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It has been reported that the rapid spread of Omicron has led to more tech companies cancelling in-person appearances at January’s CES® technology industry trade show.
CES® is an annual trade show organized by the Consumer Technology Association which is due to take place in Las Vegas 5 – 8 January. Due to Covid, last year’s CES® was held as a virtual event instead.
Some Big Names To Attend Virtually Instead
Although the in-person event is to ahead with around 2200 companies having in-person representatives present, some very high-profile tech companies have pulled-out of sending representatives in favour of attending virtually instead. The rapid rise in Covid (Omicron) cases is the given reason for in-person being swapped for virtual attendance.
Companies that have announced that they will not be sending in-person representatives to CES® so far include Amazon, Facebook, Google, Intel, and Microsoft, and, also just announced, chip maker AMD and PC manufacturer MSI. It has also been reported that Smartphone company OnePlus has cancelled an in-person event that was due to be held in Las Vegas on the same dates as CES®. It should be noted, however, that despite some big companies pulling out of in-person representation, 60 new exhibitors had been added in recent days.
In the US (at the time of reporting), the country has just recorded a record-breaking seven-day average of Covid cases which has exceeded 267,000. The highly infectious Omicron variant now accounts for 59 per cent of new infections in the US, a massive jump up from 23 per cent just a week earlier. It is not surprising, therefore, that many of the big technology companies are not willing to take the risk.
Rules For Attendees
Attendees to the show must be fully vaccinated, wear masks and have tested themselves for Covid within the 24-hour period prior to entering one of the exhibition venues. There will, of course, also be social-distancing measures in place at CES®.
Covid Has Changed Big Tech Events
Covid has changed how big tech events have been held over the last two years. For example, London Tech Week Connects back in June 2020 and CES® in January 2021 were held as fully virtual events, whereas London Tech Week in September 2021 was held as a hybrid of virtual and in-person events.
Value of Virtual
Although January’s CES® is going ahead as a physical, in-person event, those tech shows that have been held virtually in recent times have highlighted some of the advantages of virtual. For example, with most people now used to using platforms such as Zoom, attendances at virtual events are high. Also, virtual attendees find that they can network with more people and not needing to be physically present offers convenience, less hassle, less expense (e.g., no long flights or quarantines and uncertainty or hotel bookings required). Virtual events can also mean that some much higher profile speakers may be available.
Not Great For The Hospitality Industry
Unfortunately, fewer in-person appearances from big companies and attendees perhaps changing their minds as Covid cases rise rapidly is bad news, not just for the event organisers and workers (e.g., for productions crews) but also for hotels and surrounding businesses.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Event organisers can, of course, hold entire tech events virtually, or as a hybrid of virtual and in-person, but with the event already booked and organised, costs incurred and a lot at stake, high profile companies opting out of in-person attendance is likely to be a blow for CES® organisers. It could lead to others pulling out and may discourage attendance at the show. There is also the uncertainty now of the effects of a rapidly spreading variant on attendance and what pressure this may put on the organisers, and how it could affect the success of the show. It may be expected in the post-pandemic world that big events will have at least some virtual elements to them but cancellations for in-person attendees is bad for hotels and other bricks and mortar businesses that would normally benefit. Some businesses pulling out of in-person attendance, however, may benefit other exhibitors who may now be able to get a place at the show, possibly at favourable rates.