It was clear in the last two or three weeks that Digital Signage Expo was going to be under the same pressure that almost every trade show is facing in the age of COVID-19.
I concluded about 10 days ago that the show would either be forced to cancel or postpone, or go on with a few diehard exhibitors and attendees. I also concluded that running a mixer amidst all that was pointless and probably a little irresponsible, when “social distancing” was being actively discouraged by health officials.
So I started developing a Plan B, which firmed up pretty much as virus concerns and DSE exhibitor cancellations escalated in the last couple of days.
DSE will now be on sometime in late summer, aka September. It would not make a bunch of sense to do a show in August, before schools are back in and vacation absences slow.
There’s another, much larger trade show still scheduled and sufficiently far out in the schedule that it should happen – InfoComm. It is in mid-June, when full-on blast furnace conditions are happening in Las Vegas. Maybe that pizza oven-like heat will kill the virus???
So the 16:9 Mixer will now be run during Infocomm. It will be at the same venue and dinner-hour time, but on a Wednesday (June 17th) instead of the Tuesday. There are many social functions around Infocomm, but none dedicated to the digital signage community. Most are hard-core AV gatherings or later evening, very LOUD parties. There were party conflicts at DSE and there will be more at InfoComm.
However, where other events may have piles of people who make and market microphones, speakers, lighting and gadgets that are not part of your digital signage work, this event should have your people. Your tribe.
The mixer will start early, as usual, so people who have multiple events to attend that night can get started at the Hard Rock and move on from there. It will also be done, as usual, with background music low enough to allow people to hear each other talking.
InfoComm is a noticeably different trade show from DSE. It is not solely focused on digital signage and DOOH, but the lines between pro AV, IT and signage are steadily growing more blurred. You have red-hot communications companies like Zoom offering a signage solution, for example.
InfoComm is also quite different in that its overall attendance is historically something like 10X that of DSE. It is not really an end-user show, which is DSE’s main focus. But InfoComm is utterly crawling with companies that could be channel partners/resellers. Since most signage companies sell through a channel, whether that’s software or gear, there’s a logical match.
There is no guarantee that InfoComm will go forward, but also no indication it will not. It is three months out, not 2.5 weeks, and much should (please!) change between now and late spring. I think we’ll still be knuckle-bumping, elbow-tapping and waving at each other three months from now, but some degree of normal life will hopefully have resumed. Food at the mixer may be tray-passed instead of available at a buffet with spoons and tongs that get commonly handled.
It would have been great to just shift the whole thing to a rebooted DSE, but the mixer comes with big dollar contractual obligations and a ticking clock. I needed to make a call, quickly, and Infocomm has a firm date, and a known crowd. DSE may not even have a date and venue for a little bit, and it has the uphill-all-the-way challenge of winning back exhibitors who dropped out, and attendees who may or may not have eat the travel costs of their DSE trip.
If you registered for the 16:9 mixer, and InfoComm is a show you also attend, or planned to this year, you will have first crack at re-registering for the June 17th event. I will use the email registration list via EventBrite to send a new registration link. Not right away, but soon-ish.
After that, I will open things up generally, for a second time!
I will have to print a whole pile of new badges (sigh), or maybe I monkey with the 500 already printed, perforated and ready to go??? Hmmm.
The 16:9 Mixer’s 2020 sponsors have been terrifically supportive through these virus-driven twists and turns. Open, honest communications make for great partnerships. These are the companies who’ve had my back as we’ve tried to sort this out.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.