Twenty seconds, and everything is washed away.

The dominoes continue to fall. After bravely trying to buck the trend across Europe, IMEX Frankfurt has indeed been cancelled, for fear of a chaotic late shutdown being imposed upon it as the crisis careers out of control (see below). COVID-19 is officially now a pandemic, according to the World Health Organization. Country-wide event bans seem imminent in both the UK and USA, and my local supermarket shelves are already half empty, with stockpilers turning even toilet paper into a rare black market commodity. I’m in the heart of London, close to a famous tourist attraction. How thin seems the veneer of civilisation!

The soundtrack for this grim moment is surely the same stirring Vera Lynn ballad that saw Great Britain through the darkest days of World War II.

“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when…

But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.”

There are three new Features this issue of Business Events World and on The Iceberg. All are videos. Terry Waller, MD of insurance specialist Arc International, talks through how the underwriting market will surely change in the aftermath of COVID-19. This video also looks at how the crisis affected Iceberg partner AIME in Melbourne with the CEO of Talk2 Media & Events Matt Pearce. The President of the Joint Meetings Industry Council, which presents The Iceberg, addresses the industry disruption caused by COVID-19. Kai Hattendorf speaks of the role meetings will surely play in economic recovery. Plus, the legendary Linda Pereira, CEO of the L&I Communications Group, delivers a sobering analysis of what the crisis may unfortunately mean for smaller organisers and associations.

In News this issue, impossible decisions continue to dominate the headlines. A major meeting of insolvency specialists in Cape Town cancelled amid fears of COVID-19. INSOL International says the decision could cause it “significant hardship”. The call to axe a conference in Denver left some of its over 10,000 delegates very perplexed and angry. The American Physical Society made the decision less than 48 hours before the event was due to open. A diabetes conference has just continued in Madrid, Spain, the meeting even breaking attendance records. But Iceberg partner the IMEX Group did cancel IMEX Frankfurt 2020, due to take place in May. Chairman Ray Bloom and CEO Carina Bauer said the decision had been made with “deep sadness and heavy hearts”.

Iceberg partners AIPC (the International Association of Convention Centres), ICCA (the International Congress and Convention Association) and UFI (the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry) jointly backed a campaign “This show is open for business” first launched by UFI and SISO (the Society of Independent Show Organizers). UFI has also released the first economic impact assessment of COVID-19 on global exhibitions and trade shows. The industry has already lost a total output of €14.4 billion ($16.5 billion). The owner of Scandinavia’s largest convention centre, the Bella Center, is making 350 people redundant due to “a brutal slowdown” caused by the crisis. EEIA, the European Exhibition Industry Alliance, has welcomed economic support measures for the industry announced by the European Commission in the wake of COVID-19. EEIA had written to Commissioners asking for assistance a few days earlier, as had other industry players.

In other News this issue, Convene’s 29th Annual Meetings Market Survey is out, albeit with findings predating COVID-19. Iceberg partner M&IT’s 2020 Awards saw over 1,200 event professionals celebrate the industry at Battersea Evolution in London. Toulouse has become the fourth city in France to join Iceberg partner GDS-Index (the Global Destination Sustainability Index). Edinburgh International Conference Centre has created a sustainability programme called “Step Change”, with every meeting now taking place at the venue receiving a tailored Event Impact Report.

Ten Opinions this issue are fresh. Eight cover COVID-19, with four of them detailing event cancellations and the decisions behind them. Days before opening, ITB Berlin cancelled because it couldn’t meet local health authority rules on screening delegates. PR Manager Julia Sonnemann picks through that difficult call. Iceberg partner IMEX has just cancelled IMEX Frankfurt, fearing such a late shutdown being imposed upon it from above. In making their “devastating decision”, Iceberg ambassadors Carina Bauer and Ray Bloom have given the sector a textbook lesson in fact-based reasoning, sensible lead times and stakeholder duty of care.

As mentioned above, the American Physical Society March Meeting opted to cancel less than two days before opening. This time we hear from APS Director of Meetings Hunter Clemens. Bill Reed, Chief Event Strategy officer at the American Society of Hematology, has also just had to pull the plug on a meeting. He sees such decisions as a chance for “meeting planners” to become “event strategists”.

Education event GESS Dubai has just run, albeit with a reduced Chinese pavilion. With organisers switching meetings online, the CEO of Gallus Events, William Thomas, recalls the lessons of the first virtual event he ran. Plus, why neither sensationalist panic nor dangerous complacency are the correct industry responses here, and five must-read suggestions for surviving this terrible moment from SoolNua voice of reason Pádraic Gilligan.

Also in Opinions this issue, two chances to talk about things we much prefer talking about. One is meeting industry engagement with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, an article featuring Fiona Pelham, CEO of Iceberg partner Positive Impact. Plus how Iceberg partner #MEET4IMPACT and CEO Geneviève Leclerc are now working with Tourism New Zealand on the project “Enrich New Zealand – Conference Impact”.

In Research you’ll now find added Convention and Exhibition Centre Health and Safety: Managing COVID-19 Challenges, an indispensable guide to good practice from Iceberg partners AIPC and UFI.

This issue’s parish notices continue with coronavirus. Resource pages previously published from within our community include those of the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC), the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI), IMEX Group (IMEX Frankfurt just having cancelled), and the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA).

The ICCA page will be streaming a live webinar on COVID-19 from 14:00 – 17:00 CET on March 25th. Confirmed speakers will include Gregg Talley of Iceberg partner Talley Management Group.

To these pages we now add resources and news from Iceberg partners the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Meetings & Incentive Travel (M&IT) and Association Meetings International (AMI).

Iceberg partner GainingEdge has posted great advice on COVID-19 and Destination Promoters.

There are further resources at the Events Industry Council (EIC), the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry (AUMA), with outbreak advisories from…

The Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), via UFI

The Italian Exhibition and Trade Fair Association (AEFI), via UFI

The Association of Event Venues, the Association of Event Orrganisers, the Event Supplier and Services Association (AEV, AEO and ESSA), via UFI

The board of Iceberg partner European Cities Marketing has decided to postpone the ECM Spring Meeting in Graz, possibly until Autumn.

Finally and as always, The Iceberg reiterates its call for you to join our Global Ambassador Program. You can see ambassadors listed on The Iceberg homepage, Ambassadors page, and in Business Events World below. Visit Call for Ambassadors 2019 & 2020 to find out more.

Until the next time, with yet more trepidation…

Robert Coren, Curator of The Iceberg


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