An Open Letter to LightFair

Image of convention center
Convention Center

At LightFair I was humbled and honored to be a judge for the Sales Stars contest where salespeople pitched a product to several judges.  In this article, I will reverse the role and I will pitch an idea to the LightFair Management Committee.

Dear LightFair,

With the show now over, it’s time for the after-action report where you’ll gather feedback from attendees and exhibitors, as you always do. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that no decision has been made for the venue in 2025. We kindly ask you to consider something different, perhaps an option that may not be on your radar.

We hear so many comparisons to LEDucation. Exhibitors love the lower costs of LEDucation and the overall simplicity of a one-afternoon set up.  Many exhibitors simply pull a vehicle underneath the Hilton and carry their tabletop booth up the escalator and are set up within an hour.  They can see hundreds of lighting designers at relatively little cost. The business model that LEDucation offers seems to be more in tune with what today’s lighting market is willing to pay.   

On the flip side, LightFair provides manufacturers with a unique opportunity to deeply immerse attendees in the world of light. Certain luminaires, particularly those that are feature-rich (profitable), are best appreciated through experiential encounters rather than just being displayed on a table. This aspect plays to LightFair’s strengths. However, Javits union labor, work rules, and drayage can be unpredictable and outrageous. Consequently, many traditional exhibitors opt for LEDucation as a more cost-effective alternative to LightFair.

LEDucation does face its own challenges. During the March show, there were numerous complaints about the high costs associated with drayage. Additionally, the event’s popularity makes the show a victim of its own success, which has led to crowded conditions, compounded by low ceilings in one area, creating a somewhat claustrophobic atmosphere. Furthermore, the limited space at LEDucation makes it challenging to have private conversations, as competitors are often lurking around the corner.

Consider offering the exhibitor the opportunity to provide an immersive experience at a cost comparable to that of a table-top display. Envision a scenario where drayage expenses were calculated at an incredibly reasonable rate of just $1 per pound and booth labor costs were $60 per hour. Or imagine the event taking place in a right-to-work state, allowing exhibitors to hire their own non-union labor crew. To top it off, picture electricity for the booth being priced under $100 instead of $500.

Lightfair Show Director Dan Darby Meets with various Advisory Committees on Wednesday Evening
Lightfair Show Director Dan Darby Met with Various Advisory Committees on Wednesday Evening

Imagine a scenario where the venue is situated in such close proximity that the headquarters of two major manufacturers are within driving distance.

In this scenario, attendees would be able to walk to their hotels without any fear of being mugged. The convention center would be conveniently surrounded by excellent restaurants, enabling manufacturers to have lunch off-site with key clients and return to their booths within an hour.

Imagine a venue where clients, instead of flying out of New York in the middle of the show, made a deliberate choice to arrive at the show on the last day. Their motivation? They wished to spend the weekend in the city with their partners, adding a touch of leisure to their business trip. This shift in timing would result in the show being vibrant until the very end.

Imagine a different travel scenario where clients choose to take an Uber instead of risking their life in a subway from the airport to the hotel. To their pleasant surprise, the Uber driver turns out to be a talented singer. Can you guess where this article is heading?  It is headed South!

Ladies and Gentlemen of the LightFair Management Committee, I humbly ask you to consider the Music City Center in Nashville for 2025.