Day 2 DSE Impressions: Two Shows Will Be Joined Up

November 19, 2022 by Dave Haynes

The company that acquired the assets of Digital Signage Expo when it went under does numerous trade shows and conferences, among them one aimed at the live events and attractions industry, and when DSE spins back up a year from now, it will be in the same hall with that show.

So you can walk into LDI, or into DSE, and walk between them. The owner/operators, NY-based Questex, were already show floor layouts for Nov. 23 that showed how it would work.

I had never been to LDI, and this year it was in a different part of the LVCC North Hall. Your DSE badge got you in to LDI without a blink from the people who control access.

Yesterday was pretty quiet on the DSE floor, so to walk 300 yards or whatever to another area put you into a hall that was darkened and best described as sensory overload.

The “tribe” of the live events industry are roadies and sound engineers and lighting pros who are all about making a concert, touring production, game opening, half-time show or theme park attraction into much more than performances or exhibits.

There were fog cannons, this gadget that turns fog into floating bubbles (want one for my grandson now), swirling lights, LED pendants and bead curtains and wristbands that are given to concertgoers, that light up and sync with songs being formed.

There was even a live performance at the back with the pitch: Humans Dance W/ Real Lightning!

What? Huh???

But the relevant thing is the connective tissue with LED displays. Many of the larger LED display companies have different business divisions and activities. We’re all getting to know the fixed LED business as that technology steadily improves and starts to take over from LCD video walls. But companies like AOTO and Unilumin, as well as many of the others, also have entire product lines for rental displays.

These are LED cabinets designed to go up and come down fast, and survive the inevitable attrition of being packed and taken down repeatedly for use in concerts, theatrical productions and, lately, business events.

They had people coming into their stands asking about fixed displays, for lobbies in video walls – some of those questions from people like me crossing over from DSE.

If you have been to InfoComm or ISE, you will recall walking around and coming across areas where all of sudden the music was up, there were exhibitors showing things like rigging trusses, swirling lights and all manner of fog machines and cannons that shoot out sparks. Those guys do the pro AV shows, but LDI is  also a big one on their calendars.

So how does a show for the razzle dazzle of live events tie in to one about software for restaurants and employee communications and car dealers???

They don’t, entirely, but there’s lots of crossover and there will be more. I moderated a panel about immersive experiences that use projection mapping and a lot of sensory technologies to envelop visitors to places like Oasis Immersion in Montreal and Illuminarium in Las Vegas and Atlanta. Those are attractions, but those kinds of experiences are also now being developed and driven for resorts, new shopping malls, certainly new-build airports and for business events and headquarters buildings.

What the Comcast Center did in Philly almost 15 years ago, and is still going, was a visionary project about using digital displays and supporting technology to create memorable experiences that cast the company in the right kind of light. Cable companies don’t make people smile, but the show in the company’s HQ lobby does. It’s a major local attraction.

HR people are now saying that for recruitment, the look, vibe and experience of a building is a big part of signing on top people. With work from home now common, companies have to work harder at enticing people to take on a job that requires them coming in – and an interesting environment helps.

You may have noticed, or attended some big business events that used giant stages with giant LED or projection backdrops, that turn presenters into rock stars and product launches into shows. That needs content management and show controls and a lot of supporting technology that is, or is not much different from, the stuff done for many higher profile, bigger budget digital signage projects.

We have all seen and talked about how pro AV and IT are converging, and how that has impacted the buyer and specifier profiles for digital signage technology. We’ve also seen companies like Moment Factory become much more present in digital signage. Those guys, and many others, design performances and experiences for performing acts, but they also do airports and content for amazing outdoor LED jobs like the AT&T Discovery District in Dallas.

So I think next year, with LDI and DSE side-by-side in one hall at the LVCC, it will feel much more like an InfoComm or ISE, with the benefit of being able to design the floor in a way that has cohesion. Both ISE and InfoComm have tried through the years to hive together the digital signage people into “zones” or even their own halls, like in Amsterdam. But the biggest vendors at those shows don’t want to move from their primo positions on the floor just to serve digital signage, when they have all kinds of people coming to see their product for use in different ways, like collaboration and, lately, virtual backdrops for TV and film sets.

