The scope of the exhibition was to encompass "The Works of Electricians of all ages". The Electrician reported that "Applied electricity is taking what may fittingly be called a new departure. From being mainly confined to the purposes of the telegraph and the arts, it has latterly shown promise of being largely applicable to illumination, and for the performance of mechanical work".
Four inventors of incandescent lamps displayed their systems. Edison, Swan, Lane Fox and Hiram Maxim all participated. Edison lit two rooms near the Congress, including the Grand Salon of the Paris Opera and Swan lit a smaller room. Edison's display was not ready for the opening of the exhibition, but frantic efforts ensured that his system received the most favourable coverage in the French Press.
British press coverage was more balanced, concluding that while Edison's and Swan's lamps produced much the same effect, Edison aimed at giving a complete system which could "compare favourably, and compete successfully, with gas".
There was also an historical section where the apparatus used by pioneers such as Volta, Oersted, Ronalds, Faraday, and Wheatstone were displayed. Latimer Clark displayed several of his fine books devoted to the history of the subject, including a 1558 edition of Porta's Magiae Naturalis, Libri iiii, in which an "imaginary telegraph" is described.