September 23, 2021
Here's What Went Down at The ArchLIGHT Summit
The first commercial lighting trade show and conference in over a year just took place in Dallas
DALLAS, TEXAS – The return of in-person commercial lighting trade shows and conferences just happened in Texas. The first-ever ArchLIGHT Summit was held in Dallas on Tuesday and Wednesday, September 21-22. Approximately 50 exhibitors participated and over 400 attendees were pre-registered. Official numbers were not available at the time of this article. The show aimed to attract lighting professionals with a focus on commercial lighting and controls.
If you’ve ever been to a first-year or second-year trade show, you already know that inaugural shows don’t have an established attendee following and buzz-worthy name recognition that long-established events have. Layer that on top of a pandemic with a resurgent Delta variant and it’s easy to recognize that ArchLIGHT Summit had some serious headwinds that it had to overcome. Event organizers seemed to do an admirable job navigating through those significant challenges.
We went into the show with moderate expectations and – “grading on a scale” for the first-time event during a pandemic – it exceeded our expectations.
The Dallas Market Center (DMC) is an appealing venue that was built to attract designers and buyers of lighting, décor and gift products. It has long been the home to other design events like the semi-annual Lightovation, which is reputed to be the largest residential lighting event in North America. The DMC is conveniently located in the city and boasts a variety of nearby lodging and dining options. The DMC has an appealing uniqueness that outshines the standard convention centers and hotel ballroom events you may have attended in the past.
Most shows that market to a national audience, naturally draw a high percentage of the attendees from the local region. Anecdotal observations lead us to believe that an especially high percentage of non-exhibiting attendees came from within driving distance of Dallas. Two local agents, Hossley Lighting & Power Solutions (HLPS) and NexGen Lighting Solutions were agent sponsors who helped pull in exhibitors and attendees for the event.
Specifiers in attendance included individuals from:
- Essential Light Design Studio
- GMLD | Granville McAnear Lighting Design
- LEO A. DALY
- LuM Architectural Lighting Design
Out of towners
There were instances of lighting agents from other regions bringing customers to the event. Minnesota-based lighting agent Davis & Associates brought personnel and specifiers to the event. Lighting and electrical agent Convergence had a crew of 23 fly to Dallas from Kansas City and St. Louis to attend the event. We even heard one unconfirmed report of a Hawaii-based lighting agent bringing customers to the event.
The conference agenda included popular lighting topics related to color, controls and design – but also brought in non-lighting speakers to present on leadership and diversity. The sessions received generally favorable reviews and mixed attendance levels. Attendees seemed to appreciate the opportunity to earn in-person CEUs that didn’t involve a Zoom.
HLPS outdoor event gave agency and exhibitor personnel a chance to mingle with customers.
Social Events Made a Huge (Positive) Impact
Women in Lighting & Design hosted a fantastic opening night event on the top floor of the World Trade Center. DMC owns the space and a supportive manufacturer sponsored the drinks and prosciutto.
Hossley Lighting and Power Solutions hosted a well-attended Tuesday evening shindig at Ferris Wheeler’s that involved a live band, bottomless brisket and ice-cold Shiner Bock. HLPS people from multiple states joined their manufacturers in mingling with many customers in an enjoyable outdoor, late summer venue.
We understand that NexGen Lighting Solutions was hosting a customer event on Wednesday evening. We didn’t attend so we have no news to report on that one.
Common exhibitor feedback included:
- The show could have been better attended by specifiers, but it was a first-time event.
- 16 hours of exhibit time over two days was a long stretch considering the smaller number of attendees.
- Exhibitors represented by HLPS seemed to be the most satisfied exhibitors due to the Tuesday customer event and the opportunity to connect with HLPS people from various locations including Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Louisiana.
- The conference time slots could have been spaced differently to encourage attendees to visit exhibitors during dedicated time slots.
- No exhibitors seemed to rave about the event, but none bashed it either.
- “All we need is one or two good projects that stem from this trade show and it pays for itself.” In our experience, the more we hear that rationale from exhibitors, the less successful an event tends to be. We heard it 3-4 times during 20+ conversations seeking exhibitor feedback.
- Feedback from one of the more negative exhibitors: “Not a failure, not a success.”
- When we asked exhibitors if they think they’ll be back next year, about half said probably or yes, and the other half took a wait-and-see stance. No respondents said no.
In the end, the attendees seemed to appreciate the in-person education and the opportunities to engage in lighting conversations about lighting products they could see, feel and touch. Almost everyone seemed to appreciate the opportunity to interact with other lighting people in real life, collegial, in-person environments.
We believe the foundation is set for ArchLIGHT Summit to build upon this first event, and with some favorable improvements to the global public health situation, next year could be even better and brighter.
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