Blog: David Drain 
David Drain (bio)
Executive Director
Digital Screenmedia Association
Wednesday, 06 November 2013

In case you haven’t heard the news, I’ve accepted the position of senior vice president of events for Networld Media Group and Paul Flanigan has been named to replace me as executive director of the DSA. I thought I would write one last blog to reminisce and thank some people I’ve met along the way.

It’s hard to believe it’s been seven years and 10 months since I first accepted the job as executive director of the Self-Service & Kiosk Association (SSKA). Coming into the position, I knew nothing about the kiosk industry except for using kiosks on a personal basis. I did, however, bring 13+ years of experience managing associations.

My first day on the job was flying to Orlando to attend the Self-Service & Kiosk Show, which was produced by Networld. Attending an industry show like that was a great way to dive in. 

My boss at the time, Dick Good, stepped up my indoctrination into the industry by sending me on the road one week a month to visit members. These “self-service road trips” took me to Chicago, Connecticut & Rhode Island, Texas, Colorado, Upstate NY, Wisconsin & Minnesota, L.A., North Carolina and even England.

Three months into the job I got a call from MarketWatch Radio while I was on the floor of the National Restaurant Association Show to give them a sound bite about the growing number of kiosks in quick-service restaurants. It was baptism by fire.

Just when it seemed I had become knowledgeable about kiosks, I became aware of the growing digital signage industry. I attended my first DSE in 2007 at Navy Pier in Chicago. After forming a Digital Signage Council within the SSKA, I soon realized that many in the digital signage space saw themselves as distinctly different than the kiosk industry and so I helped co-found and launch the Digital Signage Association in the fall of 2007.

I remember attending a Strategy Institute event shortly after we launched DSA to learn more about the industry and meet more of its players. I came to realize how digital signage had its own terminology, business models and issues. More baptism by fire.

2008 was an exciting year of rapid growth for the fledging Digital Signage Association. We had an introductory meeting at DSE that year and Stu Armstrong was elected by the new advisory board as the first DSA president. On December 3, 2009, just two years after launching DSA, we hit 400 members.

In 2010, a couple of major things happened. The DSA advisory board began having discussions about developing a trade show or forming an exclusive trade show partnership. Those conversations only lasted one meeting when DSE announced that it was launching a competing association, the Digital Signage Federation. At DSE 2010 – DSF’s coming out party – we held our fourth advisory board meeting in conjunction with DSE, held a membership meeting, had a booth and co-sponsored the DSE awards. To say things were awkward at the show and the awards dinner would be an understatement. 

The DSA had been criticized in public and private forums for not being separately incorporated as a not-for-profit organization and so the board made two major decisions at the February 2010 meeting: (1) to proceed with incorporation and applying for 501(c)(6) status and (2) to proceed with plans to either start a trade show or form an exclusive partnership with one.

Soon after that meeting, the DSA Executive Committee started thinking about taking more of an omni-channel approach and reached out to the officers of SSKA to discuss the idea of a merger since the groups had many members in common. Those discussions eventually led to each association’s boards voting to merge and to call the merged organization the Digital Screenmedia Association. That was April 2010.

In the summer of 2010, we concluded that developing another trade show was not what the industry needed and we carried out extensive discussions with JD Events, owners of Customer Engagement Technology World (CETW), as well as InfoComm. Ultimately, the DSA trade show task force recommended a partnership with CETW. A marketing agreement was finalized between DSA and CETW and formally announced on October 4, 2010.

As part of the agreement with CETW, DSA took over the awards program formerly operated by the show. In April 2011, we announced the first winners of the DSA Industry Excellence Awards in San Francisco, handing out 17 awards. We also held our first DSA event in conjunction with CETW, the highly enjoyable and memorable DSA Dinner Cruise around San Francisco Bay.

In the fall of 2011, at the suggestion of Keith Kelsen, we launched the DSA Crown Awards, to recognize excellence in content.

In the spring of 2012, under the leadership of Matt Schmitt, we released the first version of the ROI calculator. This tool is an exclusive benefit of DSA membership and has been well received.

In August 2012, we held our first free-standing event (not held in conjunction with any other show) called DSA @ Chicago Skydeck. The evening event brought 60 people to Willis Tower – Chicago’s tallest building – for networking and a panel session.

November 2012 was a challenging time. Hurricane Sandy hit in late October, deeply affecting CETW held a week later. Joel Davis, Lawrence Dvorchik and the team at JD Events – as well as the Javits Center – did an amazing job pulling off the show in spite of all the hurdles. We had a boat cruise around Manhattan planned. To add insult to injury, a winter storm hit the day of the cruise. Seventy-five hearty souls went out on the boat that night anyway, and those who went can testify that it was actually a really fun evening, but certainly one we wouldn’t soon forget.

Two weeks after the show, we learned from JD Events that they decided to not to hold a spring show in Las Vegas, but rather focus all their efforts on the fall show in NYC. Based on the success of our freestanding event in Chicago, we decided to explore the development of another freestanding event in May 2013.

Ultimately, that event became the Digital Screenmedia Symposium in Dallas. We had 112 attendees and it was a resounding success. That led to the decision to expand the Chicago event into another Symposium, which was also successful. Of all the things I was involved with over the past seven-and-a-half years, I’m the most proud of the symposiums and I hope that will be my lasting legacy.

If you’ve stuck with me this long (my post turned out to be a lot longer than I planned), thanks for joining me on a trip down memory lane. Hopefully it’s been an interesting read and that it will serve as a bit of history about the early days of DSA.

I’ve met a lot of great people in this business and had the opportunity to travel all across the U.S. as well as to the UK, Germany and China to spread the DSA message.

Like an Oscar speech, I can’t possibly thank all the people I’ve worked with in the last 7+ years, but I’d specifically like to thank all the association presidents I’ve worked with: Alex Richardson, Miller Newton, Janet Webster, Stu Armstrong, Brian Ardinger, Jared Miller and Bill Lynch. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t thank people at Networld such as Alan Fryrear, Tom Harper and my right hand all these years, Diana Sexson.

I’ve already heard many people say that Paul Flanigan was the perfect choice to be the next DSA executive director. I know he will take DSA to the next level and I’ll be there cheering him all the way.

Don’t be a stranger and remember: stay classy, DSA.

Posted by: David Drain AT 06:12 am   |  Permalink   |  4 Comments  |  
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