The theme of this issue is innovation; it’s a topic that we devote an entire issue to each year. But what does innovation mean? This is a question that I often ask members of the lighting community when I interview them for the One-on-One column. (See my latest interview, with Mark Major of Speirs + Major.) The responses I get usually hone in on something that has not been thought of before, a new way at looking at a topic, or finding a new solution to an existing problem.
Innovation isn’t merely a technological concern, it is something that is needed anytime there is a problem to overcome. And it is with that idea in mind that I have been reflecting on this year’s Lightfair—not in terms of what I saw at the show, but in terms of how someone in my position, an editor, has to structure his or her time in the brief two and half days when the exhibit hall is open.
Lightfair has many different constituents: attendees, a group composed of lighting designers, architects, educators, and even students; exhibitors, which includes manufacturers and sales representatives; and members of the press. Each has a different role at the show and a different set of goals and responsibilities. As far as editors go, I think it’s fair to say that we have complicated and busy schedules. We have to simultaneously serve as ambassadors for our publications and fulfill our reporting duties.
What’s become increasingly clear to me—the longer I serve as editor of architectural lighting and the more Lightfairs I attend (this year was my tenth)—is that the old way of tackling the show no longer works. There used to be time to walk the show floor, and even to attend a few seminars. But as the event grows in size and more activities and presentations are added to the lineup—which, for the record, I’m not saying is a bad thing—the length of time that the trade show is open has not expanded. It becomes increasingly difficult to see as much as one would like, and it is impossible to schedule visits at every booth.
What I propose (and this is something I even have mentioned to the Lightfair organizers the past several years) is to institute a press preview the afternoon before the trade show officially opens to attendees. Say from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. It would be a win-win situation for everyone. Yes, I realize that this would change the dynamic, there would need to be an earlier setup time for manufacturers and this would add some cost. But how great would it be to have better access for the press to see your latest products and meet with your company’s thought leaders?
Instituting a Lightfair press preview would make a lot of sense from a scheduling perspective—for manufacturers, editors, and show organizers. It would create a dedicated portion of time for manufacturers to hold non-competing press conferences, facilitate uninterrupted discussion, and allow editors to see manufacturers’ special displays that often can only accommodate a few people at a time.
Furthermore, it would enable press–manufacturer activities to take place at the convention center and not off-site. It could also allow manufacturers some time to make sure that everything in their booth is working properly, to take photos, and to meet with their teams before the rest of the show begins.
Allowing members of the press some exclusive time on the Lightfair show floor before the exhibit hall opens would lead to more complete coverage. And while I can’t speak for other publications, I can’t image why their editors wouldn’t welcome such an opportunity. No lighting publication has a large editorial staff, and even a few hours more to speak directly with manufacturers and to tour booths would allow us time to meet with more exhibitors and, ultimately, to share more information with our readers.