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MWC, WISPA, NAB, IWCE still plan in-person events, but others cancel

As the dust settles on last week's in-person CES trade show in Las Vegas, some event coordinators have either canceled their own upcoming trade shows or plan to switch to a virtual format. Others, however, are forging ahead with plans to hold in-person gatherings in the coming weeks and months.

"We expect over 1,500 exhibitors in February, with attendees registered from 150 countries," GSMA CEO John Hoffman wrote in an open letter of the upcoming MWC trade show, scheduled to start February 28 in Barcelona, Spain. "A lot has changed in the past two years but our resolve to reconvene the industry is unwavering, and I encourage every member of this community to support one another. My personal thanks to all the business leaders who are right now planning their attendance."

GSMA is boasting of MWC Barcelona keynote speakers including the CEOs of Nokia and Orange. (Source: GSMA)
GSMA is boasting of MWC Barcelona keynote speakers including the CEOs of Nokia and Orange.
(Source: GSMA)

Other trade show organizers issued similar reassurances. "IWCE 2022 will happen this year – in March and in Las Vegas. Bank on it," wrote Paul Caplan, the show's general manager, in an email Monday morning. Informa, Light Reading's parent company, runs the IWCE show, which is scheduled to run March 21-24.

And officials with the Wireless Internet Service Provider Association (WISPA) and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) said their respective shows (Wispamerica March 14-17 in New Orleans and NAB Show April 23 - 27 in Las Vegas) remain on schedule and in person. According to VentureBeat, Informa's Game Developers Conference is also scheduled to be an in-person event March 21-25 in San Francisco.

But other upcoming in-person events have been canceled or virtualized. NATPE Miami, from the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE), canceled its show in Miami that was scheduled to start January 18.

"Although this decision from a financial point of view will cost the organization a great deal of money, that was secondary to our primary concern, which is to put the welfare of our members first," wrote NATPE CEO JP Bommel. "We put a great deal of safety protocols in place, but it is just not enough given the intensity of this virus which is spreading at an enormous rate all over the world."

Bommel said new dates and locations are "under consideration."

Other in-person events in January, including the Sundance Film Festival, the Grammy Awards and video game conference E3, have also been canceled, according to Deadline.

The developments come after CES reported 40,000 in-person attendees, or roughly 22% of the 180,000 people who attended the show prior to the pandemic. According to Protocol, some CES attendees felt the show was worthwhile, while others did not.

Caplan, of the IWCE show, acknowledged the challenges that trade show organizers have faced since COVID-19 began disrupting travel. "Our theme this year – Making the Toughest Times Better – reflects the reality of today's business environment. Two years of a global pandemic have taken a toll on both our professional and personal lives," he wrote.

Caplan said that IWCE attendees will be required to present proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours. The show also will require masks for indoor activities and attendees will be "urged" to get booster shows. "With these measures, we are confident we will offer an environment where attendees can feel comfortable and safe," Caplan wrote.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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