Trade Shows– should they go ahead in 2021?

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It seems like a very long time since anyone attended a major tradeshow. COVID-19 has stuck around for a lot longer than anyone could have ever anticipated. Even with large numbers of people now vaccinated, the new Delta strains have thrown another spanner into the works. You can still catch COVID and pass it on to others even if you are fully vaccinated.

The last tradeshow Newsshooter attended was Interbee in November 2019. Major shows such as NAB, Cinegear, and IBC were all canceled in 2020. Now, in late 2021, Cinegear, NAB, Interbee, and IBC shows are all slated to go ahead. Below are the scheduled dates for these shows:

This raises the question of whether or not trade shows should be going ahead in 2021. Well, let’s have a look at what the COVID-19 guidelines are for each show.

Cinegear 2021

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Cinegear 2021 will take place at the Los Angeles Convention Center this year and it won’t be at Paramount Studios. Paramount Studios is booked out during this time and that is the primary reason the show has been moved to the LACC. I would also imagine that Paramount’s COVID-19 protocols would have also made it extremely hard to have the show on the studio grounds.

So, what are the COVID-19 protocols listed by the LACC for Cinegear 2021?

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  • Wear face coverings.
  • Maintain 6-feet physical distance.
  • Wash hands frequently for a minimum of 20 seconds.
  • Screening for health and wellness


Health and safety guidelines by The County of Los Angeles Public Health, effective 7-22-2021:
All persons attending indoor events are required to bring and wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, when they are indoors except while eating and drinking in designated areas. Attendees must also wear masks outdoors, when they enter indoor areas, such as concourses, or concession stands.

Our plans to keep you safe:

Entry Requirements
All participants must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide proof of vaccination or will have had a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of attending. Please have a photo ID in hand.

Proof of vaccination
A physical vaccination card, a picture of it, or digital record is required as proof of vaccination.

Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test
You will need to get tested no more than 3 days before and present your negative result or documentation.

The test must be a SARS-CoV-2 viral test (nucleic acid amplification test [NAAT] or antigen test) with Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

An active check system for proof of verification for vaccination and proof of negative COVID-19 test will be in place at the show entrance.

Can I get a COVID-19 test at the event?
SARs-CoV-2 Rapid Antigen Testing stations will be available each show day, open one hour prior to the show opening.

Service affiliated with the manufacturer of the test will provide the tests and supervision. Test cost: $35 USD

Testing will be conducted in a dedicated area.

Support Handwashing
Hand sanitizer stations will be located at entry points inside and outside with signage promoting use. We encourage frequent handwashing.

Advanced registration will help us convey COVID-19 safety plans to guests before they attend.

We will utilize platforms to communicate our COVID-19 safety policies to guests, including the requirement that all attendees must wear a face mask while indoors and outdoors except while eating and drinking in designated areas.

Make sure all guests are aware of and follow the Los Angeles County Department of Health

Please do not attend if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or if you are under isolation or quarantine orders.

NAB 2021

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NAB’s COVID-19 protocols are a little difficult to find and you have to go digging around on their website to find details.

Below is what NAB list as its COVID-19 guidelines:

COVID-19 Policies

NAB Show strictly follows COVID-19 safety procedures as contemplated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the State of Nevada, the City of Las Vegas, and any other governing Federal or local government agency.

During your attendance at the 2021 NAB Show, you will be required to support our COVID-19 Safety and Prevention Efforts; and strictly follow our COVID-19 policies and procedures. These COVID-19 policies and procedures may include but are not limited to personal sanitization, mandatory face covering, social distancing, and conducting health checks such as temperature screening and/or symptom checking. These policies and procedures may be modified at any time in advance of or during the 2021 NAB Show.

If you develop, exhibit or experience any COVID-19 symptoms while attending the 2021 NAB Show, NAB Show will direct you to the designated quarantine area for further testing and instruction. Should you test positive for any COVID-19 symptom or fail any on-site health questionnaire, or as otherwise directed by NAB Show policy or procedure, you will not be admitted to the Exhibit Halls or any other area designated to the 2021 NAB Show, and you will not be entitled to any refund under any circumstances. NAB Show will not share your identity or personal health information with third parties unless required by law, regulation, governing rule, or court order.


The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has been declared a worldwide pandemic by the World Health Organization. COVID-19 is reported to be extremely contagious.

The state of medical knowledge is evolving, but the virus is believed to spread from person-to-person contact and/or by contact with contaminated surfaces and objects, and even possibly in the air. People reportedly can be infected and show no symptoms and therefore spread the disease.

The exact methods of spread and contraction are unknown, and there is no known treatment, cure, or vaccine for COVID-19.

Evidence has shown that COVID-19 can cause serious and potentially life-threatening illness and even death.

As a result, federal, state, and local governments and federal and state health agencies recommend social distancing and have, in many locations, prohibited the congregation of groups of people.

