Your first trip to DSE? Great! There’s a lot to take in and only two days to do it, so please allow me to offer you some tips to take best advantage of your time at the show.
A common rookie mistake is that folks are completely overwhelmed with the breadth and depth of exhibitors at the show, and I’ve heard that many newbies end up more confused than when they arrived. So let’s nip that one in the bud early.
There are many parts to the “digital signage food chain.” And there’s a good chance you’re starting from the WRONG end of that chain. You’re wanting to deploy a digital signage network and don’t really know where to start. Let me give you a hint: Start with having a solid content strategy.
Understand what sort of content you want to put on your screens to get the most impact from your viewers. It’s probably more than just a simple video loop these days. Maybe it’s a news, weather, sports or stock feed. Maybe it’s social media integration or some web-based templates. Maybe it’s making sure you can easily day-part your content so that the right information is being shown at the right time of the day.
Understanding your content strategy will help you pick the best SOFTWARE platform for driving your digital signage network. Besides checking to make sure that all the content bells and whistles are easily managed by the software (without going crazy even for a larger network), you’ll need to decide if a cloud-based system is good for you (so called “SaaS” or “Software as a Service,” where you pay a monthly fee per player) or if you’re looking to host this yourself with an on-premise solution. SaaS is pretty popular since it has low up-front costs, but for a larger network, those costs can add up. Not all systems offer both, so you’ll need to understand this up front. Not all systems can be 100 percent managed from the web, so make sure that’s on your checklist. And if your IT department hates “the cloud,” you’ll need to find a software platform that your IT guys can host for you instead. That’s a huge early decision point.
And I would probably stay away from software platforms that lock you into their proprietary hardware platforms. You’ll have more choices if the software provider supports a plethora of hardware choices, from PC-based embedded media players to low-cost android media players, and growing in popularity, embedded players built into many of the commercial screens from folks like Samsung, LG, NEC and Panasonic. These built-in media players (sometimes called “SoC” or “System on a Chip”) can provide a very low-cost solution (the media player is free!) and also make deployment clean (no extra wires, cables and boxes) and easier to deploy. So once you have chosen your software platform, find out what hardware options that company supports, and investigate those at the show. Don’t bother looking at hardware choices that your software platform does not support!!
Finally, take a look at the screens. The classic rookie mistake is to start with the screens, then other hardware bits like media players and finally software. THAT IS TOTALLY BACKWARDS!!!
So please keep that mind, and don’t forget to attend all of the “networking events.” Get to know your fellow attendees. Work the room. You’ll probably find some interesting folks that can help you on your quest to deploy the best digital signage network for your company.