The coronavirus outbreak left event organizers having to decide quickly what being prepared means. In the USA, no restrictions were issued by the federal government, but cities like Austin, Seattle and San Francisco and counties such as Santa Clara county in California and Montgomery County in Pennsylvania as well states like Ohio and Oregon banned large gatherings (100 or more in the case of Ohio – 250 or more in Oregon). On March 15th, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its coronavirus guidance for event organizers:

“Therefore, CDC…recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.

Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populationshand hygiene, and social distancing.  When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual.”

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As of now, the VidCon conference for YouTube and other creators still plans to meet in Anaheim in June

Shows with international audiences, especially ones with delegates and suppliers to and from China were the first to change their dates. This included the 2020 Game Developers Conference (GDC), an annual conference expected to draw nearly 30,000  to San Francisco  March 16-20, 2020. which was pushed back to the summer of 2020 after some developers like Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook decided to drop out.

The “Natural Products Expo” was scheduled to meet in Anaheim in March 2020. It “…is officially postponed, with the intention to announce by mid-April…” the organizers said in a statement.

“It is now clear, despite continued advice from local government and health authorities that the City of Anaheim remains open, that the majority of our Community want the show, but they do not want it now.”

Emerald City Comic Con is another large convention that was still scheduled to meet up until a week before it was canceled on March 6. This event was set for Seattle, an area where more deaths from the virus have been reported that any other region in the USA. Organizers say the convention will go ahead in the middle of the summer of 2020. but attendees are all getting refunds in the meantime. 100,000 people attended last year.

A convention in healthcare, the 2020 Annual Meeting for the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeon (SAGES), is still moving forward in Cleveland but has been pushed up from April to August 2020. Around 3000 surgeons typically attend.

A growing number of high profile events canceled

George R. Brown Convention Center
George R. Brown Convention Center in the downtown Houston
Photo credits: f11photo/Shutterstock.com

CERAWeek by IHS Markit, which bills itself as “The World’s Premier Energy Event” with 4000 attendees, canceled its annual gathering in Houston…”In light of developing circumstances.” It was scheduled to begin March 9, 2020.

The convening of the American Physical Society, one of the largest physics conferences in the world, was canceled one day before it was set to take place in Colorado March 2, 2020. The organization was able to quickly serve up an online conference with the help of one of its members, a quantum computing company..

The International Housewares Association (IHA) called off their show dealing a blow to hotels and businesses around Chicago’s McCormick Place . The show will be held there March 13-16, next year, 2021.

IHA President Derek Miller said in a statement a big part of the reason was the “…global nature of our event.”

The 2020 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Conference was canceled March 5th. Last year, it assembled around 40,000 attendees from around the world. The conference had even added President Donald Trump as a speaker to the start of its sessions but apparently that alone was not reason enough to move forward.it

Hal Wolf, president and CEO of HIMSS, issued a statement on their website offering this: “Based on evaluation of evolving circumstances and coordination with an external advisory panel of medical professionals to support evidence-based decision making, it is clear that it would be an unacceptable risk to bring so many thousands of people together in Orlando next week.”

Northstar Meetings Group is maintaining a list of convention cancellations across the USA.

Those that can are moving online

Microsoft Build is changing its annual event in May to all digital. Salesforce Connections another major event set for Chicago in April has moved online. You’d expect the software giants to be able to produce something engaging in a short time frame.  For everyone else, it’s not so easy without help…Read: “Event Planners Scramble To Serve Attendees Online

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