What I Learned This Year


By Paul Flanigan
DSE Executive Director

What do  Las Vegas, Orlando, Sydney, Taipei, Dallas, New York City (three times), San Diego, Denver and about 95 airports in between have in common?


Those are the cities I visited this year. And next year is already gaining steam. At least six cities in the U.S., and two in Europe. I could be that guy in the United commercial that all the people body surf to the end.

I have been to conferences, summits, mixers, sessions, meetings, panels, workshops, breakouts and just about every other kind of way to get people together in large and small groups. Every single trip had a purpose. I spent more trips in brand new settings and shows that I did in familiar places and convention centers.

And it has been a blast. I did a nice amount of talking and presenting, but I spent more time listening and learning, especially in those situations totally unfamiliar to me, places where people I don’t know had things to say I have never heard about the industry I manage. It was fantastic.

Based on the last 12 months, I guess that as an executive director I should come up with trends or predictions for next year. However, there are some very smart people who do this quite well. Ken Goldberg is one. Go read his. I do.

Instead of talking about what will happen next year, I’ll share two things I learned this year:

This is a human industry. We tend to get lost behind our computers and our networks. We communicate, consult, sell, and speak through iPads and mobile phones, email and excel sheets. In the past year, I have met more new faces than I can ever remember in a 12-month span. I love being an evangelist not only for this association but for the industry. I have talked about every organization and show anywhere near this space. And I have learned a ton.

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One of the very first things a member asked me in January was to help him find all the other members near his home office. He wanted to visit them. Nice.

If there is a trend here, it’s that more business will get done in person. And that’s a good thing.

The second thing I have learned is that TSA PreCheck is the most amazing invention since the aeroplane. Anyone reading this right now who has TSA PreCheck should be shouting an “Amen!” You know what I’m talking about. 6:00 in the morning? Line going from the detector to the curb? And you breeze through with your shoes and belt on.

As we roll out of 2014 and put on our new diapers for 2015, let’s not forget that this is still a very human industry. Handshakes, eye-to-eye contact, and engaging conversation go a long way in getting things done.

And sign up for TSA Pre Check. Just do it. You’ll thank me.

This column was reprinted with permission from the Digital Screenmedia Association and originally appeared here.