Taking Sides: Industry Professionals Debate Pressing Issues Facing the Industry

by | Mar 16, 2022 | News

In the lead up to LEDucation, one of the first in-person trade shows we can experience in two years, the Designers Lighting Forum New York DLFNY held their ninth “Taking Sides” Debate. Dan Blitzer, who has moderated all previous versions, was once again the emcee. When interviewing Dan after the event, he was thrilled with the end-product and was very proud of the fact that “this was the youngest group, ever.”

The evening set up with four separate debates, and each debater was given a topic and a position, either for or against. The positions they were given were not necessarily the personal opinions of the debaters. This became quite evident as the evening went on. If you came in hoping for a drag ‘em out, nasty type of debate that politics in this millennium has brought us in droves, you would have been seriously disappointed. What was on display were two themes that we all could use a lot more of – fun and respect.  As Matt Seconi, organizer of the debate, observed,  “The success of the debate is entirely due to the imagination and enthusiasm of the individual debaters.”

The first topic up for debate was “Resolved: E-commerce is good for the lighting industry.” Shaun Fillion started the debate with the “for” argument, and Alessa Aguayo countered with the “against” side. Both presenters delivered their sides professionally and respectfully. At the conclusion the viewers got to vote on the winner and the winner was ……….. not really important, as the cordial discussion following showed that the two “combatants” were a lot more aligned than we were first led to believe. And this, was the theme to what was a very enjoyable evening.

The second-round saw Jess Kaller take the “for” side and Sacha Flowers holding up the “against” argument for the topic “Resolved: Larger firms are the hub for innovation”. The main argument pitted the resources one can find within a larger firm against the freedom of a smaller firm. The acronym C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me) was provided as the closing salvo for the “for” side. The “against” side countered with a 3-prong approach, maintaining that in smaller firms there are fewer chains of command, there is not a siloed work structure and that small size allows for quicker reaction to changing trends.

Round three – “Resolved: The lunch and learn is dead,” pitting Jamie Devenger, representing the “for” side, against Jacquelyn Cacan, taking up the “against” flag. Jamie gave some strong arguments for the “for” side; reduction in office expenses, reduction of the carbon footprint by reducing office space and travel, increased productivity, reduced commuting times and reduced cost of living for employees that could now live outside of the city core. Jacquelyn then countered for by reminding us that working from home is not always as neat as we hope; some have spouses, children and pets that are not always appreciative that their issue can wait until after the meeting. There are also the practical aspects of the specifier not being able to suitably review a product without doing so in person. As an introvert, I knew where my vote was going to be cast. Then….Wait! A backroom bipartisan deal was in the works! Jamie and Jacquelyn came up with a third option, to provide a hybrid approach of both in person and virtual lunch and learns. The third option ended up with the vast majority of the votes.

While the goodwill that was pervasive throughout the event was growing, any doubt about the main theme of the evening would be extinguished during round four, “Resolved: Designer, The Contractor is your Friend!”. Not a debate in the purest sense but an entertaining dialogue between designer Jesse Coletta and contractor Chris Randall. With the 1975 hit from the funk band War, “Why Can’t We be Friends?” setting the stage, Jesse and Chris acknowledged that while their goals are not always 100% aligned, the best approach for both is to work together and communicate. An example of this success was the presentation itself.

Kudos to all involved and a thank you for an entertaining evening.