Not that I need another trade show in my life, but I spent some time in January in Dallas at The Special Event, the annual confab geared to party planners and event coordinators. Show director Sharon Morabito, who also handles LDI, talked me into attending because she wanted me to see the similarities and differences between the two shows.
There are lots of differences, to be sure. Attendance, for one. The male to female ratio is completely reversed. Black load-in gear and toolbelts have been replaced with floral dresses and party hats. And there was no real gear to speak of, though the floor itself did feature everything from fancy napkins to chocolate waterfalls to something called the Original Butt Sketch (don't ask). But there was also overlap, as evidenced by the presence of such companies as Rose Brand, I Weiss, Atomic Design, Cast Lighting, and Airstar. It occurred to me that it might be a worthwhile show for lighting designers to attend as a networking opportunity. You never know where your next job might come from.
What really struck me about The Special Event though, were, appropriately enough, the events. Working with event planners from the host city (as well as rental houses and production companies), show producers put together a series of events at various venues around town, showcasing local vendors, designers, etc. The annual opening night special event transformed a hangar-sized empty shell into a hot nightclub (with lots of vodka), live venue, and outdoor garden party (with real grass and living statues) — all in one venue. And the Gala Awards was a massive undertaking, with a full ceremony, a dinner with live performances, and an out-of-this world dessert bar.
Perhaps there's something our industry could learn from this very different show. Maybe it's time we brought something new to the table at LDI, something that goes beyond the usual structure of show floor/conference session/late nights at the bar, something that enables the best and the brightest to showcase what they can do with the great toys available to them. I have no idea how it would work, but it seems to me that an industry as creative and industrious as this deserves a chance to strut its stuff. If you have any thoughts on the subject, let me know. But please, no requests for the Original Butt Sketch.