AT&T bails on RSA: How the coronavirus is disrupting tech conferences worldwide

RSA, MWC and Facebook are the latest tech trade shows impacted by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Here’s what you need to know.

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CDC defines exposure risk for airplane travelers, and firms encourage working from home for people who have been traveling in China.

It started last week 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.

The cancellations are due to fear of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). There are almost 75,000 people infected with the new coronavirus and it’s killed more than 2,100. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new advisories for travelers going to Hong Kong and Japan and recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China. 

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

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. Here’s the latest roundup. 

Tech conferences that have cancelled

Black Hat Asia, scheduled for March 31 to April 3 in Singapore, has been cancelled. 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.”

SEE: Coronavirus kills MWC, IBM withdraws from RSA: What about Kaspersky’s Security Analyst Summit? (ZDNet)

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.”

Facebook 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.”

Tech conferences with some exhibitors pulling out

RSA, which runs from Feb. 24-28 in San Francisco, is still scheduled to take place. But IBM has withdrawn, citing concerns over the coronavirus. 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).” AT&T Cybersecurity bailed on RSA, spurring RSA to announce in a statement, “the number of individuals, including those from AT&T Cybersecurity, who have canceled their registration is approximately 1.2 percent of the total number of expected attendees. We also feel that it is important to communicate an update regarding the nine companies from China signed up to exhibit at RSA Conference 2020. Of those nine companies, six have canceled due to travel restrictions. The remaining three exhibitors from China will be staffing their booth with individuals from the U.S.A. to maintain their presence at RSA Conference. The total number of exhibitors, including AT&T, that have canceled their participation as a sponsor or exhibitor is thirteen. As stated above, six of them are from China; six are from the U.S.A.; and one of them is from Canada.”

There are currently 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the US and there are zero confirmed cases in San Francisco, according to the RSA statement. 

RSA has added several new health and safety measures as a result of the coronavirus risk, such as wiping down shuttle bus arm rests and registration counters. The Game Developers Conference, scheduled for March 16-20 in San Francisco, will continue as planned, but the approximately 10 exhibitors from China have all cancelled, and so have all China-based attendees, making up 2% of the show’s expected attendance. The conference will also provide enhance cleaning measures to protect the health of attendees.

Tech conferences that have changed formats

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 with no changes, yet

SXSW, in Austin, Texas from March 13-22, is still on as scheduled. The conference include various programming tracks including music, art, film and technology. The conference organizers have included links to coronavirus information for attendees with questions.  

This list will be updated as new information is available.

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Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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