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Exclusive: CDEC managing director on ISE’s handling of Covid-19

This year’s ISE was always going to be a tricky event. Scheduled for February as usual, and then moved to June, Covid-19 put the ISE team under serious pressure. Should the event have been pushed back to the autumn? Should it have gone ahead as planned in Barcelona? And what about the Live & Online approach, with [now] two in-person events in Barcelona and London – plus the Cisco-powered ISE Digital? We asked Toni Moss, owner and managing director of CDEC, for her thoughts.

What do you think of ISE’s overall approach to this year’s crisis in what were incredibly difficult circumstances?
Given everything, I think they handled the situation pretty well. I feel they’ve tried to keep everyone updated as much as possible; the original rescheduling was announced in a timely manner and at the time a June 2021 event seemed feasible. I also think they listened to the market in that many are very keen to get back to physical events, but they are also well aware of the risks and the uncertainty surrounding how possible this is going to be, and they’ve adapted accordingly. The digital events have also been of a high quality in the meantime.

How surprised were you that the event was ultimately cancelled as a physical event? Should this decision have been made earlier or was ISE correct to wait until it did?
When the announcement was made, I wasn’t surprised as it came at a time when the situation was sadly deteriorating for many once again. When the June date was announced it seemed like a long way off and with declining infection rates and the promise of vaccines it appeared to be a reasonable timeline. The call to cancel could potentially have been made earlier but the ISE team had been clear on when the announcement would be made for some time and stuck to that.

Would you have rather ISE had pushed the February event back to the autumn in the first instance, rather than June, or was their approach bang on?

I think there are risks associated with either approach and, to be honest, I’m not sure it’s possible for any event organiser to get anything bang on at the moment. We don’t know what the situation will be like in autumn, at least this way we have some clarity.

Do you think the event should have been pushed back again to the autumn (potentially clashing with or being very close to Infocomm), rather than being cancelled as a physical event?
No. Again, I think ISE were clear from relatively early on that it would either be June or 2022. Not only would autumn potentially clash with other events but it also brings it much closer to the February 2022 dates which will hopefully be able to take place in a more normal way.

What are your thoughts on the four regional events [now two] and how likely are you to either attend or exhibit?
I think it’s an interesting idea although I’ll wait to hear more information on the format, particularly of the in-person element, before committing to attend. Having said that, assuming the situation remains stable in the UK, it would be great to get back to some form of physical event and keeping the events local certainly makes them feel much more achievable. As I say, I think ISE have tried to give the market what it’s asking for in incredibly difficult circumstances and I look forward to hearing more detail.

How important do you think the virtual show will be going forward? And what are your thoughts on virtual shows in general (which have, unsurprisingly, been given a massive boost on the back of Covid)?
Virtual shows have done a good job of trying to fill the gap and I’m always impressed when I attend a RISE event by the sense of community it fosters and the strength of the debates it starts. I’m sure now ISE has done the hard work of developing a format and a platform that seems to offer some benefit to viewers, they’ll carry on with it in some form and if the quality of the content remains high I’d tune in to those that are relevant.

Given the impact of Covid on all of our businesses, where does the importance of ISE’s annual event sit for you? Can you see it continuing to grow in importance, or will Covid lead to a diminishing in its influence?
ISE 2022 could still be the first major show for many in the European AV market so it will remain important and, done properly, it’s virtual/regional offering could actually make it more relevant year round, rather than for a few days in Feb. As we get back to normal, I think ISE will quickly become the key calendar event once again.