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Big tech conferences are coming back, but smaller ones see a different path

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By Jon Swartz

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CES revealed its decision a day after Democratic Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak detailed a shift in the state’s recent mask mandate that allows large-scale venues to hold mask-free events if all guests are vaccinated. The Las Vegas Raiders on Tuesday said they would require fans to show proof of vaccines or get a shot at the gate.

A third party will oversee implementation of the CES vaccination policy, which will likely require would-be attendees to provide proof when registering for the show, according to CTA. The weeklong event, last held in-person in January 2020, usually draws more than 100,000 but won’t be as crowded next year, Foster said. The companies she said are scheduled to attend in 2022 include Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/209800866/delayed KR:005930 +0.93% , LG Electronics /zigman2/quotes/209966407/delayed KR:066570 +1.64% , Amazon, General Motors Co. /zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite GM +1.03% , Facebook Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB +3.07% , Oracle Corp. /zigman2/quotes/202180826/composite ORCL +0.50% , Sony Group Corp. /zigman2/quotes/208567357/composite SONY +0.77% , International Business Machines Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203856914/composite IBM +1.48% , Intel Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203649727/composite INTC +3.43% , Qualcomm Inc. /zigman2/quotes/206679220/composite QCOM -0.66% , Advanced Micro Devices Inc. /zigman2/quotes/208144392/composite AMD -5.35% and Daimler AG /zigman2/quotes/201850364/delayed XE:DAI -0.19% .

From CES 2020: Where have the tech companies gone?

Navigating health and safety measures can be dizzying, with local rules seemingly changing weekly. The safest course for vendors is to go virtual, which has proven to be an enormous success for many conference organizers.

In May, Sumo Logic Chief Communications Officer Aaron Feigin — citing “the unknowns” surrounding COVID variants and tightened business travel budgets — decided to shift the company’s annual Illuminate conference in September in Burlingame, Calif., from hybrid to an all-virtual format. The first show Sumo Logic plans to attend since March 2020 is AWS Reinvent in Las Vegas in late November and early December.

“There will always be a hybrid component to a conference from now on; your numbers [attendance] will be greater,” Feigin said. “We won’t go back to the traditional trade show.”

International Business Machines Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203856914/composite IBM +1.48% subsidiary Red Hat Inc. held a virtual edition of its Red Hat Summit in June, and is evaluating the format for 2022.

“Virtual will be a big part of [the 2022 show]. We’re all in a flux right now. Will Delta run its course? My answer is no,” Red Hat CEO Paul Cormier told MarketWatch. The company’s last conference with in-person attendance was in May 2019, with 12,000 people at one site.

Read more: Conventions are being canceled again as Delta variant surges

Tech is among several industries impacted by the spread of delta. The Fancy Food Show, an annual gourmet show, and the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair, both scheduled next month in New York, were recently canceled.

In New York City alone, officials with the Fancy Food Show, an annual gourmet gathering that draws thousands of exhibitors and attendees to the Javits Center, and the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair, an event held at the Park Avenue Armory, just announced cancellations. Both events were scheduled for September.

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