The origin of LightFair was 40 years ago. Prior to 1980, lighting trade shows were at best a sidelight of the IES Annual Conference and a minor part of electrical construction trade shows. Lighting World 1980 changed all that, taking center stage away from IES and other small, technical paper-type conferences. The year 1990 was the beginning in which the industry now supports LightFair and other major trade shows in lighting throughout the world.
Today, LightFair is the premier lighting industry event in North America and a major stage for worldwide lighting. The huge show floor, hundreds of exhibits, and dozens of seminars and educational programs are primary reasons to attend. LightFair’s complimentary combination of show floor, awards programs, committee meetings, and social events activities creates an atmosphere like no other.
But the pandemic was hard on the industry and especially on LightFair. Without a show in 2020 and a modest event in 2021, the momentum seems lost. The 2021 Javits Show was reminiscent of LightFair in the early 1990’s in many ways, having a personal scale and a refreshing renaissance of spirit. But the empty booth spaces where the biggest companies were supposed to be, told a story of caution and redirection. Can any trade show as we know them stand up to the online world that seems to have taken over the direct marketing, hands-on product introductions and educational seminars that only a major trade show and conference like LightFair was able to do before?
Here are 5 reasons why the answer is yes and why LightFair 2022 deserves your support by being there.
1. The Best Lighting Updater on the Planet
Automatic updates of all kinds are a blessing and a curse. In a big hurry you receive marketing that has been selected for you. Think of LightFair as a manual update. Many of the exhibits will surprise and change your ideas about lighting products, and you are free to pick and choose the updates you want as fast or as slowly as you want. You can start with the big “major” company booths at the front and then wander among the medium or smaller booths ever looking for the innovations and creativity hidden inside. Every year I find at least one major that is doing the kind of innovation that is truly surprising, and I find a small start up that blows my mind. After two days on the show floor I begin to see the future of lighting and begin to fantasize how to use it in my work. I can take a product in my hands and ask their inventors why and how it was conceived. Try doing that with mass email marketing.
2. People – In Person
Talking heads on a Zoom call are better than a phone call, I guess. Yes, you receive the information, but the ability to communicate is limited and often the sincerity of the message is fleeting due to trendy production, even among friends and colleagues. Aside from my local lighting agents (who make the commerce of our industry happen) the in-person connection at LightFair can establish career long relationships that I have often found to be priceless. Take advantage to meet and establish relationships throughout the industry – this work will pay off in coming years, whether your new acquaintance is a lighting company president, an up-and-coming product developer, a sales representative, a competitor or a real lighting expert. For instance, I met Shuji Nakamura (Nobel Prize winner) in a booth in 2013 and learned secrets about his violet engine technology, and ended up helping develop Soraa’s Snap system.
3. The Meaning of “Event”
I especially enjoy and live for an event. An event is meeting old friends and making new ones, attending conference programs and seminars, hitting the show floor, having interesting and intense discussions, trying to do too much in a day for several days in a row, eating on the fly, partying every evening, and not wanting to sleep or leave. LightFair is a lot of work for most people, but I have made it a point to ensure the socialization is equally important and contributed mightily to it. My favorite big events are the award dinners, but I also love the private parties or the casual small groups getting together for a meal. Beyond the event, friendships and trusts are developed that last a career.
4. Cost Benefit
By moving around, LightFair helps by having shows in New York (2021), Las Vegas (2022), back to New York (2023), and somewhere else in 2024. Alternating cities purposely allows smaller businesses to vary their attendance by location. As a lighting designer, I consider LightFair to be a good investment for me and my staff, because of the compressed focus and learning opportunities. I can gain a year’s worth of catching up in two days on the show floor, and there are usually several seminar topics that bring my knowledge forward faster than any other way. But perhaps most importantly, the collegial relationships developed at LightFair always seem to pay off when in the course of everyday business back home, a problem or issue comes up and those personal contacts are invaluable in solving project-related programs in the best of possible ways.
5. LightFair is Us and Our Industry
Any legitimate industry needs layers of science, style, research, critique, debate, standards, and leadership to survive and thrive. Lighting is evolving very fast; it has become an international marketplace that relies increasingly on foreign materials and components, it is demanding more of our domestic organizations like IES, IALD, NEMA, DOE, DLC, NAED, NAILD, NECA, IBEW, NLB, ALA, and others, and the speed of technological change requires all participants to work together to achieve efficiency and human wealth and productivity while maintaining quality and safety in the marketplace. Where domestic companies once had little competition except from European highend companies, our domestic market is now offering products from all over the world with tantalizing design and even more interesting price points.
But to understand the real importance of LightFair is first to realize that both IES and IALD are co-owners of LightFair along with International Market Centers. If you are a member of IALD and/or IES, you own a piece of the show. LightFair makes a profit, and 2/3 of it flows back into these two leading industry organizations. IES and IALD leaders and members contribute thousands of hours of time and effort towards every LightFair because the profits are what make our industry run and keeps membership fees in these organizations modest. Both IES and IALD use the funds to hire headquarters personnel, develop and publish standards and educational materials, and to provide well-respected, industry-wide representation of our industry’s interests in domestic and international standards and legal matters. Whether you are a designer, salesperson, engineer, manufacturer, importer, distributor, contractor or supplier of materials and components, remember that the health of the lighting industry starts with the health of our leadership organizations and our camaraderie as an industry. The path leads back to LightFair, where we come together and all benefit in many ways. Please, attend.
This article was originally featured in the December issue of designing lighting (dl)