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Coronavirus Costs and Consequences to Tech Trade Shows

Coronavirus Costs and Consequences to Tech Trade Shows
[UPDATE] The spreading pandemic of coronavirus could potentially cost trade shows and related supporting infrastructures in the trillions of dollars. But the effect on future shows and supporting activities might be greater.

Now classified by the CDC as a pandemic, the coronavirus or COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe. The effects on the technical trade show industry are playing out in unfortunate ways. Some show organizers have decided to go ahead with their events. Unfortunately, one such event – RSA in the US– resulted in two exhibitors testing positive for COVID-19. One of those individuals is in serious condition.

The majority of show organizers are either cancelling or postponing their events. Some portion of those cancelled events are being re-imagined in creative ways as online or virtual shows. While a virtual trade show is seldom a desirable substitute for the real, in-person experience, it does offer several worthwhile benefits including streaming and archived keynotes, panels and technical sessions.

The true impact of show closures, postponements and event transformations to online formats will not be known for many months. For now, it’s important to know the status of the major shows. Below is that updated list:

- Apple WWDC (June) - TBD no announcement as yet (see slide)

- American Physical Society APS (Mar 2-6 in Denver, CO) - Canceled

- Aruba Networks Atmosphere 2020 (Mar. 23-26) - In-person canceled; changed to online event

- Black Hat Asia 2020 (Mar. 31-Apr. 3 in Singapore) - Postponed until Sep. 29-Oct. 2

- Cisco Live (May 31- Jun. 4 in Las Vegas) - Being held as scheduled

- Cisco Live Melbourne (Mar. 3-6 in Melbourne) - Canceled

- DEF CON China (Apr. 17-19 in) Beijing - Postponed TBD

- Dell World (May 4-7 in Las Vegas) - In-person canceled; changed to online event

- E3 (Jun. 9-11 in Las Angeles) - Being held as scheduled

- Embedded World (Feb 25-29 in Nürnberg, German) – Held as planned though several companies withdrew.

- EmTech Asia (Mar. 24-36 in Singapore) - Postponed to Aug. 4-5

- ESRI Developer Summit (Mar. 10) - In-person canceled; changed to online event

- Game Developers Conference (GDC) (Mar. 16-20 in San Francisco) - Postponed to Summer 2020

- Gartner CIO Symposium/ITxPo (Oct. 18-22 in Orlando) - Being held as scheduled

- Gartner Data & Analytics Summit (Mar. 23-26 in Grapevine, TX) – Postponed

- Geneva International Motor Show (Mar 5-15 in Geneva, Switzerland) - In-person canceled; changed to online event

- Google Cloud Next (Apr. 6-8 in San Francisco) - In-person canceled; Changed to online event

- Google I/O (May 12-14 in Mountain View, CA) – Canceled; potentially changed to online-only event

- Hannover Messe 2020 covering industrial tech (March 2020 in Hannover, Germany) – Postponed until July 13-17

- HPE Discover (Jun. 23-25 in Las Vegas) - Being held as scheduled

- IDC Directions covering tech research (March 4 in San Jose, CA) – Canceled, but will go ahead with Directions March 10 in Boston.

- IEEE Applied Power Electronics Conference APEC (March 15- 19 in New Orleans, Louisiana) – Canceled; Plan to assemble and deploy a virtual conference experience in the near future.

- IEEE International Reliability Physics Symposium IRPS (March 29 – April 2 in Dallas, TX)  -- In-person canceled; changed to online event

- IoT World Developer Conference (Apr. 6-9, 2020 in San Jose, CA) - Being held as scheduled

- International Telecommunication Union (ITU) World Information Society Forum (April 2020 in Geneva, Switzerland) – Postponed until August 31 – September 4, 2020.

