibited cared more about qualified, quality leads, not head counts. There are many spin-free accounts of ISE exhibitors being very happy with having more time for serious customers, who made the effort to get to Amsterdam.

The apparent lack of a wholesale exodus is encouraging, particularly given how there are other shows out there postponing or just flat cancelling.

I’ve had lots of notes from industry friends asking me if I thought the show was going to happen, and have said I think so/hope so/assume so. While DSE may be one of numerous shows the big guys – like the major display companies – “do” through a year, for other, smaller companies, a lot of time, money and thought has gone into an event that is one of very few they may do in a year because of finite budgets and resources.

The virus continues to spread in certain regions, but a lot more has been learned in recent days and the tech reports I read from China have shifted, generally, from factories closing or working at limited capacity, to factories getting back to normal.

There will likely be a bit more The End Is Nigh stuff happening when various US governments gets their shit together and get a proper, real count of the numbers affected, because a spike is likely when proper, accurate detection testing is in place. The spike will very likely reflect better detection, as opposed to rampant spread.

The panic and worry may be starting to ease, as people realize this situation is not all that different from every winter, during what even the CDC calls Cold and Flu season. 

Medical opinions seem to vary about whether this virus is the same, worse or less nasty than influenza, but there is is little to suggest this is lethal or even particularly bad for healthy people. Different story, certainly, for people with health issues brought on by pre-existing conditions or old age. If you fit that description, or take care of people who fit that, then yes, cancelling travel makes sense.

It’s very wrong to write off those who get very sick or die from the virus as collateral damage. They’re people’s moms, dads, grannies and grandpas. We lost such a person to pneumonia this winter, so we know the pain. But we also knew he was very old and vulnerable.

Nothing I’ve read or heard has me thinking I need to reconsider my DSE plans. ISE, with 50,000 people from all over the world, was likely way more risky, and having gone through a lot of Purell and bumped a lot of knuckles, I made it through. DSE will see 4,000 or people, almost all from parts of the world where COVID-19 has barely shown up.

See you in four weeks. 

  1. Scott says:

    If you’re basing your info on the exhibitor list, I would imagine what they’re showing online doesn’t exactly match up with the “real” exhibitor list they have internally.

    If NAB is already experiencing a mass exodus, I can’t imagine DSE is faring much better. Tough time for the trade show industry in general.

    You point to Visix as a good sign, as in they’re not concerned about corona. But DSE should actually be far more concerned about that rationale for dropping the show. Corona will probably end up just giving many companies who were already leaning out of DSE an excuse to do so.

  2. Michael Stewart says:

    LG-MRI may not have caused a huge domino tumble, but it does seem like the exhibitor list is smaller than it has been the past couple of years. At least the big players still seem to be holding true.

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