So key vendors are all over the floor footprints.

What the rebooted DSE can do – because it has no real history now of “how things have always been done” – is do things like having LED and other display tech bordering the DSE part of the hall, so they can perhaps show their rental gear on one side of the exhibit and fixed gear on the other. INFILED was a rare case of a company that chose, this year, to have a decent stand at DSE and a bigger one over in LDI. But apart from very unfamiliar Shenzhen LED companies at DSE, the much more familiar names like Unilumin, Absen, AOTO, ROE and others were all over in LDI.

So I think pairing the two is a lot more than a marriage of convenience for an events company that can then have one show management office and one team.

There are things to improve. The hall floors were not all carpeted. Just booths. My KNEEES!!! And wayfinding in the darkened sensory overload of LDI wasn’t great. But all shows listen, learn and tweak based on feedback. Earlier in the week would be awesome.

I don’t think the digital signage industry is big enough – especially with mergers and consolidation – to support an entirely standalone exhibition. The LCD pro display business has low margins and is shrinking and OLED is probably never going to be a high volume business. The only big display company at DSE 2022, with a stand, was Sony.  I wandered through but I don’t need to fly across the country to see a slightly bigger or skinnier or whatever edition of a pro display I already know is really good.

But as noted before, the industry DEFINITELY wants an event to gather at.

There were more catty remarks here and there in social media about the show’s small footprint and light foot traffic (it may well be a ghost town for today – don’t understand why it is a three-day thing), but the exhibitors I spoke with and the people who came in were pretty uniformly happy.

It’s almost a cliche in the business, but they really do say it’s not about how many people they see, it’s who.

Two different companies related opportunities with major QSRs that just walked up. Close one of those and the show was seriously worth the dollars and effort.

I also thought the educational side was well done by David Drain. I did a panel with four super-smart people one day, and sat in on one Friday hearing from three of the best creative/experience shops on the planet – Float4, Dimensional Innovations and Moment Factory. These were industry rock stars, and there were other wickedly-sharp people on panels, like Jackie Walker of Publicis Sapient.

There were exhibitor-led presentations on the show floor, but the educational sessions were in dedicated areas and were about learning and sharing, not selling or demos.

Interesting note about technology being used and how it saved a key presentation: Data visualization rock star Refik Anadol was booked to do the opening keynote, but was stuck in New York working on a show opening this weekend in NYC. So he had to tell the Questex people, on short notice, that he couldn’t be there in person.

The fix was putting one of those shower stall-like transparent LCD set-ups – from exhibitor ARHT Media – on the stage, with Anadol in front a white-screen in New York. He did it live, and observers said it was so interesting it might actually have been better than his being on the stage in Vegas. I have big doubts about brands and retailers using these for spinning shoes and handbags, but THIS was a great real-time usage story.

I’m done with the show. Heading to airport soon. It was WELL worth my while coming, and I sensed that from most people I met up with here and there.

I’ll do another post … maybe on the plane … with thoughts on what I saw and heard on the floor.

  1. Miguel Fonseca says:

    agree ! the industry needs a place to gather and DSE had very interesting Keynotes that i found completely worth to atttend. Hope the show grows next year and i believe there is a base for that.

  2. Wes Dixon says:

    The “Mixer” was fantastic, thank you Dave and Spectrio. The resurrected DSE was less so. Truthfully, it felt like there were more people at the “Mixer” than the show floor.

    While I believe we digital signage people need our own “show”, merging it with LDI (though it will be a whole lot less expensive for Questech) would be a mistake. The DS industry is much more sympatico with AV than LIVE Events. DSF should consider joining INFOCOMM / ISE instead of the “Frankenstein” envisioned by the show organizers.

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