Remember this – I’ve been a BIG supporter of this show since pretty much the beginning. With Martin I was responsible for LARGE budgets directed towards shows such as LDI. In fact, some shows, our budget went as high as $500k. That’s a lot of money, and was starting to become as much as 40 or 50% of our total ad budgets.Over the years, Martin remained a big supporter (financially and otherwise) of this show, as did High End, ETC, and several other large manufacturers. Then what happened?Well, consider first that LDI was once a “Community” sort of show. I can’t help but think about the days when it was owned by Pat McKay (sorry for the spelling) and run by the likes of Jackie Tien and gang. If we wanted something about the show changed – we called Jackie or Pat – and a change was at least considered. Everyone seemed to care about this show. I am sure that Pat made a profit – but the show supported her magazine and vice versa. Speaking of the magazine, the fact that all of our industry trade magazines are suffering is also a contributing factor.Anyway, Pat sold the show to one group who sold to a bigger group who sold to an even bigger group, and so on. These companies (can anyone remember the name of the CURRENT mega-owner?? – me neither…) have taken the show into their fold of 100 other shows – and treated it ONLY as a business. And while I am a big fan of proper business, i think the pain on this one is suffered by some small business owners in an industry very much driven by passion for the technology, and a network feel. The friendly “Network” vibe disappeared about 8 years ago as I recall. At the time, I was part owner of Coemar and was in the process of over-seeing another LDI booth construct. As we had done MANY times, we made a move to “incorporate” a small aisle space into our bohemeth booth. I got a visit from then show manager (his name escapes me) who was not only yelling at me, he was threatening to have my stand removed from LDI. It was un-believable. I said “go ahead – take it out”. We ended up with some sort of settlement, but for me – that was the beginning of the end. There was no reasoning, discussiong, brainstorming – simply “This is our space, and you’ll pay full price”.It has continually worsened. A couple of years ago, I was approached by this same “Group” who were interested in purchasing one of our start-up business’, Rental-Source. The site was only beginning, and was already creating a bit of a stir. Understand that every paper magazine company is currently looking at ways to dive out of magazines and into what they call “New Media” which is to say they’re moving to the internet. This group staged numerous meetings, conference calls, and more meetings. In the end – we were passed around like a hot potato to a point where I finally said “look people, we have a Non-Disclosure in place, but I still kinda feel like you’re using me for your own education” which I still think they were. We walked away from these people who obviously had money to spend, but in my opinion – had their own problems to conquer first. What we’re seeing now with LDI is the fruit of their problems.I was recently asked “Can they fix this show”. Well, keep in mind – it’s not only Martin who have bowed out of the show. Add High End, GearSource (had to toss that in) and a handful of others, plus – i’ve heard that more have either downsized, or are considering dropping out – this is a bit of an exodus. Think about only Martin and High End. They were pretty much the fore fathers of this show. Martin and High End used to be the north and south in a civil war. Other companies were at the show, yes – but none were as large as these two. In fact, it’s really High End who started the show, threatening to pull advertising from the magazine unless then owner, Pat McKay agreed to form a tradeshow. Martin, as with most things, followed closely in High End’s shoes, and was a major and early contributor. Now, they’re both gone. Not because neither can afford to do the show – but they’ve elected to use the money establishing other methods of getting to their clients. So – can it be fixed? My opinion, yes. How you ask?Well, for one – i’d “give the show back to the people”. Make it a non-profit organization. The show itself should break even, but should not bring in the massive profits they’ve been trying to milk from it. In giving the show back, a “committee” should also be formed. The committee should be made up of Exhibitors, and only one or two members from the ownership. They are still the people who will have to make it happen. Third, something i’ve ALWAYS asked for, and got in the early years was some sort of retribution for entertaining LDI Clients. In other words, if I am going to spend hard money to throw a party, or hire a band and throw a concert on a beach, the show needs to recognize that this not only helps me – but in a VERY big way, helps the show. Especially in Orlando, if people have nothing to do at night, the show gets a little dry and more and more people end up coming for a day – or two days. In the past, it was a 5 day trip with events before, and NOTABLE parties every night. Why shouldn’t the exhibitors who are footing the bill for these events be rewarded? Perhaps they get credit towards the next year’s booth. What a novel idea… Speaking of crediting an exhibitor for being remarkable.. what ever happened to the light shows? Sure – our industry grew up – but we don’t want to be entertained anymore? How about the show puts up a $25k Booth Credit as a prize to the winner!! Also – the booth awards – why are those getting so watered down, and best large booth gone? In fact, I went to the awards show last year. Oh my – what a boring event. Plus – it was littered with corporate propoganda. I’ll never forget David standing up and announcing “Thank you for making this show a huge success with RECORD ATTENDENCE!” Come on now… walk the aisles – maybe a record for lowest attendence. Then why say it? Anyway, my point is, if you want people to do something – put some incentive there. Don’t penalize them with costs. Tell your Large Booth exhibitors “Hey, if you get the best booth award, it’s worth $25k off next year’s booth” instead of a stupid little trophy. Would they try a little harder? I think so. THEN – make the voting REAL! Not a bunch of suits sitting in a room with their blackberries – but having Voting Stations positioned on the booths in the competition, or on the way out of the show… or how about nice looking girls with roller skates and handheld voting machines randomly polling people??The idea is to take the show back to where it was – and was going. It USED TO be a show that as an exhibitor or just an attendee, you had to be there. Remember lining up with all the world’s top LD’s at the Peabody in Orlando waiting for a drink? I’ve made just as many deals in that bar as I have on the floor i think. Last Orlando show I went to that Peabody bar. Know what I saw? A bunch of suits from some other industry. Lame. It just isn’t there anymore. I see more and more companies who’d never miss going to LDI saying “Nah, I have a couple of shows, I am not going”.. They’re not just busier, they’re making a choice. And based on recent shows – I’d say it’s a wise choice. I say to LDI – get it together, or fall into our distant memories.