Coronavirus and cancellations. Is this the end of exhibitions and events as we know them?

Coronavirus and cancellations. Is this the end of exhibitions and events as we know them?

In a week where even the Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed until an unspecified date in 2021, one has to question whether 2020 will see any events take place at all? And, further, when the events companies behind the cosmetics industry’s biggest meets will acknowledge that increasingly likely reality.

For while we’ve seen several postponements – Cosmoprof Worldwide, Cosmoprof India, In-Cosmetics Global and PCHi to name but a few – there have been few cancellations or contingency plans announced. And very few events organisers have been willing to acknowledge that there could be an issue beyond the spring.

Indeed, Cosmoprof’s second reschedule, moving its already once-postponed show for a second time from June to September, was announced some two weeks ago, but China Beauty Expo is doggedly sticking to its May 19-21 slot, In-Cosmetics Korea remains scheduled for June 17-19, In-Cosmetics Global is apparently still on for June 30 in Barcelona and the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit – Latin America appears to be set for July 3-2 in Sao Paolo.

Are those dates realistic? As Yogesh Mudras, Managing Director, Informa Markets in India acknowledged as Cosmoprof India was pushed back to late October, “The COVID-19 situation presents a mixed and constantly changing scenario for the organisers of exhibitions worldwide. With an unflinching focus on the well-being of our customers, partners and employees, we believe the new date will allow more time for normality and confidence to return to the marketplace, ease travel restrictions, and provide all-around better conditions for exhibitors and visitors to engage.”

One-fifth of the world’s population is currently confined to their homes, there’s no cure or vaccine for COVID-19 in sight and experts are warning that restrictions could be in place for 12 months or more. And while China is lifting restrictions and is claiming a near-zero transmission rate, only time will tell whether that can be maintained as movement resumes. Certainly Hong Kong’s experience suggests otherwise.

With that in mind, do events’ organisers need to get real? And will the current digital communication wave become habitual. In other words, after months of home working and video conferencing, will we need these events at all? What’s more, will companies have the budget?

Exhibition organisers would be well advised to follow Adobe’s lead and switch their energies to digital delivery. The software provider will launch its live summit online on March 31 with Adobe leaders Shantanu Narayen, Anil Chakravarthy and others sharing their vision remotely. TED 2020 is mulling a similar move after postponing its April conference to late July and Rev’d Up Media Summit has also announced a move to online. The world is changing, and henceforth will be accessed in a click, not by plane.