The latest cancellations: How the coronavirus is disrupting tech conferences worldwide

SXSW is the latest to cancel as conferences and tech trade shows around the globe are impacted by the coronavirus. GDD and F5 Agility are history, as is Collision in Toronto.

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SXSW
is the latest major conference to cancel due to coronavirus concerns, announcing on Friday that the City of Austin required it to shut down. It was scheduled to run from March 13-22 in Austin, Texas.

Earlier this week, Adobe Summit and Collision cancelled, and last week, the Game Developers Conference (GDC) cancelled, as well as Facebook calling off F8. 

SXSW organizers said in a statement, “The City of Austin has cancelled the March dates for SXSW and SXSW EDU. SXSW will faithfully follow the City’s directions. We are devastated to share this news with you. ‘The show must go on’ is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place. We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.” The organizers said they are looking at options to reschedule the event and provide a virtual SXSW online experience, beginning with SXSW EDU. 

Adobe Summit was scheduled to take place from March 31-April 2 in Las Vegas. The organizers said in a statement, “Over the past few weeks, we have been closely monitoring and evaluating the situation around COVID-19 to ensure we are taking the necessary measures to protect the health and wellbeing of Adobe Summit attendees. As a result, we have made the difficult but important decision to make Summit/Imagine 2020 an online event this year and cancel the live event in Las Vegas.”

SEE: Coronavirus having major effect on tech industry beyond supply chain delays (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Tech conferences cancelling around the globe

Tech conferences around the world began to be affected in mid-February when GSMA cancelled Mobile World Congress in Barcelona after a massive exodus of exhibitors. Then, Facebook pulled out of its Global Marketing Summit scheduled for San Francisco early next month. Now, there are near-daily announcements of companies pulling out of conferences or trade shows being postponed or cancelled. 

The cancellations are due to fear of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins, there have been 101,583 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. A total of 55,863 people have recovered, and 3,460 people have died. There have been 14 deaths in the United States, with 13 in Washington state and one in California.

SEE: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic (ZDNet special feature) 

There are CDC health screenings in place in the US for qualified travelers arriving from international destinations at the San Francisco International Airport, and there is a CDC quarantine station at SFO, the airport where many travelers arrive for conferences in northern California. 

SEE: Coronavirus having major effect on tech industry beyond supply chain delays (free PDF) (TechRepublic)  

Last weekend in Beaverton, Ore., Nike temporarily closed the sprawling campus where its headquarters are located after news broke that a case of coronavirus was from a Washington County, Ore. resident. The campus is undergoing deep cleaning over the weekend so that the facilities can be sanitized, according to a report from KOIN-6 TV

No one wants to be around large groups of people with the risk of transmitting the coronavirus a real possibility or, at the very least, a real fear. As a result, trade shows are cancelling as major exhibitors are pulling out and major companies are either restrictions or eliminating employee travel. Here’s the latest roundup. 

Tech conferences that have cancelled

On Tuesday, Google announced that it was cancelling I/O 2020, slated for May 12-14, due to the growing coronavirus threat. Google said in a statement, “Due to concerns around the coronavirus (COVID-19), and in accordance with health guidance from the CDC, WHO, and other health authorities, we have decided to cancel the physical Google I/O event at Shoreline Amphitheatre.” Google is offering a full refund on tickets and said that anyone who has purchased them should see a credit on their statement by March 13, 2020. 

The Game Developers Conference (GDC) had been scheduled for March 16-20 in San Francisco. It’s where publishers and developers preview new gaming tech. It cancelled after Microsoft, Sony, Epic Games, EA, Unity, Facebook and Kojima dropped out, as well as all China-based attendees. The organizers of the event said in a statement, “After close consultation with our partners in the game development industry and community around the world, we’ve made the difficult decision to postpone the Game Developers Conference this March.”

The F5 Agility 2020 conference has now cancelled. The organizers said in a statement, “In an abundance of caution for our customers, partners, and employees, we have made the tough decision to cancel our in-person event for Agility 2020 due to the escalating travel and safety concerns related to the global COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak. While we are disappointed to miss sharing ideas and solving problems with customers and partners from around the globe in person, we believe this is the best decision for everyone’s welfare. We are rapidly developing an alternative to Agility as a virtual experience in the near term to deliver valuable lab, break-out session, certification, and keynote content to our customers and partners.”

Facebook announced last week that it was cancelling its global developer conference, F8. The conference was scheduled to take place on May 6-8 in San Jose, Calif. It will hold some smaller local events in lieu of the main conference, and it will share videos and live-stream content. It will also donate $500,000 to an organization working to diversify the tech industry and prioritize organizations serving San Jose residents. 

Facebook also cancelled a Global Marketing Summit slated for San Francisco on March 9-12. In a statement, the company said, “Out of an abundance of caution, we canceled our Global Marketing Summit due to evolving public health risks related to coronavirus.”

