As of Monday, CES is planning to go forward in Las Vegas, Jan. 5-8, 2022. But with news of the Omicron variant changing day-to-day, conference organizers and sponsors are using the skills they’ve acquired in Covid times: flexibility and leveraging virtual options to replace some face-to-face experiences.

The conference formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show hosted by Consumer Technology Association (CTA) attracted 180,000 attendees as recently as 2019, and maxed out in 2015 with 3,600 exhibitors and 170,000 professional and industry attendees. This year may see fewer people wandering the venue halls Las Vegas Convention Center, but promoters are confident that the show will go on, with some pandemic tweaks.

Because of the recent Omicron spike, a few big sponsors—including Twitter and Meta (formerly Facebook)—have pulled out of in-person attendance, while considering virtual options. Meanwhile, Amazon has opted out entirely.

These are challenging times for large, in-person events, and companies are aware of participants’ concerns. Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of Consumer Technology Association (CTA), said in a statement that their organization’s flagship event is responding to pandemic concerns. Shapiro said CES was confident in moving forward, while also maintaining the importance of safe in-person interactions. All Covid protocols will be observed at the meeting space, and people who choose not to travel will be accommodated with some digital options.

“At CTA, we believe passionately that innovation and technology will make a better world,” he said. “CES is the world’s largest innovation event, and we have thousands of people coming from around the world to see and show products that will make life better.”

Shapiro emphasized that his company’s employees would not have to travel to Las Vegas if they were concerned about health risks.

Health and Safety

Hybrid meeting programs offer a silver lining. This is a tech conference, after all—participants know how to manage virtual events. Chris Meyer, CEO of Chris Meyer Global and consultant for CLEAR, is currently planning to be at CES in person, because he has confidence in the organization.

“I went through 9/11 with CES, and they always went the extra mile to have all pieces in place,” he said. “I am going to be there to see what they’re going to do with a large crowd like this.”

Meyer added that every company needs to make its own decision, but he’s looking forward to the conference.

The combination of in-person and virtual experiences is designed to be interactive and dazzling. Vendors will host virtual experiences to familiarize participants with their products, and some companies still plan to be on site.

Sylvia Kindlain, account manager at ThinkInk Communications, believes that CES 2022 will be successful because of the number of precautions taken at the venue. But Kindlain also is aware of how quickly circumstances are changing, and how hybrid meetings can help people attend regardless of where they are, or what they decide is safe for them.

“As companies grapple with cross-border travel restrictions and increased restrictions, which will undoubtedly impact both CES and National Retail Federation’s Big Show (scheduled for Jan 16-18 at Javits Center in New York City) physical attendance rates, we’ll see a different kind of surge in several areas,” she said. “More hybrid events to accommodate local in-person attendees and international virtual attendees, and overall smaller event formats.”

Safe Travels

Safety is the watchword for everyone involved in this global event. CES wants all attendees to be safe and healthy, and participate in the best way for them. Hybrid is becoming an increasingly popular flexibility plan that allows organizers of conferences of all sizes to adjust as conditions on the ground change, while giving attendees options for how they would like to participate.

The way U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow explained it, CES is a model for business trade event organizers. “Gary Shapiro and his team at CTA are to be commended for navigating today’s challenges while ensuring that attendees can build meaningful relationships and plan for the future of technology,” he said in a statement.

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