It is not possible for NAB to prevent against the presence of the disease; and therefore, if you choose to attend the NAB Show you may be exposing yourself to and/or increasing your risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. COVID-19 infection may result in personal injury, illness, permanent disability, and death.

NAB cannot prevent you from becoming exposed to, contracting, or spreading COVID-19 while attending the NAB Show.

The risk of becoming exposed to or infected by COVID-19 while attending the NAB Show may result from the actions, omissions, or negligence of you and others, including, but not limited to, NAB employees, volunteers, and NAB Show attendees, [list as appropriate] and their employees.

I have read and understood the above warning concerning COVID-19. Attending the NAB Show is of such value to me that I accept the risk of being exposed to, contracting, and/or spreading COVID-19 in order to attend the NAB Show, and I hereby declare that I choose to accept the risk of contracting COVID-19 and I agree that I am personally responsible for my safety and actions while attending the NAB Show.

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UPDATE (19th August): NAB has now changed its COVID-19 guidelines and attendees or exhibitors.

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Below is what has been issued by NAB:

Dear NAB Show Community,
With less than 60 days until the start of NAB Show and associated co-located events scheduled for October in Las Vegas, we are filled with excitement and anticipation to welcome you to what promises to be the ultimate reunion at which to get back to business, reconnect and reinvigorate the industry.

While the enthusiasm is building, we are keenly aware of health and safety concerns tied to the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant and want to assure you that we are putting in place a comprehensive, data-driven plan that prioritizes safety and creates a productive environment at these events.
We have worked for the past several weeks to finalize protocols that will maximize the experience and safety of all members of the NAB Show community. This process has involved extensive consultation with health and safety experts, gathering feedback from a range of exhibitors and attendees, and review of the safety measures recommended by
national and local health authorities, including Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak’s important announcement this week regarding large events.

Taking this all into account, we will require all attendees and participants to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination. We think this is a positive step in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and will provide further details on implementation as well as other safety measures under consideration.
Multiple indicators show a strong eagerness among the NAB Show community to return in person, including steady attendee registration. The continued buildout of the Show Floor is bringing together hundreds of new and returning companies, including major brands like Amazon Web Services, AJA, B&H, Canon, Grass Valley, MediaKind, Panasonic, Ross, Sony,
Verizon and more.

We are also finalizing a full conference program featuring premium education content, high-profile speakers and world-class training opportunities. Additionally, major industry events, such as the Radio Show, Sales and Management Television Exchange and AES Show, will colocate in Las Vegas, broadening the base of attendees and adding value to their experience.

NAB Show is a momentous opportunity for the industry to reengage. We are ready to provide an unparalleled forum for inspiration and innovation while safeguarding those in attendance with sound health and safety protocols. We genuinely appreciate the support, participation and feedback of the NAB Show community and look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas and connecting throughout the year on NAB Amplify.

IBC 2021

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COVID-19 information is available on the main page of the IBC website. Below are IBC’s COVID-19 guidelines.

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Since 1967 IBC has been run by the industry, for the industry, and that has never been more important than it is today. IBC is fully committed to delivering a safe and successful show this December at the RAI Amsterdam.

As IBC continues to develop plans for the 2021 show, we are closely monitoring developments around the world and are working with our key stakeholders to ensure the relevant health and safety measures are put in place for IBC to be a safe environment for our exhibitors and attendees. IBC is in regular contact with the City of Amsterdam and RAI Amsterdam management team. They, in turn, are working with all their key stakeholders such as the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and Municipal Health Service (GGD) of the city of Amsterdam.

The IBC Health & Safety protocols have been established in line with the latest government regulations, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and HSE (The Health and Safety Executive) guidelines, and the RAI Amsterdam venue protocols.

These protocols are subject to change as we move towards the IBC show in December. Any adjustments to these protocols will remain consistent with any changes in government regulations, national health authority guidelines and/or venue protocols.

The safety and wellbeing of our attendees is our top priority and number one commitment. To ensure a safe and successful IBC, we have implemented stringent health and safety protocols and guidelines that everyone will be required to adhere to.

Everyone must adhere to PERSONAL HYGIENE rules including frequent handwashing / sanitizing and respiratory hygiene (coughing and sneezing etiquette).

FACE MASKS ARE MANDATORY throughout the RAI Amsterdam and must be worn over the mouth and nose at all times. Face shields may not be worn as an alternative.

  • Protective face masks will be mandatory through the venue and must be worn at all times except when seated.
  • Face masks can only be removed for consuming food and drinks in designated seating areas.
  • Hands sanitizing facilities will be widely available.
  • Instructions on following personal hygiene guidelines will be visible throughout the venue and on exhibitor stands.

Everyone must adhere to the minimum 1.5m SOCIAL DISTANCING rule at all times.

