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COVID Doesn’t Care About Trade Shows

In a pandemic, it’s risky to schedule things too far out

Radio World Sept 15 2021 coverThe author is editor in chief of Radio World.

Proving yet again that being of Irish extraction carries no immunity against Murphy’s Law, I signed off on your previous issue of Radio World, right, including its preview of the NAB Show, on Sept. 7 — only to learn on Sept. 15 that the National Association of Broadcasters had cancelled their event in the face of a resurgent pandemic and the pullout of major exhibitors. The collocated Radio Show and AES Show also were cancelled.

This news broke on our issue’s cover date but before many print readers would have read that show preview. 

Oh well. 

We knew of course that this might happen; but for weeks up to our deadline, the association insisted that the show was a “go,” and we proceeded on this assumption. I trust that attentive readers understood why they received an issue with a preview of an event that wouldn’t take place!

The inconvenience to me is minor. Harder hit are companies that intended to exhibit and had already shipped equipment to Las Vegas in anticipation; conference planners who designed sessions and panels; and broadcasters who had booked travel and were looking forward to doing some in-person networking again.

It was always an aggressive plan on the part of NAB to try to have a trade show this fall (plus another one six months later). But when it created the plan back in the early months of the pandemic, the chance that things would be well on their way back to normal by now seemed a safe bet. 

Obviously that’s not the case, with the variant causing cases to spike again in late summer and with Americans still arguing over sensible health precautions like masks and vaccines. 

In trying to have a show this fall, the association also no doubt was influenced by the fact that the loss of the 2020 show cost it a considerable amount of revenue. The annual convention is an engine that helps fuel NAB’s work as a lobbying force and broadcast advocate. So the decision to cancel a second time must have been particularly painful. 

Yet few people would be well served by a lightly attended event with many empty booths. And I confess to being relieved that I won’t have to sit in an airplane or mingle in exhibit aisles just yet. Thankfully, the situation seems to be improving now in early October.nation

Radio World believes in a strong technology marketplace. NAB Shows play a vital role in that. So here’s hoping that by springtime, you and I can start meeting in person safely again. 

It’s sobering to realize this though: When we do meet in April, it will have been three years since our industry last met in Las Vegas. Wow.

[Read the Sept. 29 issue of Radio World.]