AVIXA’s CEO Dave Labuskes explains why it was necessary and right to cancel the June show
Earlier this week the AV industry was rattled when AVIXA, the event organizer and manager of InfoComm, cancelled the 2020 show, which was to be held in Las Vegas this June. The announcement was not entirely surprising — so many other industry and tech events have been forced to reschedule or cancel as we all get to grips with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — but that such an important conference so integral to how we all connect and grow together was not going to happen at all brought home a painful truth: this global crisis is not going away anytime soon and furthermore, its impact will continue to ripple well beyond our own imaginings.
AVNation’s Tim Albright sat down with AVIXA’s CEO Dave Labuskes a few short hours after the announcement to discuss how AVIXA came to the decision. It was clearly not an easy one, as Labuskes outlines in detail while emphasizing the safety of everyone from attendees to exhibitors.
“When we start to reflect on the decisions that are affecting the health of our loved ones, the weaker parts of our population, more challenged parts our society, it starts to feel pretty selfish to be talking or whining about how hard this decision was for me or for my organization,” said Labuskes, who goes on to chart the rise of COVID-19 in relation to the unfurling path we are all on to stay safe.
“The clarity of the condition the world would be in in June is clear,” Labuskes continued, the longer you wait the clearer your view of mid-June. The challenge is the longer you wait the more wasted money, to be frank. Our exhibitors spend millions of dollars in gathering that community. We host it. We promote it. We spend countless hours of staff time developing content, but so do hundreds of volunteers. If we were able to make a good decision earlier that would be better for everybody. So, one factor in the difficulty is timing.”
The impact of the decision was also a consideration, keeping in mind the health and welfare of everyone involved and the long-term projections that COVID-19 will be with us well past June, gathering that many people together was always going to be a health concern. But for Labuskes the most emotional aspect of the decision-making process was the devastating consequences of not having the show at all.
“Another part of the impact of this is watching, with such empathy and so much pain being endured by our membership in the live events community,” Labuskes said. “With so many hundreds, thousands of people they have worked with for years and years, and their business went from booming to zero cash flow. Our event could bring some of those people back to work. And they are our people, that’s part of the desire and temptation to carry it forward.”
Ultimately, the decision to cancel InfoComm 2020 was a collective one, with AVIXA consulting with its board of industry leaders, several of its1,200 exhibitors and its in-house staff. Acknowledging that the preparation that goes into each yearly staging of InfoComm, including the shipping of booths from around the world to the extensive marketing campaigns of stakeholders, cancelling the show proved to be a better proposition than postponement from a logistical perspective.
“[Postponement] has another layer of variables wrapped around it,” Labuskes said. “The timing of it, the show calendar. Simply the practicality of it. The InfoComm show — when you look at the gross space, meeting rooms, etc. — is about a million square feet. It’s probably not shocking to you that there’s not a lot of convention centers in North America sitting around with vacancies for a million square feet throughout the calendar year, even a normal calendar year. … You can’t move a show this big.”
Listen to Labuskes go into the logistics and moving parts that make InfoComm work year after year and the message he has to the industry as we face the ongoing economic and financial challenges of a global pandemic here.