Will the pandemic permanently change conventions?


One of the biggest gadget conventions in the world is going on right now, although it’s much smaller than before. CES, formerly the Consumer Electronics Show, brought about 170,000 people to Las Vegas.

But with companies like Google, Intel and Amazon canceling their participation because of omicron, foot traffic has dropped significantly. It’s a tough start to 2022 for the convention industry.

Tech enthusiasts worried about omicron can attend CES virtually. Event host Jean Foster said the online version even has a substitute for those clunky networking receptions: a platform called Mingle.

“People can discuss specific topics, and this is based on the profile and recommendations of the people who meet,” she said.

Of course, this means that driving the fully autonomous John Deere tractor or trying out other gadgets is prohibited. And the more conventions go digital, the more CES misses its biggest source of revenue: “The space exhibitors rent from us,” Foster said.

So, will the current pandemic lead companies to permanently reduce their travel budgets?

The tool company Hilti used to attend 30 shows a year. Now there are only 16. But that doesn’t completely abandon strategy, said vice president of marketing Erik Mikysa.

“We intend to be very present at trade shows,” he said.

In two weeks, Mikysa will be in Las Vegas for the World of Concrete. He said Hilti is sending more employees there than ever.

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