21 years of DSA – how has the industry changed?

By Alex Sargent

As we celebrate turning 21 this year, we’ve been taking the opportunity to reflect on how the event and exhibitions industry has evolved since 1995. DSA have certainly come a long way too. From a small start-up business established by my father, Dave Sargent in the 90’s to successfully delivering 80 global events in 2015 alone, it is certainly an incredible achievement and one which we are particularly proud of. However, this isn’t a ceremonious ‘coming of age moment’ – the evolving events and exhibitions industry has always required event professionals and brands to remain focused on the future; keeping our design ideas fresh and original to remain within the rapidly modernising global experiential marketing sector. Throughout all of the changes, one thing is for certain; client relationships remain at our epicentre, and we continue to make sure their goals, their industry and their customers are understood.

Let’s cast our minds back to 1995… Email is barely used and instead, a FAX MACHINE. To clarify, that’s no websites, no Twitter, no Linkedin, no apps, no smart phones… A seismic shift from the day to day reality of our working lives today. So as I ponder on how on earth we managed in the pre-digital age, here’s are some of the key technological innovations which have revolutionised events, exhibitions and trade shows over the past 21 years.

Live streaming

The internet has brought with it a post-industrial disruption that’s digitalised almost every industry, including the event sector. It’s thanks to this advancement that we find ourselves living in a global community which welcomes a new kind of ‘delegate’ to the event, one who can attend digitally via live online streaming from any country they choose. By extending your company exposure to all corners of the earth, you step one foot closer to global brand recognition.

Social networking

Before the age of internet, potential event attendees wouldn’t have much exposure to how the exhibition was perceived or respected within the industry. Nowadays, we have the opposite scenario; peer driven reputation surrounding an event and its brand is pivotal to its success. We have the ability to live tweet during an event, and group it all into one place to boot with the use of a single ‘#’ – the mind boggles.

Mobile apps

Over the past couple of years we have seen the proliferation of mobile devices transform us into an app-driven society, with smart device owners spending more time on their apps than ever before. For the exhibitions sector, a dedicated mobile app for the event has become an expected interactive facility. Elimiating the need for print brochures or guides, event attendees are provided with all they need to navigate the event, plan what content they would like to attend in advance and share information with their peers on social platforms. With access to reliable and up to date content, attendees can communicate directly with event organisers, create their own personal schedule and use barcode scanning during the event.

Networking and data capture

Events pose a mammoth spend in a company budget; we used to be happy with the acknowledgement that they were effective and worthwhile, but this tended to be based on a gut feeling rather than hard data. Over the last decade, event organisers have discovered that one of their key measures of attendee satisfaction is the quality of networking they facilitate. Since the birth of mobile, event technology has continued to innovate targeted, higher-quality networking opportunities beyond the traditional mixers and happy hours. Events are now demanding sophisticated data collection which is tailored to the needs of the specific organisation. We are seeing more and more exhibitors beginning to collect data and feedback through simple customised digital forms which enables them to act quickly in the presence of a customer (or possible lead) and efficiently upload the data collected to the CRM where they can measure event ROI.

Experiential tech

People today have shorter attention spans than previous generations and one way in which businesses are attempting to solve this issue is by offering customers real, tangible engagement. Experiential tech offers the perfect solution – a computer-simulated environment which can represent objects or places in either the real or imagined world. There are dozens of new technologies which have emerged over the past few years that help designers create the experiences delegates love – and remember. The industry is hungry to interact with an event space, and with the increased application of touchscreens, live social media feeds and projection mapping, exhibition stands are rapidly becoming a designer’s imaginative playground.