CES 2022 attendance fell 73% to 45K from 2020 numbers. Was it worth it?

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Attendance numbers for CES 2022 were surpassed by the Omicron variant of COVID, with 45,000 participants and 2,300 exhibitors.

According to the Consumer Technology Association, a trade group that organized the show in Las Vegas, the last individual event in January 2020 had a shortfall of 171,000 participants and 4,400 exhibitors. There were 1,800 media outlets, but for the first time in decades I was not among them.

The individual show was canceled in 2021 and moved only online, but the group decided to move on with the event in the first week of January, despite the rise of the coronavirus variant. In a LinkedIn post, CTA CEO Gary Shapiro defended the move. In November, Shapiro expected half the normal size for the show, but it turned out that Omicron took it even lower.

Although Intel, Twitter and many other big companies decided to exit the show at the last minute, CTA remained adamant on that decision. When those companies withdrew, a number of my appointments were canceled and that made it easier for me to decide to withdraw in the last week before the event.

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But many small companies could not do that, as they spent a lot of money on their booths and could not get a refund at the last minute. One exhibitor told me that the CTA would not let them out of the contract, so they decided not to go and then just tried to power through it with an online presence and a virtual booth.

Shapiro noted that the cancellation by the big companies became a “huge media story, expanding with each new departure.” Or based on the company’s policy – announced their own intentions.

The crowd at CES 2022 was not so great.

Above: The crowd at CES 2022 was not so big.

He added: “That story changed dramatically when we arrived in Las Vegas. Everyone on the ground looked happy and excited. It was the ‘grateful attitude’ of the exhibitors and the attendees that reassured me that we would make the right decision to move the show forward. Speaking to about 100 exhibitors and participants, despite the new requirements of masking and social distance, I have not heard a single complaint.

Shapiro said the team made decisions that exceeded health and safety requirements for major events. In the summer, the group said it would need vaccinations for all attendees, and later needed masking for all those indoor spots. CES spread its wings, spread conference seats to promote social distance, and put out some of the most compelling (and crowd-pleasing) exhibitions.

CT brought Abbott Healthcare to provide all attendees with a free Covid Quick self-test kit, as well as free on-site PCR tests for international visitors. On New Year’s Eve, the CTA set the direction and announced that it would shorten the show by one day to further reduce the risk of COVID transmission and address exhibitor staffing challenges.

“In part, our decision was guided by President Biden’s December remarks, in which he urged Americans to focus on masking, vaccination and testing – but stressed that the country does not and should not be shut down,” Shapiro said. .

Shapiro noted Biden’s words that this is not March 2020. A number of members of Congress, including US Senators Jackie Rosen, Shelley Moore Capito, Marsha Blackburn, Susan Collins and Maria Cantwell, attended.

“Ultimately, Kovid will be with us for a while and we will have to find ways to live with that reality,” Shapiro said. “Some Fortune 100 CEOs personally pointed it out to me to commend the CTA for our leadership in hosting CES.”

Above: Light traffic on the Las Vegas Strip on the opening day of CES 2022.

Image Credit: Eric Savitz

One of the advantages of fewer people was that the lines were not long and those who went could go to booths or events without having to wait long. That way, the lighter attendance was a good thing. Smaller companies also got a chance to shine.

Shapiro noted that there are a number of digital health products, with more than a dozen companies showcasing products designed to detect, detect and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Shapiro notes that despite the need for vaccinations and tests, there are reports of attendees testing positive. But he noticed that infections were appearing everywhere.

I think there’s a little bit more self-justification going on here. I accept the confusion and difficult decision, but I also understand the people who are saying that CTA has chosen money for health. I chose not to go because I did not want to be part of a superseder event that would endanger my own family members or my friends when I returned. They may be safe, but I’ve been to a lot of events that say they’re safe and they really aren’t. I’m glad to see people’s reports that they’re sticking to their processes.

In sports, the big question now is whether it is smart to book travel for upcoming events such as the DICE Summit in Las Vegas in February or the Game Developers Conference in March. The Entertainment Software Association, the organizer of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), has already announced that it will only go online for one show that typically attracts 65,000 people in Los Angeles in June.

Shapiro noted that the Business Travel Association, one of Washington’s largest business groups, praised CES as “nothing less than a model for how business trade events can and should take place in 2022,” and urged other business event organizers to follow suit. They are planning for this year.

“Ultimately, I’m sure we did the right thing by choosing to move forward with CES 2022 as an individual event,” Shapiro said. “Not only have we taken the lead in healthcare, but we have also provided an important platform for thousands of companies – many of them small and medium-sized businesses – that rely on CES. We also showed leadership, helping define the industry as ‘new normal’ as we learn to live with the virus. “

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