Thoughts about COVID and ISE 2022
There is a saying that change is constant except from vending machines. I believe that has been seen today, March 11, 2021, by the fact that ISE 2021 or Integrated Systems Europe has been cancelled or drastically changed. The year since the pandemic was declared has been unprecedented. The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020.
The first thing I want to say is that this news isn’t something for people to gloat about or rejoice about. This news has serious impact. It definitely has financial ramifications for many people and companies. These changes as well as other impact people beyond the attendees. It impacts the exhibitors, the hotels and restaurants, the venue, and all of their employees. I want to make sure that’s clear before I comment about anything these changes are not just a small change these have huge repercussions for many people and companies. I will repeat that change is constant; things have been changing for more than fourteen months.
A year ago, if you asked me if AVNation would be sold, I would not have thought it was probable. Given the economic situations that occurred in 2020, six months later we had to react to the new situation and looked to sell. I don’t say the new normal because it’s just new, not saying it’s normal it’s just new. A similar thing happened to me personally. A year ago, I was employed full time. I was leaving on vacation when I came back a pandemic had been declared I never went back to the office beyond a few hours. I was laid off in November. I started my own company in November as a result of not being able to find full time employment so definitely things are not typical. This is not to say woe is me or look at how bad things are this is to say that things change, and things change constantly.
Yes, ten days ago ISE Europe said the show was going to happen as scheduled however since that time things have changed. These changes could be from exhibitors saying they were not going to attend. Some companies that already said they were not going to attend. The change could be a result of the fact that there are still travel limitations. It was very probable that attendance levels were going to be down. The change could be a reaction to fact that not everyone is planning on getting vaccinated. All of these items can add to why this change occurred.
I’m not going to judge I’m simply going to say it has changed. The show producers made a new decision based on the current information.
I am sure these decisions were not easy for AVIXA, ISE, or CEDIA to make. AS I said these have huge repercussions both financially and personally. This change impacts many people but based on the situation as it is known now I think it was an understandable decision to make. I am not saying it’s right or wrong; that will be debated for years. Each person has their own opinion as to whether or not it was right or wrong. I think it was very prudent to make the change in the show. I also think it was responsible.
Given the various levels of adherence to protocols, attention to details, or simple logistics I think things were going to have to change either way.
If one looks at a trade show booth requiring social distance of 6 feet between people makes a 10 foot by 10 foot or three meters by three-meter trades show booth becomes unusable. How much larger do the booths have to become to meet social distancing requirements even after vaccination. Just from a pure logistics standpoint the amount of space available might not have been enough for the show to be put on safely. Don’t forget the aisles need to be wider. There needs to be greater distance between tables in the food court. How large do demonstration or listening rooms need to become? It is not just about the exhibit floor itself. There are many variables that need to be considered beyond the obvious ones.
There was a fashion trade show in Orlando during February 2021. It required proof that you did not have COVID before you arrived at the at the show. It also included temperature checks on the way into the exhibit hall. However, that show has a lower attendance than ISE or InfoComm. How successful the show was depends on who you ask.
Yes, ISE has changed to become four regional events. This change also means that travel has become less of an issue for many people. It means that people can make it a day trip instead of a week trip which is both good and bad. It also impacts the exhibitors. Do they attend every show and set up a full show or is it just a tabletop show? The AVnation team is already working on answers to these questions.
One of the things I have started thinking about is how long does it take when someone travels beyond just the time on location. As an example, when leaving the state of Florida, one is supposed to quarantine for two weeks in many of the States. That is the guidance that has been given, I am not going to debate if it is correct or not. It is the guidance being given by public health commissions. If one attends a trade show in Florida and then returns to their home state, that is an additional 2 weeks of separation. I have spoken with people about the process, and it is more onerous process then just staying home. Some states indicate that you should stay in a hotel so as to not infect other people in the household.
These quarantine rules and practices typically are more stringent when crossing international borders. Some countries require quarantining at an approved hotel, that the traveler must pay for. Now a one-week trade show can impact up to five weeks due to quarantine on the way in and the return.
As I said we are never going to know if the change was the right or wrong thing to do. There will be people who will lambast ISE for making changes. There will be some people who support them for making these changes. I support them for making a decision and not being afraid to change it when conditions changed. The best any of us can hope for is to be able to make a decision based on the conditions at the current moment. It is similar to working on a construction project, one has to deal with the site conditions. It is not possible to install ceiling speakers if the ceiling is not installed yet.
That is basically what ISE, CEDIA, and AVIXA decided to do they looked at the conditions and they made changes to take into account the current situation.
I live in Florida, I hope that InfoComm takes place in October 2021. I fully understand if it cannot occur. I understand the impact to the industry both for AV but also to tourism here in Florida. I am very much aware of the impact of tourism here in Florida. I fully expect conditions to change over the seven months as to whether or not a show is practical. I expect AVIXA will make a decision in five months about whether or not having a show is safe and practical for everyone involved.
That truly is the key to this situation and world conditions. Making the best decision is all that one can do based on the information available at the time. It has been proven time and time again hindsight is 2020. I can provide examples of how information has been ignored for business decisions resulting in horrible outcomes, but that is not the purpose of this commentary.
I believe that trade show organizers need to look for reasons an event can be held safely. If every one of the issues cannot be mitigated, the show should not occur. It is the opposite of looking for exceptions, it is looking for confirmation of the safety. Health is a really important thing. Some of the lingering effects from COVID are still being discovered and understood.
I would not have attended ISE in June. Until I am vaccinated, I do not plan on traveling. Even then I will follow the suggested protocols of distancing and masks. I don’t believe everyone is taking the same level of precautions. That is an important thing to consider, I do not have faith in people to think of others and follow the guidance. That puts my health and future health in the control of someone I do not know.
My belief is that the change was made as I am not the only person who feels that way. I do know that the decision was not made lightly. Knowing what it takes to produce a trade show, the cost, planning, logistics, and the amount of people involved this decision isn’t just a flip of a switch. This change was made as a reaction to concerns. My belief is that AVIXA, CEDIA and ISE made the right decision. They just based it on the information they had available at the time and when conditions changed, they changed.
That is all one can hope for, as things change react to the changes.
I am sure there are people who disagree with me. I am sure there are people who are going to be apoplectic about this change. There are people who will say the change to four events means it is not the same and they would have attended the single show. There will be the comments of how can we get back to normal if we do not do normal things again. I fully understand and that is their right to have an opinion. My experience is no matter what you do someone’s going to be unhappy so you have to make the decision that you can live with. I know I personally would not want to think that I made a decision that got someone sick or worse resulted in their death. Before the argument of over 99% of COVID patients living is mentioned, remember that does not mean living without lingering effects. It also ignores the friends in the audio industry we have lost to COVID such as Blair McNair and Ray Rayburn.
I agree with this decision. I support it. We move on from here. Please feel free to leave comments the sections below or on Twitter.
Thank you for taking the time to listen and consider my comments.
Peace and Good Health
- The Reviews Are In for Magic’s First Orlando Pop-up Trade Show (Footwear News)
- OFFPRICE Orlando Market’s Success Shows Retailers Want Safe Live Events (Independent Retailer)
- The Shows Must Go On: Trio of Fashion Events Prove to Be Stronger Together (Trade Show News Network)
- Fashion show attendees at Orange County Convention Center tested daily (WESH-TV Orlando)