Processing the Demise of DSE

Jeff Hastings, CEO

Earlier this week, DSE show organizers confirmed what many of us had suspected for months – that DSE would not happen as planned in 2020. What came as a bit of a surprise was Exponation’s entry into Chapter 7 bankruptcy – such an abrupt and terminal move by the organization that lifted up our industry for so many years.

It’s difficult to process how an annual gathering that we came to expect each March has become yet another tombstone on the long and winding path of COVID-19. It’s yet another example of how this pandemic continues to alter the landscape not just for vendors in the AV space, but also for industry organizations that helped shape the digital signage space into what it is today.

DSE’s departure leaves a void that will be filled eventually. It’s nothing that will happen this year and perhaps not even in 2021, but I believe there needs to be some sort of perennial touchpoint where those of us across the digital signage space can gather. The logical reincarnation of DSE would be some sort of a dedicated space at InfoComm, but that show caters to a much broader audience and it might be challenging to coalesce all the digital signage vendors in a dedicated space without fragmenting other parts of the expo hall in the process. And I suppose it’s possible that a publisher or event production company may purchase the DSE name and related assets as part of Exponation’s bankruptcy proceedings, with the goal of resurrecting DSE again someday. Either scenario is possible, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re likely.

2020 has been a time of loss, on so many levels. Our hearts go out to the Exponation family. I have no doubt they exhausted every option before deciding on the path they took. And sadly, DSE’s demise will have a ripple effect felt throughout the industry, with dozens of companies unlikely to recoup tradeshow deposits and other related sunk costs.

COVID-19 has catalyzed pivots and innovation that simply would not have happened under normal circumstances. I’ve seen this play out not only within BrightSign, but in the many partner organizations we’ve been collaborating with over the past six months. So despite all this doom and gloom, I remain optimistic. I’m confident our industry as a whole will emerge from this pandemic stronger than we entered it.