- Microsoft Build (May 19-21 in Seattle) - Being held as scheduled

- Microsoft MVP Global Summit (Mar. 15-20 in Bellevue & Redmond, WA) - In-person canceled; changed to online event

- Mobile World Congress MWC Barcelona (GSMA) (Feb. 24-27 in Barcelona) - Canceled

- Mobile World Congress MWC Americas (GSMA) (Oct. 28-30 in Los Angeles) - Being held as scheduled

- NAB Show - National Association of Broadcasters (Apr. 18-22 in Las Vegas) - Being held as scheduled

- National Instruments (NI) Week (May 18 – 20 in Austin, TX) – Postponed until Aug 4, along with its Investor Conference

- Nvidia GTC - GPU Technology Conference (Mar. 22-26 in San Jose, CA) - In-person canceled; changed to online event

- O'Reilly Strata Data & AI Conference (Mar. 15-18, San Jose, CA) - Postponed; Merged with Strata Data & AI (Sep. 14–17)

- ODSC East 2020 - Open Data Science Conference (Apr. 13-17 in Boston) - Being held as scheduled, offering virtual option.

- OFC 2020 (Mar. 8-12 in San Diego, CA) - Being held as scheduled

- Oracle Code One (Sep. 21-24 in Las Vegas) - Being held as scheduled

- Oracle OpenWorld (Sep. 21-24 in Las Vegas) - Being held as scheduled

- Paris Blockchain Week Summit (Mar. 31-Apr. 1 in Paris) - Postponed until Dec. 9-10

- Percona Live Open Source Database Conference (May 18-20 in Austin, TX) - Being held as scheduled

- Qualtrics X4 Summit (Mar. 10-13 in Salt Lake City, UT) - Postponed to early Fall 2020

- Recode Code Conference 2020 (May 26-28 in Beverly Hills, CA) - Being held as scheduled

- Red Hat Summit 2020 (Apr. 27-29 in San Francisco) - In-person canceled; changed to online event

- RSA Conference (Feb. 24-28 in San Francisco) - Held as planned (Several companies withdrew, and two exhibitors now confirmed with COVID-19)

- SaaS Connect - Cloud Software Association (Apr. 15-16 in San Francisco) - Postponed until Oct. 5-6

- SaaStr Annual 2020 - (Mar. 10-12 in San Jose, CA) - Canceled; rescheduled Sep. 2020, SF Bay Area

- SAP Ariba LIVE (Mar. 16-18 in Las Vegas) - Canceled

- SAP NOW (Mar.) - Canceled

- SAS Global Forum (Mar. 29-Apr. 1 in Washington, DC) - In-person canceled; changed to online event

- Satellite 2020, covering the space-based economy (March 9-12 in Washington, D.C.) – Being held as scheduled

- Semicon West (Jul 21-23 in San Francisco, CA) – Held as planned.

- Semicon China (Mar. 18-20 in Shanghai, China) – Postponed until Jun 2020

- Semicon Korea (Feb. 5-7 in Seoul) - Cancled

- Shopify Unite 2020 developers conference (May 6-8 in Toronto) - In-person canceled; Changed to online event

- SXSW (Mar. 12-22 in Austin, Texas) - Canceled

- TNW Conference (Jun, 18-19 in Amsterdam) - Postponed until Oct. 1-2

- VMworld (Aug. 31-Sep. 3 in San Francisco) - Being held as scheduled

Image Source: Image Source: Tyler Callahan on Unsplash

The world is experiencing many effects from the epidemic spread of Coronavirus, or Covid-19, in lost lives, lost income and lost opportunities. Lately, the toll of this infectious disease on the technical companies and businesses has also become more apparent, e.g., Apple's annoucement of a negative impact on this quarter's revenues - among many others. 

One other very visible impact of the virus on the engineering community has been the cancelation, postponement or reduction of major, global trade shows. Fears and uncertainties concerning the Coronavirus are shaking the $2.5 trillion trade show industry from the actual events to ripple effects across the hotel, airline, entertainment, marketing, restaurant and other industries.

