COVID-19 is wreaking havoc around the world. Some countries are being hit harder than others, but the whole world is being affected by it. Flights are being cancelled, countries are closing borders, events are being cancelled or postponed. As a wise man once said, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. We live in a world of technology, of amazing advances in all sectors, and yet, we find ourselves controlled by this virus. So first of all, we – the HDBaseT Alliance – are sending our virtual support to all our members, installers and integrators through these challenging times.
At this moment, I find myself quarantined with my family. Yes, we’ve been in a location where there was someone who was recently diagnosed. After the initial panic (“what does this mean? Are we going to get sick for sure? What about the people I’ve been in contact with since?”), routine went back to (almost) normal. I find myself in a not-so-bad situation. Thanks to modern technology, I can work remotely, participate in meetings, conference calls, and actually be more productive even though I am in my pajamas…
Unfortunately, this is not true for everyone. The AV world is a good example where working ‘remotely’ is not always possible, particularly when you are working on a new project installation. Sure, some routine testing & maintenance can be done from far, but most installers and in tegrators are hands-on professionals.
Another example for our changing market is industry events (or lack of). Social distancing is a key element in overcoming this virus (hence my quarantine) and we are all obliged to avoid large gatherings, where people who may have been exposed with the virus (and contaminated) can put others at danger, even if they don’t show any symptoms yet. That’s why several large events in our industry (and others) are being either cancelled or postponed. ISE 2020 was lucky enough to be early in the year, before things spiraled in Europe. It was a successful event, even though they had a significant reduction on participants. InfoComm China was postponed to September 28-30.
We also had our share of cancellations - The Alliance had to postpone its yearly HDBaseT World Congress twice. It was supposed to take place in the second half of 2019 in Hong Kong. With the city protests, we originally postponed the event to take place in China, right after InfoComm China. Guess what? Yep, postponed again. Currently, we’re looking at the second half of the year, and waiting to see if the Coronavirus situation is under control by then… We’ll keep you posted, of course!
The main question right now is what will happen to InfoComm 2020. We are less than three months away from the show, everyone in the industry is already working towards it, from planning, building & shipping their booths, organizing activities around the show, all the way to the nitty-gritty of booking flights and hotels. We would like to be optimistic and believe we will have control of this pandemic early enough not to affect the show. But on the other hand, is that a risk worth taking? Even though InfoComm is a major show in our industry, if things do not get considerably better in the near future, it will have to be cancelled or rescheduled so as not to expose thousands of people to an unnecessary danger.
There is no easy solution for this predicament. Even though we should not panic (it does not help much – trust me, I have first-hand experience…), we must take all precautions to make sure this Coronavirus is under control and affects the least amount of people in the world. If our events must be cancelled, then what are our options? There is no question that such cancellation – or postponement – would be a major blow to our industry, not only in terms of missing the opportunity to engage with customers and partners, but also to showcase the latest devices and technologies in different sectors. Such cancellations entail a major economic loss to all parties, from the organizers to the exhibitors and also attendees, who usually benefit greatly from learning about new opportunities in their markets. And InfoComm 2020 is not the only one. NAB has already been cancelled. What about CEDIA? the list can go on and on…
After doing some research, there are endless options and they’re quite awesome. One possibility is online live events. It is true that you are not able to meet and engage with your network face-to-face, but other than that there is much you can do in this platforms: demos, trainings, panel discussions, virtual meeting rooms – all while you are still in your pajamas (just like me now). In fact, some event-hosting platforms are seeing some major interest from the market around the world, and if we invest our time and energy in learning how to benefit from these, it’s a win-win situation. By putting some serious effort on this, we can all profit from the major advances we made with online technologies. It will involve a change in our approach to these events, but at the end, it can make a positive change to the way business and marketing is done in our industry (regardless of COVID-19 status). Until we can meet face-to-face again, we must adapt and make lemonade out of these very bitter lemons (or as a recent joke I saw online – the Coronavirus (beer) is better with a Lyme disease wedge… Yeah, I know, not so funny, but still entertaining.)
Webinars and online classes can also be a very useful tool and given that they are usually limited to one hour (or less), they are quite appealing to the busy schedule we have. In fact, we are hearing that webinar attendance during this period is at an all-time high, so that’s a sign people are already adapting. Webinars are also available for download, which provides a lot of flexibility to us. We are currently planning a full schedule for the year, and will be happy to hear your feedback and suggestions regarding relevant topics.
Let’s not only hope for the best, but also works towards it. We can overcome this challenge by focusing on achieving our goals, keeping a positive attitude, and supporting each other. Just like HDBaseT can converge different interfaces over the same cable, we – as people – can converge each other’s strengths towards the common good.
And don’t forget to wash your hands. All the time.