At a time of total uncertainty like the one we are experiencing because of the Covid-19, we want to be confident and look forward with optimism. We wondered if the events and events scheduled will resume in the autumn and asked Mike Blackman, managing director of Integrated Systems Events, news about ISE 2021 to be held in February in Barcelona. Blackman, in an exclusive interview for Connessioni, confirmed that ISE 2021 is moving forward in the organization and that the Fira of Barcelona, which will host already the autumn of new events, will be ready for this ‘new normality’, a little physical but safe and a little more virtual.
Connessioni – What is the official position from Fira at this time… can we expect the show will definitely take place, after many other show cancellations in the Autumn?
MB – ISE 2021 is definitely going ahead at the Fira. The venue is planning to host trade shows again from September onwards, so the staff there will have a lot of experience of ‘the new normal’ by the time ISE comes around in February.
C – ISE is an international show and we know that you have exhibitors from all over the world. Do you think that the different timing impact of the Covid in different countries and regions can have an impact on the show, in terms of exhibitors but also visitors?
MB – Given that the situation is a complex one, and differs from country to country, we are working to the scenario where we have a compelling and safe physical event that will be complemented by a virtual event.
C – Has Covid and lockdown influenced the organisation of the show?
MB – The Fira has completed an extensive project with risk consultancy AON, the Hospital Clinic de Barcelona and other experts to evaluate and mitigate the risks of Covid-19 in the context of trade shows at the Fira. We will shortly be publishing our own guide to making ISE 2021 as safe as possible for exhibitors and visitors. We are finalising the guide currently – and we hope that by the time this article is published, we will have distributed it to our exhibitors.
C – And did it influence the sales? Maybe some companies changed their plans and cancelled their participation, during Covid?
MB – While there has been uncertainty around all manufacturing business, we were pleased to report last month that 55,000 square metres of floor space had been confirmed for ISE 2021 – a 5% increase on the figure sold for ISE 2020.
Despite the uncertainty, the majority of our customers are confident that ISE will kickstart their business during 2021.
C – Are you planning something special, (virtual environments or Webinars for example) in case Covid will continue to impact on live events also next year?
MB – Yes – there will be a digital component to ISE 2021 that will run alongside, and complement, the physical show. We take the view that hybrid shows will be part of the landscape well beyond 2021.
C – And on a more general plan, what do you think your organisation learned from the “Covid experience”?
MB – We were better placed than a lot of companies to deal with lockdown, because we have always been a dispersed organisation – with offices in Munich, Amsterdam and now Barcelona, as well as a number of staff who are home-based. Video calling is engrained within the organisation, whether if it’s for the weekly call for the entire team, smaller meetings or one-to-one conversations. So when the lockdown hit, our office-based staff took their computers home with them but we carried on working very much as normal.
C – Will Covid have a long-term impact on the industry, and how do you think the industry is answering to Covid challenge… could the industry take the opportunity to learn something from this experience?
MB – The industry’s response to the Covid crisis has been amazing. There’s always been an ethos of co-operation within the industry, and when the crisis hit there was a real feeling of common purpose. AVIXA and CEDIA, our two co-owning associations, were among those who opened up access to their online learning materials free of charge. A number of companies devoted time and resources to help the fight against the virus; either directly, such as by helping to set up virtual health clinics, or indirectly, by providing apps and educational content to keep housebound schoolchildren occupied.
The pandemic has accelerated the use of a number of technologies, such as video communications and streaming. And I believe many of the changes won’t be reversed when all of this is over – people have seen the advantages and won’t want to go back to the old ways of doing things.
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