As practically everyone involved in this industry knows, the 2008 Digital Signage Expo was held last week at the Las Vegas Convention Center. I saw lots of you there, and for the most part you looked like you were having a pretty good time learning about what's new and exciting in the world of digital signage and out-of-home media. (Or maybe you just looked happy about whatever else you were doing in Las Vegas -- naughty you!) Rather than the typical post-show writeup, I'd like to take a moment to point out some of the great things I saw, as well as a few areas that could still use some improvement.
Overall, the show was very well-organized, and the staff were quite helpful. If you've ever been to an event at the Las Vegas Convention Center, you know how difficult it can be to find your way around. ExpoNation had plenty of people on the floor to make sure we didn't get too lost, and as a navigationally-challenged individual, I thank them for that. Next, the slate of seminars was truly great -- we have Laura Davis-Taylor to thank for that. The sessions covered a wide range of topics and featured a panel of industry pioneers, experts, and me (can't fault 'em for that, though). The expo hall was thoughtfully laid-out and fairly easy-to-navigate, and was centrally located next to a Starbucks. As we know, that's the de facto location for getting "real business" done -- and at something less than the 5,000 decibel roar of the show floor, too.
Also, Titan Worldwide ran an impromptu session encouraging us digital signage software vendors to play nice with one another, or else get out of the sandbox. Well, they didn't put it quite that way, but their message was clear: there are too many proprietary systems out there making deployments more difficult than necessary, and it would be in everyone's best interest to fix that by implementing some interoperability standards. Now, as a user and advocate of standards-based technologies, I'm all for this sort of thing. However, I've seen astonishingly few situations that actually do benefit all involved parties, so I'll remain cautiously optimistic for now. It looks like POPAI's Digital Signage Standards group will be taking the lead on this project, and there should be more news about it in the near future. Want to join in the fun? Email email@example.com for details.
Those seminars were great -- or at least the few I actually got to see were. Annoyingly, the show organizers insisted on running multiple "tracks" of seminars at the same time. Thus, at any given time you could only go to one of three or four seminars. Since no seminar was repeated, if you missed it, you missed it. Likewise, there was too much time between seminars. This actually worked fine for me, since I had plenty of meetings to attend, but I heard a number of people grumbling about being herded back into the expo hall while waiting for their next session to begin. I can guess why ExpoNation did this (those expo hall exhibitors are paying their bills, after all), but reducing the time between seminars would have allowed people to fit more into a single day. And with less overlap between seminars, visitors could attend more of them.
On a related note, there were two hours between each seminar. Why then, I ask, were co-presenter Axel Vera and I shooed out of our room only 30 minutes after our session ended, even though there were dozens of people still sitting there asking tons of questions? These people (who paid for session tickets, by the way) obviously valued the time at the session, but ExpoNation made them leave -- no doubt to get them to go back to the Exhibit hall, as per my aforementioned conspiracy theory.
I'm a reasonably young guy, but I could happily live the rest of my (hopefully long) life never feeling the need to go back to Vegas. Every show/seminar/expo I attend there gives me this weird feeling of déjà vu, like I'm running in circles doing the same thing over and over again. It's a personal gripe for sure, and I know lots of people love visiting America's playground. But personally, I feel like I need a long, hot shower to scrub it all off after I return home. And for those of you who will immediately point out how much nicer the weather is in Vegas this time of year... I live in Fort Lauderdale, otherwise known as the spring break capital of the planet. There's a reason why every year, tens-of-thousands of college students make their way down to this very spot in February and March. It's much nicer than anywhere in Nevada. But I digress.
No, WireSpring wasn't exhibiting, and to all of you folks wandering around looking for us: I'm really sorry for any confusion; we should have communicated our intentions better. I'm not going to give you a long diatribe with my true feelings about trade shows, our ROI-based marketing programs or the way we chart sales leads, but suffice it to say that skipping the show was an experiment on our part. If it doesn't work, I expect that Mike Smith (our VP of Sales) will probably have me locked up in a small cage where he can walk by periodically and poke me with a sharp stick.
Finally, though I'm almost embarassed to have to say this after being in the business more than seven years: WireSpring makes digital signage playback software and content management software. Yup, we're a software company, not a consulting firm, creative/media house, or anything having to do with advertising sales. Apparently, we need to work on getting that message out there more clearly. While I hate using this blog for promotional purposes (which is probably a big part of the problem, though it won't change), I'd be doing my entire staff a disservice if I didn't at least mention it once -- since I must have explained what we do 50 or 60 times to blog readers and others who "know" us over the course of the two-day show.
Well, those are my primary memories of the 2008 Digital Signage Expo. Were you there too? If so, what did you think?