Survey Says!: Mixed Opinions On Need, Style, Locale Of A Focused Industry Event

February 22, 2021 by Dave Haynes

The digital signage ecosystem has a decidedly mixed opinion on whether or not a replacement event is needed for the now-defunct Digital Signage Expo, but there is a clear desire for some sort of event that allows industry people to gather in person.

That’s what comes out of a Sixteen:Nine reader survey that gathered more than 150 responses from industry people. It’s a good-sized sample of opinions, but I make no pretense this is particularly solid, go-to-the-bank research. It’s a reader survey, period.

That said, what people said is quite interesting.

In the wake of the demise of DSE, there has been much debate about whether an industry-specific show was needed and wanted, as well as about the applicability of the big pro AV trade shows as replacements.

Readers broke 54.5% in favor of someone reviving DSE or launching a new show and conference focused on the sector. 53% said InfoComm and ISE are different kinds of events and not a suitable fill-in, because digital signage is just one of many things going on.

“Infocomm has 30,000 attendees,” offers one respondent. “I don’t want to talk to 30,000 people when 2,000 of them are interested in digital signage and the other 28,000 are done seeing what they need, but are justifying the other three days of their trip. With a well supported booth, you can have good engagements with more viable customers in 1 – 2 days of a dedicated signage show then you can having an entire sales team traveling every other day of the year. Companies should base the value of a show on more than the number of badges scanned. I would rather engage one current customer at a show than spend two days explaining to 100 people, who have no intention to purchase digital signage, what my company does.”

“Infocomm is a shotgun blast – everyone is there, but will you even see the people in your segment?” adds another respondent. “While DSE was a rifle shot – yes, you knew you were going to see many of the same people every year, but could still find a way to leave with 100+ business cards of prospective customers/partners/suppliers/et al.”

A whopping 87% of vendors said they need and crave live events.

I would have thought education would be a top draw for a live event, but it ranked the lowest of four reasons why to attend – with networking/in-person meetings by far the main attraction. This may be in part because 16:9 readers are IN the industry, and the people who would benefit most from education sessions are end-users and people generally unfamiliar with digital signage (who undoubtedly don’t read 16:9).

It also speaks to the whole idea of networking and efficiently seeing a bunch of people in a single trip. For years, I was quietly saying DSE was a bit like a Rotarian convention, with local chapters from across the country getting together for one big meeting and catch-up.

All of 5% of respondents thought virtual events are enough and in-person events are unnecessary. 71% said no. A quarter said “Maybe.”

“Serendipity, chance meetings, company meetings, catching up with old and current colleagues, seeing real gear and software up close, and sometimes just the sheer chaos, fun, luck of live events – little to none of that can be replaced by apps and online events,” adds another respondent.

“Trade shows can be good for creating buzz around bringing new products to market, but even still that kind of buzz can be created away from the show floor, certainly with the same dedicated budget,” says a different respondent. “For us, trade shows are more of an opportunity to see clients and industry movers and shakers rather than showcasing actual hardware, which we can do on actual project sites or in demo rooms or in product shoot-outs.”

Q1, already clogged with trade events, is nonetheless regarded as the optimal timing for a live event, and fall the least favored timeframe.

Finally, two-thirds of readers think Las Vegas is the best place for a digital signage show.

I asked for suggestions of other cities and that was all over the place. Some readers placed a premium on warm weather. Others want good flight connections. Several suggested Atlanta or Chicago.

Me – Nashville. And me – fall.

There is way less going on in terms of trade shows in September and October. It is closer to ISE, but that’s a different event and crowd, by and large.

The only signage event is New York Digital Signage Week, which is OK if you want to spend $400+/night for a shoebox hotel room in New York and see the same dozens of people (almost all sales or biz dev people) at a series of cocktail parties and open houses of companies with offices or showrooms in NYC.

I think the event is well presented, but see almost no reason to go. Sorry, Adrian.

If you’ve gone and personally love it, awesome! Not I.

A big thank you to the folks who took the time to do the survey. I wouldn’t make business decisions based on the quality of these questions and the methodology, but 155 or so responses in a relatively small industry is nonetheless interesting and meaningful.

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