Strategies in Light:  One Event, Two Very Different Experiences

February 19, 2020 [addtoany]

On ESPN’s game day, the hosts discuss various upcoming games and then they each give their opinion as to who they think will win the important games of the day.  Kirk Herbstreet will give his prediction on all games discussed except for one—the one where he is going to call the play-by-play later that night.  This is a professional courtesy as he does not want to appear biased in his play calling.

Your humble editor has tried to maintain a similar policy. I don’t like to grade trade shows where I am on the committee, or in the case of Strategies in Light, a speaker.  It is awkward to evaluate a show where show management has invited me to give a talk,  as one does not want to speak ill of one’s hosts.  However,  my obligation to the lighting community is greater than being polite to my hosts.

The Keynote Speakers, the Investor Forum and Conference Tracks are probably the best in the industry.  The exhibition is not.

Strategies in Light was held last week in San Diego. In advance of the show, we heard from show management that several Chinese vendors pulled out at the last minute due to the coronavirus.  Days before the show, the national news reported that two people had the coronavirus in San Diego.  So the show had a lot going against it. Steve Beyer, the VP of Endeavor Business Media, the new owner of SIL, told me that 75% of the people who said they would come did not, which he blames on the coronavirus.

Several people approached me complaining about the lack of attendees at the exhibition. The Sapphire Awards, which is really an A+ event hosted by Maury Wright, was somewhat overshadowed by exhibitors complaining about the lack of attendees.  This week, my email box was lit up with more complaints.  One CEO reported, “SIL is dwindling away.”  A marketing manager wrote, “I don’t see how they can recover at this point.”

While the actual conference was upstairs in the convention center, away from the exhibition, it could have been a world away as the experience was vastly different. These meetings were high energy and very informative. Several were standing room only and most meetings didn’t have nearly enough time for questions because the audience was so engaged.  The speaker’s list was a who’s who of the industry’s biggest names: Mix, Radulescu, Lin, Benya, Burnett, Rea, Gagnon, Veitch, Shiller, Lien, Narendren, Bradley, Jones, Little, and Haugaard, just to name a few.  Their advisory board has many big names as well.

I heard nothing but positive comments about the keynotes and the sessions. In fact the only negative comment about the sessions was from a few people that wanted to attend sessions that were held at the same time—this is a good problem to have.

In the early days of LED, the exhibition portion made a lot of sense as the industry was learning about the technology and how components worked together.  As we mature, the exhibition may have lost its purpose.

Make no mistake, there are some very fine people behind SIL and Endeavor Business Media.   And they are smart.  Already they have sent a follow up survey that gives users the opportunity to provide detailed feedback.   My bet is they will figure this out.