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Conferences Suffering Due to Coronavirus

Conferences Suffering Due to Coronavirus


Events and trade shows are essential for trade media companies and advertisers.

They create significant revenue, foster engagement and provide space for new relationships. 

The average retail event can bring in over $6 million — but 2020 is shaping up differently due to Coronavirus. 

Many key trade shows have rescheduled or cancelled completely. Events that are set to continue are seeing many participants withdraw from their commitments, as large corporations are restricting employees from participating. 

Here we cover the latest on coronavirus and the major trade shows that have been impacted.

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The latest on Coronavirus

The COVID-19 virus (coronavirus) has now spread to 77 countries, killed more than 3,200 people and infected more than 100,000

As of March 10, the US death toll according to the CDC had reached 25 people. 

Bill Gates stated that this virus is now behaving like the “once-in-a-century pathogen we’ve been worried about.”

The Gates Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation teamed up to help with prevention efforts. With their support, researchers in Cambodia have identified the full genome of the virus, making it much easier and faster to identify in people.

On top of this effort, Facebook is giving free advertisements to the World Health Organization and removing false information from its platform. This is a strikingly different approach than Facebook’s approach towards political ads and misinformation. 

Facebook recently announced the cancellation of its F8 conference that was scheduled for early May. Similarly, it announced that it would not be participating in the SXSW conference

Facebook is not alone. There have been a number of event cancellations that will impact a wide variety of industries and businesses. 

Conferences that are being rescheduled or cancelled

Business connections and advertising opportunities are pending on how global health leaders continue to control, or not control, the spread of COVID-19.

The first major cancellation announcement was the Mobile World Congress. The event hosts more than 1,200 companies and generates almost $500M Euro in economic impact for Barcelona. 

MediaRadar data places MWC is a top 5 event in terms of exhibiting and sponsorship revenue.

Other major events across industries that were cancelled include:

  • Ceraconference was set to host energy and oil executives from over 80 countries in Houston. It was canceled.
  • The American Physical Society canceled its largest meeting of the year just 34 hours before the event was set to begin. They faced backlash from thousands of doctors who had already arrived in Denver for the short notice.
  • Google recently called off its Google I/O 2020 conference for developers. Google had already announced that it would convert other in-person events to an online format. It is suspected that this event will also be carried out online.
  • The Geneva International Motor Show was cancelled after the Swiss government put a temporary ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people. 

Others have been suspended: 

  • The MIPIM property fair rescheduled its conference. It was supposed to be held between March 10 and 13th. While this is being written, it is rescheduled for June 2-5. However, it’s believed up to 10% of attendees have already canceled.
  • The Game Developers Conference (GDC) was suspended after several major attendees, like Microsoft, pulled out. 

Some events will be transformed from in-person events to a purely online format, like the Adobe Summit.

SXSW Ordered to Cancel: A Reschedule is Pending

Some events plan to carry on as normal, but plans are changing daily. 

SXSW organizers originally said they had no plans to cancel or suspend the annual event that brings over 400,000 international travelers to Austin, Texas. 

The event’s determination to continue was not looking promising when Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey canceled his keynote place at the event. Other major VC’s and Startups were pulling out and a petition on Change.org reached over 55,000 signatures to cancel the event. The event’s organizers were ordered to cancel the event just one week before it was set to take place.

Last year, the event made $355.9 million for the city of Austin. Refund policies are unclear and lost revenues are not fully accounted for. There are talks about the possibility of rescheduling the event for later in the year. 

The SXSW ordeal exemplifies just how important trade shows can be, but how the protection of public health is paramount this year. The list of events and trade shows that have been rescheduled or cancelled is growing daily. Read here for a daily update.  

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