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Group Delphi Creates Integrated Digital/Physical Experiences for Clients

Mark Travers (EIA) spoke with Justin Hersh, CEO, Group Delphi, at the ExhibitorLive show in Las Vegas.


EIA:  Tell us about Group Delphi.


Hersh: It’s good we’re here in Group Delphi’s exhibit area because it’s a great way to talk about what we do. We see ourselves as makers of awe and wonder. What makes events so special is you can connect with people in a really fundamental way, but you need an experience that gets someone at a visceral, core level. And that’s the kind of experience we engineer. We do that not just by thinking about the physical world or the digital world – but by thinking about how those two worlds exist inline. For a long time, the exhibit industry saw them as two distinctly different worlds. We see them as one contiguous world that starts before an event, goes on after an event and coexists during an event.


Can you give us a real life example?


Here in our own exhibit, we’re using very real materials like this reclaimed wood and these handmade chairs to create a warm, comfortable experience you can touch – but we’re also using what we call the ‘Wonder Wall,’ where our digital content allows visitors to have a unique, surprising experience. They put on polarized glasses to reveal a video image that can’t be seen with the naked eye. So it’s that digital content interspersed with the tactile physical environment that enables people to have an immersive, integrated experience.


We do the same thing for clients, like VMware, for whom we created an interactive experience that was very much digitally based but in a comfortable environment. The digital side of the display got people excited about their technology and brought them into the exhibit. But at the same time, we provided their engineers with white boards and erasable markers so they could sit with prospective clients and exchange ideas on the spot. We try to discover the right solution for the client and bring those two sides of the experience together.


Does Group Delphi only work in the tradeshow and conference industry, or does your work extend to other industries, as well?


Tradeshows are a significant part of our business and it’s a sector we continue to be extremely excited about. But we also work in museum and corporate environments. We do a lot of science centers, history museums and other museums, where we create interactive exhibit experiences. On the corporate interior side, we bring our museum and tradeshow expertise to companies’ lobbies and executive briefing centers. We’re also doing work on the experiential side in retail and events. One of the strengths of our company is this: We’re agnostic about the solution. We listen to clients. We figure out what they want to accomplish and then determine the most effective medium for delivering that experience. For some it might be a tradeshow. For others it might be a roadshow or an event. We don’t start with the solution; we start by figuring out what the ‘why’ is.


A number of companies talk about engagement, but is there a way you can measure the ROI, the end result of engagement?


I think there’s been a tendency in our industry to focus on the wrong question, which is, ‘Is there a direct relationship between engagement and ROI?’ As in, somebody comes to my tradeshow display, he buys this product as a result. In most industries, it’s very hard to get that chain of custody. What we do believe you can measure is the Return On Conversation. So what’s the value of that face-to-face interaction and how does that change, in the long run, the client’s behavior? We believe you can show, over time, how engagement moves people into the decision-cycle sooner and enables them to more quickly consider or accept a product. It’s really about the value of that conversation.


We’ve talked about the external customer experience. Where is your internal focus right now?


We’re really investing heavily in people, in our creative product. And by creative I’m including the scenic artists, the carpenters, the account managers, and others. We’re on an aggressive growth path. We’re looking to get the best people. And we’re very selective about that process because that talent is what ultimately shapes the product.


We continually ask ourselves, ‘What are the skillsets we need to invest in so as to deliver solutions for our clients?’ The first thing is to continue building our digital content capabilities. We genuinely believe we’re one of the only companies in the industry that has invested heavily in doing that work in house. And we do it because we want the end result to be a highly integrated experience that’s not tacked on later. We’re also making major investments in 4K equipment, projection mapping, video graphics and animation. So the digital content is a big area of investment. We’re also investing substantially in our plant in Fort Wayne, IN. We now have a 200,000sf state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. That’s a testament to our bullishness about the industry as a whole. We think there’s a lot of upside growth potential.


What do you want the events community to know about Group Delphi?


We think about the totality of our client’s experience under one roof: What are all the things we need from beginning to end to create an experience that creates awe and wonder? Our ‘under one roof’ idea is really important to us. We invest heavily in it. We’re a company that delivers on the ‘inline’ approach I talked about earlier. Awe and wonder under one roof that delivers that inline experience.


What’s the best business or career advice you ever received?


It’s all about the people. The speed at which you grow, the reputation you have as a company, the success you have never comes from plant or equipment. It comes from the talent of your people. You have to be constantly looking for, recruiting, training and developing the very best people in the industry. We’re really fortunate to have some of the very best working for us.



You can reach Justin Hersh, CEO, at or 510.749.6890. For more information, visit


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