DM Days Needs a New Angle
Various news reports on the recent DM Days New York trade show echoed the sentiments I heard on the show floor, as industry veterans longed for the years when the event was at the Hilton Hotel & Towers. Even though the exhibit hall and sessions were spread across three floors then, the show seemed intimate because you were bound to bump into people you knew … in the hall aisles; on one of the escalators; in the lobby bar; heck, even on the street.
But that energy has been diffused at the cavernous Javits Center. And I'd venture to guess that those vendors who used to suffer from a lack of traffic on the third-floor exhibit hall at the Hilton did not gain too many more warm bodies circulating in the far reaches of the Javits' exhibit space.
Is the venue entirely to blame here? I think it's an aggravating factor, but not the whole enchilada. Also at work is a more pervasive challenge for the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). In my opinion, DM Days no longer has a strong raison d'etre. It's like an earlier version of the association's annual extravaganza in October—now called DMA05. Because the sessions and keynote presentations don't come off as drastically different from one show to the next, the DM Days event lacks its former punch.
Since it's lazy to present a problem without offering a possible solution, I have an idea for the future of DM Days—but it requires a dramatic shift in event format. In talking to my colleague Margaret Battistelli, who is editor of Fundraising Success, I learned of the DMA Nonprofit Leadership Summit, held in Denver two months ago. At this show, participants don't sit quietly taking notes while the speaker plows through slide after slide. Instead, attendees are involved in a group discussion at the various workshops, during which they share their experiences and hash out the direct marketing issues of the day. After each workshop, all the attendees come together so the workshop leaders can summarize the important ideas gained from each group. Can you imagine how much more useful your notes would be from such a gathering?