Burn Down The DiSCO, Hang The Blessed DJ

Adrian J Cotterill, Editor-in-Chief

Is it not the natural way of things that events and conferences should get better over time, and when things are meant to be is there surely not some form of natural progression?

Think perhaps NSCA Digital Signage Pavilion / GlobalShop ‘The Digital Store’ / Digital Retail Expo to today’s @DSExpo as detailed in one of our recent posts (taken from the Software Holocron).

Which makes us think that if, over the years, a conference gets worse and not better is there actually any way of reviving it?

Ten days ago in Amsterdam the organisers of ISE laid out their plans for #ISE2013 and amongst the announcements was a (big) shake up of the way the show organises its accompanying conference programme.

It may be too little too late – witness the Dynamic Events conference, held as an integral part of the ISE pre-conference programme for the first time in 2012, having already announced that it will be a separate event in Dubai in early March in 2013.

ISE has brought on board Marieke Bouman to act as conference and event manager, and she will have responsibility for organising both the as yet unnamed digital signage conference, and the newly announced Smart Buildings conference which will take place on Monday 28th January 2013, the day before ISE kicks off.

That unnamed ‘digital signage conference’ was of course DiSCO – an event that the Europa Twins had responsibility for these past three years (2010, 2011 and 2012).

An Event In Decline

  • DiSCO started back in 2009 only then it was called the ‘DOOH Business Conference‘ (and wasn’t put together by the Europa Twins). We presented at that first ever event (something we have done every year except 2012 when we realised it was an event in terminal decline and declined to take part). ‘Everything You Know Is Wrong‘ we said to 120 people who struggled through snowstorms and ensuing travel chaos to get to the day and a half event
  • In 2010 the event attracted a few less people than 2009 and was the first year that the event was organised by invidis consulting GmbH (the ‘Europa Twins’ in case you were wondering)
  • In 2011 the event was renamed DiSCO and was again organised by invidis consulting GmbH. The first DiSCO attracted fewer than 100 people
  • The second ever DiSCO, again organised by invidis consulting GmbH, and held earlier this year could only attract between 50 to 80 attendees depending on who you believe

Two things are of note here (a) a conference that is coming up to its fifth year should be improving with age and getting higher and higher attendances and (b) as we have said many times before, there is something seriously wrong with the format and the agenda if a conference held the day before an event that itself attracts 40,000 people, can only attract 100 people or less!

Why DiSCO Died

Earlier this year we put together a proposal for the ISE organisers on what we thought was wrong with DiSCO…

  1. Date. Is holding the event the day before an exhibition actually ideal?
  2. Price. We believe that the event is far too expensive. It is certainly out of line with other conferences that are not stand-alone (i.e. those conjoined somehow with a trade show)
  3. Content. The event is far too digital out of home (DOOH) oriented when ISE itself is ostensibly an AV trade show
  4. Speakers. It’s very often the same old industry speakers (those quickest to put their hand in the air!) The event has not done enough to attract high calibre speakers that attendees would pay to listen to.
  5. Sponsors. Were there any sponsors in 2012? (the OVAB Europe logo was used without permission in 2012) and have we ever, really seen credible sponsors year after year?
  6. Organisers. The year one organisers were passionate about the event. Can we say the same about indivis consulting GmbH?

Is There A Better Way?

We firmly believe that the events that we have been involved with (The Digital Signage Investor Conference held in New York City every October and the DSE 360 event held in Lost Wages during #dse2012 / #dse2013 for example have addressed many of those issues above which is why we were able to attract 100’s paying attendees in past years at both events.

Not shy about coming forward we made a number of suggestions on how DiSCO could be re-invigorated – not least of which was a name change 😉

  • Move the event from ISE day-1 to ISE day+2 (yes that’s correct, we suggest running it on the middle day of ISE itself)
  • Charge a sensible price. At the DSE 360 event at #dse2012 early bird pricing of USD 199 managed to get a full decent sized room from a total #dse2012 audience of 4,024
  • Better content. The day’s proceedings quite simply need to better reflect the ISE audience. Digital Signage is what? Digital Signage can help you make money how? And for those who are not necessarily new to Digital Signage here are some real experts offering up some real talking points to help you get to the next level
  • Get the best speakers. Don’t let just anyone speak. DiSCO attendees deserve the best speakers in the industry and so selection needs to be based purely on merit (not on sponsorship or an organisers’ clientele) with those who are good speakers in their own right given priority

Agenda By Committee Is Not The Way Forward

Marieke Bouman is an experienced conference and event manager but has no knowledge of the digital signage or digital out of home industry so no doubt ISE will be relying on a committee to put a forthcoming event together.

As I wrote back in December 2011 “Anyone who has put together a conference will know that as soon as you mention the words ‘speaking opportunity’ hundreds of hands go up in the air but we also know … that not many of those selected to speak are often much good” – however, few conference organisers (and even fewer ‘committees’) are brave enough to say no to speakers – especially those who come armed with ‘sponsorship’ to add weight to any ‘speaking opportunity’.

Some events are just NOT meant to be, some events are in the wrong place at the wrong time and some conferences are quite simply tied to the wrong exhibition so perhaps after five years it’s best that DiSCO has finally died BUT (and this should scare the industry a lot) what will come in its place?

One Response to “Burn Down The DiSCO, Hang The Blessed DJ”

  1. Bryan Crotaz Says:

    I don’t see why the day before is a problem – over 200 people in total attended DiSCO and the AOpen event this year on that date. If the event was moved to the middle day of ISE I for one wouldn’t be there (as an attendee every year for the last 3 years). I have enough trouble fitting in all the meetings I need to have in the ISE days – I’m usually still left with two meetings to have and ten minutes to closing on the last day.

    The only people who are disadvantaged are those poor sods building stands in the freezing air of an exhibition hall that refuses to turn on the heating until the first day of the show.

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