The International Association of Exhibitions and Events has made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person component of the Expo! Expo! Annual Meeting & Exhibition this year. Organizers expected the hybrid event to host as many as 500 participants in Louisville, Ky., on Dec. 8-10, with a wider audience online. Due to the rise in Covid-19 cases, however, the show will be digital-only.
IAEE's board and staff have been closely monitoring the trajectory of the virus over the last several weeks, noted Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, CEM, executive vice president and COO of IAEE. "It was a really, really difficult decision," Breden told Northstar. "It became apparent that this was not going to get any better, and the best decision for members and our exhibitors was to not hold the line on meeting in person. Most importantly, we care about the health and safety of those who are attending our event."
With a digital platform already in place, it will be relatively simple to move in-person sessions online, she added. The virtual Expo! Expo! will offer a number of ways for buyers to network with other attendees and exhibitors through chats and private messages, while a Buyer Resource Center will house content including case studies, product demos and research papers. Exhibitors will showcase their wares via the virtual trade show.
While Expo! Expo! will not be happening in Louisville this year, IAEE has committed to hosting the 2022 edition of the event in Bourbon City, scheduled for Dec. 13-15, 2022 at the Kentucky International Convention Center.
“We certainly understand the challenging decision IAEE faced this year due to the ongoing uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Karen Williams, president and CEO of Louisville Tourism. “Moving to 2022 is considered a convention-industry win for Louisville, giving us continued visibility among exhibitions and events professionals. Our city will still reap the estimated $2 million of economic benefits by hosting this prominent group in just a couple of years."
Ultimately the decision was unanimous, said IAEE board chair Bob McLean CPA, CAE, CEM. "Our board, staff and members were excited to take part in this annual, in-person event. However, in light of current health and safety concerns… we have recommitted our efforts to deliver virtually the same high-quality event you have come to expect from IAEE."
The robust education program is organized along five education tracks: Virtual Event Production, Safely Reopening Exhibitions and Events, Wellness and Personal Development, Young Professionals and Executive Experience. The agenda includes 65 prerecorded sessions followed by live Q&A; seven short, parcipatory buzz sessions; and a general session with diversity expert Risha Grant.
Visitors can also check out the Tech Theatre, where new technology products will be featured along with case studies and interviews.