This story is hard to write.
I have the greatest respect for the management team of LIGHTFAIR and the greatest respect for the volunteer management team of LEDucation. Today, members of their management teams had an awkward discussion.
Throughout the year, 80 to 100 companies will approach your humble editor about interviewing their CEO at LIGHTFAIR. “Are you exhibiting at LIGHTFAIR, I always ask.” This is my first rule. May times the answer is no, and I get invited to their suite which is always close to the show. I politely decline, explaining that I support companies who support LIGHTFAIR and I don’t support companies that pull people from the showroom floor. In the early days of EdisonReport, we publicly called out these companies as we learned their plans. As an exhibitor, I pay for LIGHTFAIR, and it is in the interest of the industry to support the show–and not compete with it.
Today, that philosophy was turned on its head.
When I arrived at LEDucation, I was confronted by a member of the LEDucation committee, asking, “Can you believe that LIGHTFAIR is here?” It was an odd question, but yes, I could believe that, in fact, I expect it. LIGHTFAIR management attends many shows. They are extremely professional, very polite and they quietly solicit exhibitors but only when those exhibitors are not speaking with customers. This is an industry norm and I don’t see any issue with it. “No.” She explained, “They are here! They are hosting an event during our show at our hotel!” I could not believe it.
While the invitation was sent from IES, the RSVP request was to KatherineR@lightfair.com. Cocktails at 6:00 p.m., and a presentation by Rochelle Richardson, Vice President of LIGHTFAIR at 6:45. . The LEDucation show was scheduled to end at 7:00 p.m. followed by their own cocktail party. In essence, LIGHTFAIR was doing what they criticize others–pulling people off the showroom floor.
Not only were they offering food and drinks as an incentive, lucky attendees could even win two hotel nights in Chicago during LIGHTFAIR.
LEDucation management explained to me that their contract with the Hilton did not allow lighting companies to rent meeting rooms during the event. Lutron had a suite, but they were also a participant in the show, so we assume they were welcomed. LIGHTFAIR was not welcome. Later we were told that LIGHTFAIR reserved the room online and the hotel erred in not catching this potential conflict. Interesting that, according to the invitation sent the morning of the event, LIGHTFAIR was originally scheduled for the Madison room, but at the last minute, it was moved to a restaurant in the lobby, a public area.
I was in the restaurant area before the event and quickly counted about 35 name tags, but I have no idea how many people actually attended. I can say that at about 6pm, the crowd in the exhibit hall did begin to thin, but I do not know the reason.
Burt Grant, co-chair of LEDucation and two other members of the LEDucation team met with Rochelle Richardson. After the meeting, Burt said to me, “Am I supposed to believe that with all of the hotels in New York and all of the dates available, that it is simply a coincidence that LIGHTFAIR hosts a party during our event?” I asked Burt if Richardson actually said that. He responded, “She simply would not comment. I asked her several times and she just refused to comment.”
I did learn that LIGHTFAIR hosted a similar event in 2017, but it occured the evening before LEDucation and at a different hotel.
LEDucation, for the most part, is still run by volunteers who work very long hours. Many of those volunteers were outraged that LIGHTFAIR would invade their turf. Below are a few of the comments from the LEDucation volunteers describing LIGHTFAIR’s activity:
- “Messed up”
- “That is crossing a line”
I had two different conversations with LIGHTFAIR management regarding their event at LEDuation and they offered no official comment.