Not only do these events serve to bring the engineering and business communities together, but they are a major source of revenue for the organizations that sponsor the events. Aside from the obvious use for such revenues – i.e., to pay conference costs and keep the events going for the foreseeable future – it is likely that the revenues help support important technical work, market research, scholarships and the like. Several of the major event organizers – like GSMA and SEMI – also serve as standard generating bodies, as well as promoting technical exchanges and sponsoring other activities for the technical community. Although not confirmed, one might wonder how the loss of show revenues will affect these related activities, not to mentioned missed opportunities and important communications between tech professionals.

The cancellation of the major shows also have a direct impact on companies, startups, engineers and related technical professionals that had made plans to attend the events. Consider just one area of impact, namely, the price of admission and travel costs. A ticket cost to attend a major conference is roughly around 900 euros for the entire event (including exhibits, technical sessions, etc, but not including tutorials). Multiply that by the average numbers of attendees (91K+ for Semicon China and 100K+ for MWC) and the results in roughly 95k x 900 = 85M euros for the two cancelled shows.

This number doesn’t include airfare, hotel and food cost per attendee. According to Fortune magazine, roughly 28,000 rooms had been reserved for the Feb. 24-28 MWC conference. It estimates that hoteliers too will take a big hit, with lost business totaling approximately 112.4 million euros ($121.5 million). Sadly, there looks to be little chance of refunds from the hotels or city.

Equally important, it doesn’t include the cost to exhibitors whom pay for booth space, marketing materials, wages for engineering and marketing personal and loss of sales/awareness from potential customers. Will the exhibitors lose all of the money they’ve invested in preparation for the show? Will there be lawsuits to recover some of the costs? How will the cancelled show’s be affected in the future? These are questions that will be answered in the coming weeks and months. For now, all that the technical community can do is wait and watch.

List of shows cancelled to date in 2020:

  • Mobile World Congress (MWC), February 24-27, Barcelona, Spain
  • Semicon China, March 18-20, Shanghai, China
  • Semicon Korea, February 5-7, Seoul, South Korea
  • Black Hat Asia, March 31 to April 3, Singapore
  • Cisco Live, March 3-6, Melbourne, Australia
  • Geneva International Motor Show, March 5-15, Geneva, Switzerland
  • Chinese Grand Prix, April 17-19, Shanghai, China
  • Facebook Developers Conference, May 5-6, San Jose, CA

The "watch list" of shows still going forth but encouraging attendees to take precautions like wearing masks, using hand sanitizers and not shaking hands, includes:

  • Embedded Conference - Several large companies have cancelled including Digi-Key, Arm, Rohm Semi, FTDI, Bridgetek, Toshiba
  • RSA Conference, taking place February 24-28 in San Francisco. IBM has withdrawn.
  • Global Marketing Summit, scheduled March 9-12, San Francisco, CA. Facebook has cancelled
  • Game Developers Conference, scheduled March 16-20, San Francisco, CA. Organizers indicated that all 10 of the China-based exhibitors at the show have canceled. Several major sponsors have pulled out.
  • Pax East, February 27-March 1, Boston, MA. Sony is skipping Pax East convention over coronavirus concerns
  • Google's I/O Developer Conference, May 12-14, Moscone Center, San Francisco, CA.
  • Microsoft Build Developer Conference, May, Seattle, WA
  • Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), June, San Francisco, CA
  • 2020 Olympic Games, July 29 - August 9, Tokyo, Japan. While not a technical trade show, the Olympic Games have become an event where major technical advances are on display.

For those planning to attend any trade show event in the near future, it might help follow a “no-contact” protocol for greeting other attendees, as promoted before the closure of the Singapore Air Show earlier this month.

Image Source: Maria Nazipova on Unsplash

John Blyler is a Design News senior editor, covering the electronics and advanced manufacturing spaces. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of hardware-software-network systems experience as an editor and engineer within the advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductor industries. John has co-authored books related to system engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.

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