Coronavirus is now causing vendors and conference organizers around the world to cancel events. Just this week the plug has been pulled on major industry events in Barcelona, Singapore, and Melbourne. More are expected.

Which-50 also understands some IT companies are cancelling or restricting their executives’ travel plans over fears of contracting the virus. CRN also reports, multiple vendors placed a freeze on staff travel due to the virus. 

Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest telco event which takes place in Barcelona each February, has been canceled. Organisers announced this morning that the show would not proceed after a number of major companies including AT&T, Cisco, Nokia, Sony and LG said they were pulling out of the event. 

Closer to home, Cisco has today confirmed it is also cancelling Cisco Live which was due to take place in Melbourne from March 3 – 6.

“This was a very difficult decision and not one that we took lightly. Cisco Live Melbourne is an incredibly important event for us as it provides a valuable opportunity for our executives to spend time with you and share details about our strategy, technologies and innovation, as well as the impact we are having on the communities we operate in,” Cori Drogemuller, Head of Communications and PR Cisco Australia & New Zealand wrote in an email this morning. 

“However, our number one priority is ensuring the safety of all attendees and we strongly believe this is the right decision given the current circumstances.”

The effects of the viral outbreak are also being felt across APAC. Last week enterprise software company OpenText called off its conference Enterprise World Asia which was scheduled for March in Singapore. 

“The decision was made after consulting with customers and partners in the region and taking into account guidelines from the World Health Organization. We recognise the challenges of travelling at this time and want to prioritise the health and well-being of attendees, partners and staff,” a spokesperson said. 

So far there are more than 45,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the vast majority located in mainland China. There are 15 reported cases in Australia, five have already recovered and the others are in a stable condition, according to the Australian government. 

Trade shows and exhibitions are a central pillar of the marketing calendar for B2B companies, which in some cases spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to host their own events or buy sponsorships at others. Despite the rise of digital marketing tools and capabilities, face-to-face meetings are still highly valued for marketers and sales professionals thanks to their ability to meaningfully connect with a large number of prospects over a short period of time. 

Gartner research found the largest percentage of technology and service providers’ marketing programs (14.8 per cent) is devoted to events, which demonstrates the confidence marketers have in them as both a critical channel and as a compelling call to action.

And according to a 2017 Gartner survey, 36 per cent of surveyed technology buyers indicated that event attendance was one of the top three reasons they considered purchasing an unplanned solution.

“Events such as trade shows and hosted (first-party) events afford technology and service providers (TSPs) the ability to engage with buyers firsthand and potentially accelerate opportunities. Gartner research with technology buyers highlights that interacting with their peers and external influencers is a critical piece of the buying cycle, and events allow for that direct information exchange,” Gartner analysts Jen Singleton and Christy Ferguson write.

“Similarly for TSPs, engaging directly with buyers provides an ability to broaden their contact database, learn key questions that buyers are asking, hone their pitch and articulate their differentiation more fully. It also helps them identify prospects who have active buying cycles.”

Source: 2018 Gartner TSP Marketing Benchmark survey
Source: 2018 Gartner TSP Marketing Benchmark survey
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