Steve Shatsoff – Senior Vice President at SmartSource Computer & AV Rentals – has been in the technology rental industry long enough to remember when PCs and the floppy disk first came out. This long-term perspective gives him the ability to not only appreciate where we’ve come from as a society, but also where we are going and what you need to know to make good technology rental choices.

Steve, everyone seems to love the “wow” factor that comes from mammoth digital signs. Does this mean every company that’s going to exhibit at an event should get the absolute biggest video wall or display that their budget allows?

The most important factor in deciding which size or type of display will give you the greatest return on your investment should be more about your goals rather than the size of your company’s wallet. It may be that another type of technology is more suited to your overall goals and intentions for attending that particular trade show.

That being said, “wow” isn’t a bad thing. And if a large display ties well into your messaging and will help you hit your goals, then there is no denying that a larger screen does capture the viewer’s attention in a way that smaller displays can’t. It used to be that if you wanted to go bigger with a digital sign, you had to give up a certain amount of quality. But now LED walls can be created in any size or shape with tremendous clarity and with no bezels, so it appears to be one giant wall – very cutting edge.

So, for someone who decides that a large trade show display supports their goals, what do they need to know to get the most out of that technology as possible?

First, I encourage companies to get professional input before making any final decisions. Most companies benefit from time with a technology professional talking about the type and size display that will best fit into their budget and goals.  Because the field is constantly changing, it’s really challenging to be your own expert – unless you happen to be in the business. For instance, you might need to choose between LCD, Plasma, or LED and very few people know which one is best for them. There are also other options to consider such as 3D – which you can now have without the need for those pesky glasses.

But beyond getting that expert input before you make a decision, there are a couple more key factors to keep in mind. It’s really important not to take your usual content and just run it up on a big screen. You should absolutely be creating content that is specific for that particular trade show and the technology.

For example, if you happen to have a display that is going to be located in an area where people are passing through rapidly, then you need to adjust your content accordingly.  Key components are going to have to be of shorter duration than they would if you were to have people milling about or sitting in the vicinity of your display. If you are going to have their attention for only a few seconds, then you’d better create some images and content that can be taken in that quickly.

People often think that because your screen is bigger, you can fit more on it. Though this may be true, it often is the wrong decision. You want really large text, powerful relevant images.

The biggest mistake most people make when creating content?

Assuming that what looks good on their PC is going to look great up on a giant display wall.

If you don’t have anyone on staff with the design experience to truly maximize the large screen experience for the viewer, then I strongly suggest you hire someone who does. Remember, “wow” is only wow if it actually delivers the message and the information you want to get across. It’s kind of like those advertisements you see and think are hysterically funny, but when someone asks, ‘what was the ad for,’ no one can remember. You can’t leave out key components such as branding.

It sounds like creating content for a large, say video wall, requires a lot of prep and planning.

Well, think of it like this: a PC is only a piece of hardware – it’s the software and what you do with it that makes it come alive. It’s the same thing with a large video wall or touchscreen display.

Anything else we should know about when we’re thinking about those big displays?  

Always – and this goes for any technology you’re going to use for a trade show or conference – always think about it in terms of the end user’s perspective. What is going to capture their attention, what experience do you want them to have, and what type of message or information do they need to get?

If you start from the perspective of the end user and then work your way up from there, you’ll do a much more effective job of creating the impact and ROI you want. Don’t make the mistake of having your crew sit around the conference table brainstorming all the cool images and taglines they can think of without keeping in mind who is going to be looking at the display and what you want them to know about your company.  That alone will put you a notch ahead of the competition.