Cutting Through the Clutter at DSE 2010

Man, that was intense.  Particularly, the juggling of mediums to report on and with.  It’s hard to blog, Tweet, take pictures, videos, post to this site and that site in such a short amount of time.  Especially with no WiFi throughout the Convention Center.  (I could only get online in a couple of places in the Convention Center.)  It’s a process that I have not perfected by any means.  But it doesn’t take away from the fun of it all, or the knowledge gained.

That’s the big question that everyone has asked me – more than, “how much fun did you have?”, it’s “what did you learn?”  The short answer to that question is that I learned a lot.  And more importantly, I met a lot of really good, bright people, who are all advocates of this space.  You get people who are passionate about the same thing in a room and you can’t help but learn things.  But there is a longer answer to that question……

While I did learn about many things, it wasn’t necessarily all things that I cared about learning.  There’s always a lot of clutter at conventions like this and I can tell pretty quickly if it’s something that I a) care about b) want to be informed of or c) can’t process because it’s too complicated.  And I’m not necessarily talking about “complicated” as in “over my head.”  I’m talking about “complicated” as in “harder than it needs to be,” or “unnecessary.”  There was lots of clutter this week – in messages, in technology, in “stories.”  I have even contributed to the clutter, myself, with the rapid-fire regurgitation of information.  This is the first conference that I’ve reported on like this so I’m still up in the air as to the best way to balance the barrage and sharing of information with well thought-out observations and opinions.  I feel like I was much more heavily weighted on the former rather than the latter.  Just like much of this conference felt to me.

But now that I’m able to step away from it all, I am very pleased with all of the non-clutter that filled my experience.  More than anything, as I said, I learned that there are some really great, passionate people in the industry.  While this is not a new industry (digital signage has been around for a long time), it is a new medium to effectively engage and connect with people, and in that respect, we are all forging new ground here.  I feel like right now, we’re where social media was 4-5 years ago.  And just now, brands, marketers, and communicators are really starting to embrace social media and trying to use it as a tool for more than personal benefit.  We are in the infant DOOH/IOOH stages.  And we have some fantastic experts who have been doing this for many years.  I was able to meet many of those people this week and I benefited greatly from it.

My hosts were great, too.  The folks at DSE are excellent.  They are accommodating, they run a tight ship, and enable loads of access to industry experts, trends, and real-life examples.  I really appreciate everything they did for me.

The information was good, too.  I don’t know that I necessarily learned anything ground-breaking that I didn’t already know (but that’s a good thing).  It’s always good to have affirmation of thoughts, philosophies, and direction.  The resounding theme for the week was “content.”  It’s all about content, not the technology.  Perhaps it was the nature of the sessions and people that I gravitated to, but this is not about technology.  Technology is an enabler.  We have nothing without meaningful, relevant, and appropriate-for-the-medium content.  It gets back to my fundamentals – who are we talking to (audience), what are we trying to say (content), then how are we going to say it (technology)?  A huge barrier for us, as advocates of this medium, is the desire for the next “bright, shiny object” and the perception that “once I have a digital and/or interactive screen, I’ll automatically get results.”  (First of all, let’s define “results.”  But that’s for another post.)  I think there is a tremendous need for education, particularly in really utilizing this medium in the most effective ways.  Technology is certainly a big part of it, but true effectiveness lies in understanding your audience and how to reach them in the places they go “outside of their home,” which all leads back to the content.  Many people reinforced this in their own words this week.  

There was also a contingent of people who see where this medium is going and it’s not “digital.”  It’s interactive.  And as you know, by reading this blog, this is music to my ears.  It’s funny because last year when I was here, everyone was showing the latest and greatest in true digital displays.  There were big displays, thin displays, 3-D displays – all displays.  Hardly any interactive displays.  This year, it was all about interactive displays.  Single touch, multi-touch, gestural.  Interactive was hot.  But it was confined to interaction with the display screen only.  I saw very few other enabling technologies, like mobile or GPS.  The ones I saw though, (to be mentioned in the next post), made an impression on me.  I think there is a group who is behind the curve, catching up to what the audience needs in interactivity (basic touch or gestural) and then there is a group who is ahead of the curve, accounting for what the audience wants in interactivity (connection through mobile/social).  Regardless, it’s all interactive.  This is the future, make no mistake.

As far as the technology goes, I learned that there are a lot of companies doing the exact same thing.  There are many powerful solutions out there, from the displays themselves to the boxes that enable them to the systems that run them.  For the most part, they are whoosits and whatsits to me.  I want to create a certain experience and I want someone else to tell me what the best technological solution (display, box, system) is to achieve that experience.  That level of detail makes my head want to explode.  God bless the technology providers and experts.  I would just ask that there be a friendly consolidation.  Can’t we all just get along?

So there you have it.  I’m sure that I’ll have moments in the coming week that inspire me to post something that I know I forgot, but that’s a good feel for what I learned.  How’s all that for a long answer?

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