Firstly, I want to apologise for the radio silence on the blog, I have been getting ready for CloudExpo London which finished today. At the moment, understandibly, the attendance was down quite a bit on previous years, that said I still had great meetings, attended great sessions, spoke to old friends and made new ones. I was however shocked to hear some exhibitors pointing negative comments to the organisers of the event, I wanted to share some thoughts on why I think the show had no option but to go on.
I consider myself very lucky that I have had the ability to attend, exhibit and speak at conferences around the world. So I wanted to share a few thoughts of my own on the subject.
I heard comments like "it should have been cancelled", "why didn't they postpone it". I heard people pointing anger at the organisers for running the event and saying it's cost them money. Personally, exhibiting often costs you money, you rarely make up your costs of attending and exhibiting at an event.
Many events are commerical events for organisers, where you ticket might be free, exhibitors pay money for their stands and work on discussing opportunities with attendees who visit their stand to offset the cost of exhibiting at events. Organisers of events also spend huge amounts of money organising them, paying event staff, marketing the event among other things, cancelling an event in some cases can ruin the organisation.
Don't forget postponing a conference is all well and good but what if they can't reschedule, conferences later in the year are still booked and this doesn't mean they can physically secure the space required to hold the event later in the year. Add to that the speakers at these events, they may well have other commitments preventing them from coming back, exactly the same with exhibitors and attendees. Many speakers and exhibitors circuit conferences in a year so this could present a real challenge.
The list of companies who are imposing travel bans for thier employees is getting longer by the day. You could see a great example of this at CloudExpo, where GitLab had nobody on the stand but they had a video set up and people available remotely to help out interested parties. You could also see stands that were just empty.
This can make a big difference, if a conference is cancelled due to government advice, then chances are a lot of the losses can be recovered for flights, hotels and other expenses. Organisers cancelling without offical advice advising them of this would cost them a fortune.
I saw a document from the Center for Disease Control which was targeted at event organisers. It's a huge list and with an already huge task of getting the event ready, it would take an army of people to implement those recommendations.
In summary, it's not a great time for regular conference goers. Many events are going to remote only virtual events this year and others have been cancelled altogether. Things will pick up when countries are over the worse, but this situation will claim many victims both personally and organisationally.