Podcast: My Thoughts About The Return Of DSE

November 16, 2022 by Dave Haynes

I already have an interview in the can, so to speak, for next week, but I wanted to do a short podcast that just features me droning on … to provide some thoughts and ideas about the return of DSE. This is the transcript, but if you want to hear me blabber on for about six minutes so you can sleep on your flight to Las Vegas, here’s the audio player.

This was recorded late last week. Assuming my travel plans weren’t seriously messed up, I’m in Las Vegas today, getting set for tonight’s Sixteen:Nine networking mixer. More than 400 people have registered and I was writing all kinds of “No … Sorry” notes to a lot of people who didn’t register before it sold out.

I have been blown away by the interest in the event. It has always sold out, sometimes within 48 hours, but I had some doubts about what might happen this time around. It’s been almost four years since I last did a mixer for DSE, and the show itself folded and then got rebooted by Questex. 

Would I see 100 people? Maybe 200? I budgeted for 400, published the registration site, and sat back and watched as the tickets were quickly exhausted.

The demand seen for those mixer tickets reflects, I think, what DSE is all about – getting the industry together for an event that’s JUST about digital signage. I have always thought the show was as much about efficient networking and meetings as it was about being a technology showcase. I used to joke that DSE was like a Rotarians convention, except instead of people coming to represent their local chapter, people were coming from their companies.

My sense is that’s particularly true now, because a lot of people in this industry ecosystem have not seen each other in at least a couple of years. Yes, there have been trade shows going on, and yes lots of people are traveling again. But terrific shows like InfoComm and Integrated Systems Europe serve a lot of interests, and a hell of a lot of the people who attend have zero ties to digital signage.

I did a wholly unscientific reader survey after the original DSE went under, to ask what people thought and what they did and did not like about the old show. The comment that has stuck with me ever since was from someone who said he or she liked DSE because they’d get to Vegas, and know the people, the technology, demos and events were all JUST about digital signage.

There are a couple of Digital Signage Weeks, I know, in New York and London. I think the organizers do a good job of marketing the calendar of events, but it’s kind of cobbled together with events that have somewhat tenuous ties. I have spoken with people who’ve gone to the DPAA conference, thinking digital signage, and left thinking they had no idea what the ad people were talking about. I’ve personally lived that.

It’s a small industry. People know each other, and as much as they compete with each other for business, they’re also friends.

An event like this is also super-efficient for people, whether they run a company or sell its pots and pans. You can fly all over the damn place to meet customers, prospects and partners, racking up air and hotel points. An event like DSE enables people to have a whole bunch of touches with people – dinners, drinks or chats in a hallway – out of one set of flights and a few hotel nights.

Because the show is a reboot, there was undoubtedly lots of skepticism and reluctance to invest serious money into organizing a stand and everything that goes with that. The exhibitor count may not hit 100, and walking the show floor will not take long. I suspect there are vendors sending people this time out to check it out and make decisions about whether they book a stand for 2023.

There are not, from what I can tell from the floor plan, any mega booths … like what are evident at ISE and InfoComm. At the old ISE, Samsung had its own building! Some of the big display guys, like LG and PPDS (which is Philips), don’t have any presence at DSE this year.

There are some LED display companies showing, but there won’t be a sea of screens like you might see at other, larger shows.

Software companies had to adjust to new ways of marketing and selling during the pandemic, and I’m guessing a lot of them discovered that the demos they’ve traditionally done at booths were pretty effective using video conferencing and screen-sharing, and cheap as hell by comparison to a trade show booth. So I don’t think we’re ever going to see a DSE filled again with CMS company stands. 

But I’d argue they were pulling back by 2019.

So why go?

Well … there are always interesting companies that are new to the market – as start-ups or companies broadening both what they do and who they serve. At past DSEs, I always started off my walkabouts by going to the sides and back of the hall – where the start-ups with teeny budgets would get tabletops or 10 by 10s. I’d see companies I call head-shakers – because they clearly didn’t do enough research before coming up with something that already exists. But I’d also bump into companies with interesting new takes on solutions.

I’ve poked around the exhibitor list and identified several unfamiliar companies I want to check out.

But I’m also eager to get updates and demos from well-established companies, and a small show means I have the luxury of time. I have left large shows, dead on my feet, knowing I never did see this or that.

I want to see what’s new with Sony. I can compare what ARHT Media does with its transparent LCD set-up, versus what I’ve seen with Photo. I can finally see the Looking Glass displays, which are kinda sorta holographic. A startup called SapientX – which I assumed was related to Publicis Sapient but isn’t … I don’t think … is showing an AI-driven chatbot avatar thingie. Vestaboard is there with a split flap display. I can get a better sense of how Google and Chrome OS now fit in digital signage, as it has a stand and people at the show. I don’t know what Esper does, or WindowGrin, or Antron … but I will after this week.

And I’ll be able to touch base and catch up with a pile of people and companies I know.

I don’t think there has to be a choose one decision about digital signage and trade shows. If you’re serious about the business, and assuming the travel budget and time is available, you should go to a big pro AV trade show like an InfoComm or ISE, because all the latest display tech and infrastructure are shown there. And if digital signage is your tribe, your people, events like DSE are just as important to attend.

If you are going to Vegas, safe travels and I’ll see you around.

I hope to do some interviews while in Las Vegas, and as I said at the top, I already have next week’s podcast done – with a hologram expert hopefully clearing a little fog with respect to that much-abused technology term.

  1. Craig keefner says:

    Next time a couple of water stations would be nice and maybe carpeted aisles.

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