Google cancelled its Google News Initiative Summit due to concerns about the coronavirus. The conference had been scheduled for late April in Sunnyvale, Calif. “We regret that we have to cancel our global Google News Initiative summit but the health and wellbeing of our guests is our number one priority,” Richard Gingras, vice president of news at Google, said in a statement.

GSMA, which produces MWC, announced on February 12 that it was cancelling the event in Barcelona. It was scheduled to take place Feb. 24-27 in Barcelona and normally attracts more than 100,000 visitors and is the largest show in the world focusing on mobile devices. The show was cancelled after tech giants such as LG, Sony, Nvidia, ZTE, Ericsson, Amazon and Intel pulled out of the show.

Cisco Systems cancelled Cisco Live Melbourne, scheduled for March 3-6 in Melbourne, Australia, saying in a statement, “Due to ongoing concerns about the current outbreak of Coronavirus, Cisco has made the difficult decision to cancel Cisco Live Melbourne…Our customers, partners and employees are our top priority and we strongly believe this is the right decision given the current circumstances. Our thoughts are with those directly impacted by this situation.”

CERAWeek by IHS Markit 2020 was scheduled to take place March 9-13 in Houston, Texas, but was cancelled on March 1. Approximately 5,500 people were expected to attend. The event organizers said in a statement, “In light of developing circumstances, IHS Markit is cancelling CERAWeek 2020 scheduled to take place in Houston, March 9-13. We do this with deep disappointment. Over the last few days concern has mounted rapidly about the COVID-19 coronavirus. The World Health Organization raised the threat level on Friday, the US government cancelled a summit meeting scheduled in Las Vegas, an increasing number of companies are instituting travel bans and restrictions, border health checks are becoming more restrictive and there is growing concern about large conferences with people coming from different parts of the world. Delegates from over 80 countries were expected to participate in CERAWeek 2020. ”

The organizers continued, “Our number one concern is the health and safety of delegates and speakers, our partners, our colleagues and vendors. We have spent the last several weeks focused on this question, established a medical partnership with Houston Methodist Hospital, have been in continuing dialogue with experts on infectious disease, and established an extensive protocol. But the spread of COVID-19 is moving quickly around the world.”

Altho not specifically a tech conference, the 2020 Geneva Motor Show was officially cancelled on Friday, with the Swiss government banning events of 1,000 or more people until March 15, due to the coronavirus. The event was due to begin on March 3. The Beijing Motor Show, originally scheduled for April, was cancelled as well.

SEE: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic (ZDNet special feature)

Tech conferences with exhibitors pulling out

RSA ran from Feb. 24-28 in San Francisco. IBM, AT&T and Verizon withdrew in the days before the conference began, citing concerns over the coronavirus. In all, fourteen companies, including six from China, opted out of the event due to coronavirus concerns

There were more than 40,000 people expected in San Francisco for RSA, but conference organizers said they would not have final numbers until after the conference was over.

IBM posted on Twitter, “The health of IBMers is our primary concern as we continue to monitor upcoming events and travel relative to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).” 

Infinera announced on February 27 that it has withdrawn from the Optical Networking and Communication Conference & Exhibition (OFC 2020) in San Diego on March 8-12, “due to the ongoing public health concern over the novel coronavirus. In lieu of the company’s attendance at OFC, Infinera is planning a virtual event to showcase its latest innovations,” the company said in a press release.

Tech conferences that have changed formats

Google has scrapped plans to hold Google Cloud Next in person April 6-8 and has turned it into a digital event.

On Tuesday, Microsoft cancelled its annual Most Valuable Professional Summit, announcing that it would become an online event. The MVP Summit was set for March 15-20 in Bellevue and Redmond, Wash. 

Salesforce World Tour Sydney has gone from an in-person conference to an online-only event on March 4. “Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our stakeholders. Over the last few months, we have been closely monitoring the evolving situation with the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak to ensure we are taking every precaution to look after our customers, partners, and employees,” the company posted on its website. “After careful consideration of our stakeholders and reflection on our values, we’ve decided to change the format of our World Tour in person event on Wednesday 4 March to be an online experience.” 

Tech conferences that have been postponed

EmTech Asia has been postponed from March 24-36 in Singapore, to August 4-5. The organizers of the international technology summit said they decided to postpone the event due to concerns over the coronavirus.

Black Hat Asia, originally scheduled for March 31 to April 3 in Singapore, has been postponed until September 29-October 2. The website has a notice, “After careful consideration of the health and safety of our attendees and partners, we have made the difficult decision to postpone Black Hat Asia 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak. We understand the inconvenience this may cause and will follow up directly with all of those who are scheduled to attend and exhibit to determine appropriate next steps.”

This article was updated on March 6, 2020.

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SXSW is the latest major conference to cancel due to the coronavirus.

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