Why We “Need” the Digital Signage Experience


With the announcement of the “new” DSE a few months back it immediately begged the question in the back of my mind if we (meaning the digital signage industry) really needed the new DSE. As plans for the DSE progressed I decided seeking an answer to my original query was in order. I find that when a question is staring you in the face, the best approach is to go to the source and ask the question, so I did. I reached out to Marian Sandberg VP and Market Leader of Questex. I must admit I like what she said.  

Ms. Sandberg replied, “Need is strong word, but I think it’s accurate. The former owners of DSE, when it was Digital Signage Expo—as you know, we’ve renamed it to Digital Signage Experience—did a fantastic job of bringing this community together. And I think that’s the central theme here: community. The absence of DSE the last couple years has been strongly felt. We know because we’ve asked a lot of people, did a ton of due diligence when considering acquiring the brand, and built a strong advisory board to help us relaunch and give us regular feedback.”

Truth be told she had me with the focus on the “community” and the void being “strongly felt” but the “closer” for me was how Ms. Sandberg concluded her thoughts. She summed it up by saying that “There is a gap in the market where this event firmly sits, a gap that can’t necessarily be filled by other, larger shows, who by the way, do a commendable job addressing the market as well. We feel strongly, though, that the market deserves—no, requires—its own event.”

After months of discussion with a wide cross section of friends and colleagues in the digital signage community, I must concur that the “market deserves-no requires-its own event”. For those who know me it will come as no surprise that I cannot leave it there.

It must have its own identity and appeal to each participant in ways that will be meaningful to them. This is why we do need a stand-alone event.

Alan Brawn

I will begin with the audience for the DSE from the top down. There are two parts to this. One part involves the exhibitors at the show and the other part involves the attendees.  There is no argument that the folks at Questex know how to put on a great event so this is a given. The exhibitors will find a great space to show their wares and the seamless operational logistics to support their efforts. Now for the more complex part of the DSE, the attendees. This is where the rubber meets the road.

What many miss when thinking of an event like this is the diverse constituency that makes up the digital signage industry. When I speak of diversity I am referring to a combination of the attendee profiles and the applications they represent. Just think about it. In addition to the manufacturers of hardware and software for digital signage you have investors, marketing and adverting folks, digital signage content creators, system design and integration companies, service providers, network operators, plus others. What used to be solely a retail focused industry has grown to become a full-blown communication platform with tentacles in every walk of business and personal life.

The challenge for the new DSE is to create a “home” for the full constituency. It can’t be “just” a trade show with what I call ooh shiny at every turn. It must be more than an addition or an afterthought to an existing event as some have tried. It must have its own identity and appeal to each participant in ways that will be meaningful to them. This is why we do need a stand-alone event.

Now this is not the responsibility of Questex and the DSE alone.  They will provide the structure or umbrella under which the event will take place but for it to be all that it can be there will need to be pre-show efforts put forward by the DSE advisory board, the exhibitors, the participants in the educational and certification offerings and yes the attendees not to mention the DSF and DSEG. Each group has a role.

For this to come off as desired and yes, as needed, all of us must do some soul searching as to what we want out of the show. Part will be self-serving relative to individual needs but a good deal will be for the greater good of the community and digital signage writ large. A rising tide floats all boats. It is up to all of us who see the “requirement” for a standalone event to do some pre-show work. Of course, this begs the question as to what this work entails.

The first effort is the decision to exhibit at the show. If it makes digital signage sense to exhibit at the DSE you should. Consider this an investment in the industry and the full consistency of digital signage and support for standalone events to come. I promise the DSF and DSEG will do their parts.       

If you are thinking of attending the DSE, bring along your colleagues and any stakeholders that can be positively affected by attending.  The networking and education alone are worth the price of admission.

If you are participating in the educational part of the DSE then proactively promote that participation far and wide. Do not rest your laurels on “build it and they will come”.

The point is that digital signage is different. The experience of digital signage from the viewer perspective is what drives us all. It is a behavior modification medium with a call to action. The real benefit of the DSE is being in a dedicated space and a focused time with everyone on the show floor involved in digital signage. At best it can be a home for us. As we experienced with the original DSE, we found that we learned from one another. We had a home and a shared experience and we miss that. We called that home the DSE and the experience digital signage. Come join us!