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An EP's guide to IES conferences.

If you're a newer member of the lighting community like me, you are probably beginning to understand how much you don't know. There is so much information that sometimes a decoder ring would seem helpful. So, my hope for this column is to decode one small piece, the IES conferences. Taking inspiration from Fred Oberkircher's honest "Buy It" "Don't Buy It" perspective in LD+A's "Book Review" section, here is my perspective on the major conferences, each of which I had the opportunity to attend this year.

Disclosure--I am on the IES Annual Conference Planning Committee (technically called the Steering Committee), and I've been to the AC eight years running while this year was my first year attending the IES Street and Area Lighting Conference (SALC). I've also attended two of the three research symposia and LIGHTFAIR for seven out of the past eight years.

Light+--Research Symposium. This is my favorite conference (technically referred to as a symposium by the IES, but it's more like a small, focused conference) because the goal is to provide an in-depth look at a particular topic that affects the lighting community. One topic is tackled per biennial symposium, and this year happened to be my favorite topic--color (which for me is also why it was my favorite conference ... ever).

The symposia bring together passionate individuals from within the lighting community and beyond. For example, researchers from product packaging to vision descended on the National Institute of Standards and Technology campus this year to discuss color. The conference is typically only about 150 people, so you get a chance to talk to the lighting and research celebrities who you've only read about before. This is the most technical of the IES conferences, but don't let that scare you away.

If you are interested in whatever topic lands after "+" and before "Research Symposium," go. If not, wait a couple of years and reconsider.

Annual Conference. The AC is a great place to meet and learn from IES leadership, lighting community leaders and peers. One way to begin meeting people and transition into the AC is to attend the Emerging Professionals (EP) workshop that occurs on the Saturday prior to the start of the conference. This gives you an opportunity to meet students and professionals who are exploring lighting as a career or are just starting their careers, which is particularly helpful before you find yourself in a room full of 300 people who you don't know.

At my first AC in 2008 I sat next to the late John Selander at dinner; he had just been selected as IES vice president (president-elect; IES terminology for the incoming president), and he left a lasting impression of humility and kindness. After my first AC I remember walking away stunned at how many people I met that I had previously only read about.

If you are looking to learn more about the lighting community in a persona environment, consider the AC. If you are looking to get more involved in local or national leadership, definitely go.

LIGHTFAIR International. If you really want to quickly understand how much you don't know, go to LIGHTFAIR. It is co-sponsored by two U.S.-based organizations, the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) and the IES LIGHTFAIR is an opportunity to learn from leaders in the lighting community through valuable educational courses, and there is also a very large trade show where manufacturers display their products.

The trade show is a bit overwhelming particularly if you are a student, so to gel the most out of it I highly suggest finding some seasoned professionals who you can shadow as they walk around. If you don't know anyone, reach out to the IES or IALD, and they will be sure to help.

If you are ready to drink out of the firehose of the lighting community, go to LIGHTFAIR. If you are looking for a more intimate gathering that doesn't include 30,000 people, then I'd suggest looking elsewhere, but I also strongly suggest attending at least once in the first five years of your professional career.

Street and Area Lighting Conference. As the name implies, this conference is geared toward street and area lighting, although you can think of it a bit more broadly as outdoor lighting ranging from safety to art. Often conferences have multiple tracks, but even with 900-plus attendees, at SALC you are all one big happy family listening to every speaker together. What I appreciated in particular is that the speakers talked for 30-45 minutes, and then it was on to the next speaker, so it kept me interested even after a long day of sitting. At the end of the day attendees had a chance to go to a break-out room where several of the speakers were available to answer questions. As a newbie, it's nice to have a chance to ask questions in a more personal environment.

Fair warning: there are a lot of men at this conference, but there is a "Ladies in Lighting" reception that may help women feel less outnumbered. If you are interested in outdoor lighting, then the SALC is for you.


Reach out to local, regional and national leaders with questions. Remember that the IES and IALD provide scholarships and sponsorships for conferences, and attendance is a great way to learn and have fun. This is one of the reasons why, despite the availability of web conferencing, the IES still makes it a priority to gather together to share information and some laughs.



You finally have found time to pack for your conference trip, but you don't know what to pack. Well, for those of you living on the East Coast, your everyday attire probably works well. Some of us on the West Coast may need to upgrade from the jeans and t-shirts that often suffice at work (it's hard to tell who is on vacation and who is going to work in Portland). For those of you somewhere in-between, your typical office attire still probably works well (I was born and raised in the Midwest).

In the past I've looked at pictures from prior conferences to try to figure out what I'd feel comfortable wearing. Also, feel free to reach out to IES Members or staff about typical attire. SALC tends to be less formal and the AC more formal. As a student and young professional, I recommend leaning toward being a little overdressed versus underdressed.

Andrea Wilkerson, Ph.D., LC

Pacific Northwest

National Laboratory

The EP Column addresses issues affecting younger lighting professionals and those new to the industry.
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Author:Wilkerson, Andrea
Publication:LD+A Magazine
Article Type:Conference news
Date:Aug 1, 2016
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