It’s not certain and a lot can happen between now and early 2021, but my bet is that the annual Consumer Electronics Show (“CES”) will be cancelled or severely curtailed.
The show is still on, according to its organizers (the Consumer Technology Association, or “CTA”), and it promises to “highlight technologies that help provide solutions for some of the day-to-day challenges created by the pandemic.”
But the numbers just don’t look good. Over 175,000 people attended last year’s event, and anybody who has gone to a CES knows that the crush of crowds is the rule, not the exception. If you’re not stuck in a gaggle of people on the show floor or at a bar, you’re likely standing in a line to get from one to the other.
In fact, interacting with people is pretty much the only reason why CES still exists.
Brands have been pulling back from trade shows for decades, choosing instead to host their own events (made possible by technologies that connect them directly with their customers and other stakeholders). Also, definitions have blurred, so many of the sellers and buyers of once distinct technology products are now the same department or person.
After the COMDEX shows folded in 2003, CES made itself an annual gig and became the only place everyone could reasonably expect to run into everyone else.
So, when the CTA promises to “sanitize spaces across show venues,” it’s referencing about 3 million square feet of various surfaces (i.e. good luck with that). “Widening aisles” will just let more people crowd into them, much like extra highway lanes do nothing to relieve congestion, and “cashless systems for purchases” will still require buyers to touch whatever it is they buy (or eat).
When you add the political insanity of some Americans refusing to wear masks (despite CES’s “best practice” suggestion otherwise), and the likelihood that the coronavirus will be raging without a vaccine and, well, there’s just as likely a chance that the CTA won’t cancel or cut back on the event…but that people just won’t come, especially from countries around the world that have better managed their outbreaks.
Exhibiting at CES can be a significant expense for brands, so it makes sense to plan for some sort of disruption of next year’s event. Here are three things to consider…[Read the entire essay at Spiritual Telegraph]