  • Social distancing measures will be at the forefront of IBC.
  • Venue access, navigation, seating areas, and stand layouts will be optimized in line with the minimum 1.5m social distancing regulation.
  • Protective screens will be installed at customer services points.
  • Instructions on maintaining social distancing will be visible throughout the venue and on exhibitor stands.
  • IBC will be closely monitoring the number of people inside the venue to prevent overcrowding and ensure that social distancing can be maintained at all times.

IBC2021 will operate a strict NO HANDSHAKE and ZERO HANDOUT policy.

  • For the safety of our attendees, we are aiming to create a touchless experience wherever possible.
  • Badge pick-up and scanning will be contactless.
  • Everyone must be pre-registered. Onsite self-registration will not be possible.
  • All payments in the RAI Amsterdam will be cashless.
  • Zero-handout policy with information and content supplied in a digital format.
  • Food and beverage will be served in individual units.
  • Most doors will be automatic or propped open during the show opening times.
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IBC also has a comprehensive section advising exhibitors of COVID-19 protocols that must be followed.

Interbee 2021

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Japan just finished hosting the 2020 Olympics, but COVID-19 cases here have skyrocketed recently. Vaccine immunization has been very slow and there has been almost a constant state of emergency in Tokyo. How this bodes for the Interbee 2021 will be interesting to see.

There is no specific COVID-19 section on the Interbee website. In there News release section the only information available is as follows:

As for Inter BEE 2021, we are preparing for the exhibition at Makuhari Messe from November 17th, Wednesday to November 19th, Friday. As we are gathering the latest information on the health and safety procedures of the covid-19 virus and considering various options to have a successful exhibition this year.

However, in light of the situation within the social conditions and the Covid-19, we would like to announce changes to the schedule.

We will continue to discuss safety measures and other issues in the preparation of the exhibition and look forward to meeting you in Makuhari Messe.


Trade shows are usually very busy places where lots of people are gathered in tight spaces. How social distancing will work at trade shows will be interesting to see. Given the size of most booths, you may only be able to have a couple of people in the space at any given time. Also, a lot of people attend trade shows to actually touch and play with new gear. That is something you won(t be able to do. Here is what IBC states in its exhibitor’s section:

Products should be presented in a way that does not require visitors to physically touch or handle these. For example, exhibitors can use digital exhibits and/or LED displays to showcase their products. Where handling of the products is unavoidable, exhibitors must ensure that these are disinfected before and after being handled and instruct visitors to sanitize their hands before and after use.

You almost have to wonder if it is worth going to a trade show if you can’t actually touch anything.

Cinegear 2021 has by far the most comprehensive and strict guidelines when it comes to COVID-19. Only allowing fully vaccinated people into the venue or people who can show a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of attending is a good start. They are also offering COVID-19 tests on-site (for a fee).

The guidelines for NAB 2021 are not nearly as strict and you don’t have to show any proof of vaccination, nor do you have to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test. Yes, you have to wear a face mask at all times and you are supposed to socially distance yourself, but this is Las Vegas, and you are going to be in contact with people who may or may not be vaccinated. UPDATE: It is good to see that NAB has now changed its COVID-19 guidelines and attendees and exhibitors are now required to provide
proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

IBC’s guidelines are very similar to that of NAB. Wear a mask, socially distance and wash and sanitize your hands.

Interbee 2021 hasn’t issued any guidelines yet.

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The other big issue for all of these trade shows is who is actually going to be able to attend. Trade shows attract visitors and exhibitors from all over the world. There are currently lots of restriction for traveling to the US and if you are from a long list of countries you can’t even currently enter the US.

For Asian or European-based companies that have a US presence, they shouldn’t be too affected, but if you don’t have a US presence you are not going to be able to fly in.

I think the primary reason we are seeing all of these major shows happening within 3 months of each other is probably due directly to the current travel restrictions. Companies are not going to have new gear to show you at Cineagear, then NAB, and then IBC. There are also going to be companies who decide to not attend some or all of these shows. Just recently Sony decided to pull out of WPPI Expo, along with Nikon and Fujifilm due to COVID-19 concerns. If you are not familiar with WPPI, it is a giant photography show that is slated to take place in Las Vegas from the 15th to the 19th of August.

Something to keep in mind is that NAB 2022 is scheduled for April 23 – 27, 2022. This means the gap between NAB 2021 and NAB 2022 is only around 6 months. I think there may well be a lot of people skipping NAB 2021 and waiting for NAB 2022.

I think we will see almost all new products being announced prior to these shows occurring as manufacturers know that not a lot of people are going to attend or want to attend due to safety concerns. If you couple this with all of the restrictions, you have to wonder how many people will be going to these shows. 

Do you think trade shows should be going ahead in 2021? Will you be attending any of them? Do you have safety concerns about attending a trade show? Do you think trade shows are still an important part of our industry and should continue in the future? Let us know in the comments section below.

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