Anybody who regularly attends trade shows will likely have been wondering when those kinds of events will resume, and how they’ll work going forward – at least pre-vaccine.
The giant consumer and business technology show IFA may hold a clue. In 2019, the Berlin show attracted 245,000 visitors, dwarfing even the insanely crowded CES show in Las Vegas.
IFA has announced it is on again, but VERY different from 2019. It will be invitation-only and limit attendance dramatically, capped at 1,000 people per daily conference. The show also plans to fly in tech journalists from all over for a “global press conference” that will allow tech brands to do show and tell sessions for its shiniest new products.
IFA has been given the go-ahead to take place in 2020 as a real-life event in Berlin, based on a special concept that puts health and safety first. Taking place over just three days – from 3 to 5 September – this year’s IFA 2020 Special Edition falls well within the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The invite-only event will put strict limits on the number of attendees and focus on IFA’s four global core functions, which are:
1. an innovation showcase for brands;
2. a platform for cutting-edge technologies;
3. a sourcing event for OEMs and ODMs; and
4. a marketplace where retailers and brands can come together.
IFA 2020 will be the first opportunity for the consumer electronics and home appliances industries to present new products and services directly to media and – by extension – to consumers and trade. The event also comes at a crucial moment for brands, manufacturers and retailers around the world, just ahead of the year’s most important shopping season stretching from Black Friday and Singles Day to Cyber Monday, Christmas and beyond.
Jens Heithecker, the Executive Director of IFA Berlin, said: “After all the event cancellations during the past months, our industry urgently needs a platform where it can showcase its innovation, so that it can recover and rebound. The recovery of our industry starts here at IFA Berlin.”
While virtual events were useful, they were “missing the immediacy, hands-on experience and human connections that make events like IFA Berlin so incredibly useful” Heithecker said.
The concept for IFA 2020 was developed in close collaboration with public health authorities in Germany to ensure the health and safety of all participants. The organizers will make sure that social distancing, careful crowd control and other effective public hygiene measures are all in place.
As a result, IFA 2020 will not be open to the public, but run as an invitation-only event.
Four Events, One IFA
This year’s IFA will effectively be run as four stand-alone events, with not more than 1,000 attendees for each event per day. While the organizers hope that the overall public health situation will improve between now and September, they have decided to err on the side of caution and meet the strictest safety standards possible.
The four IFA 2020 events are:
IFA Global Press Conference
IFA has moved its Global Press Conference, which usually takes place in April, to September and turned it into this year’s Global Showcase for Innovation and Technology.
The Global Press Conference will invite around 800 journalists covering 50+ countries to Berlin, so brands and manufacturers will be able to show journalists their latest products and devices.All keynotes and company press conferences will take place on just two or three keynote stages curated by IFA.
This keeps the numbers down for the on-site production staff and ensures that the highest hygiene standards are observed both on stage and in the seating area for media.In addition to company press conferences, industry partners will have the chance to create smart company and brand presentations for interviews and further talks with media representatives.
For journalists, this will be the most efficient way this year yet to cover the technology stories their audiences are interested in; it’s their first opportunity after the beginning of the pandemic to see all of this year’s innovation and new products all in one place, and they can organize face-to-face interviews with the spokespeople for brands.
The opening keynote for this year’s IFA will be delivered by Cristiano Amon, the President of Qualcomm, a company that is the undisputed global leader in mobile connectivity.
Qualcomm’s president said he is looking forward to giving the keynote and addressing the importance of connectivity during these unprecedented times. Mr. Amon will speak about the company’s latest developments in 5G, AI and other key technologies that will drive the future of the Internet and deliver the devices and capabilities the world needs.
IFA NEXT meets IFA SHIFT Mobility
For this year only, IFA will combine its two innovation platforms – IFA Next and SHIFT Mobility – for an exclusive live event for the international tech community. The event will bring together technology start-ups and companies in the connected mobility sector, to help them get the much-needed lifeblood of publicity and industry connections. For innovators, disruptors, tech journalists and digital influencers interested in the cutting edge of technology, this will be the year’s most important event to attend.
IFA Global Markets
During the past three years, IFA Global Markets has grown to become Europe’s largest sourcing show for OEMs and ODMs. Now it will be this year’s first dedicated sourcing show in the world. The message from IFA’s industry partners has been clear: the industry needs a sourcing show to repair and restructure its supply chains hit by the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.
IFA Business, Retail & Meeting Lounges
Every year, IFA Berlin is the most important marketplace for consumer electronics and home appliances. In 2019, for example, brands and retailers struck deals worth more than 4.7 billion euro during the event in Berlin.
While the pandemic will make it impossible to replicate this level of deal-making and networking, IFA Berlin will curate the IFA Business, Retail & Meeting Lounges to give brands and manufacturers the much-needed opportunity to meet retailers in a safe and efficient manner ahead of the year’s all-important shopping season.
Virtual IFA Experience
The organizers know that interest in attending IFA 2020 will far outstrip the available places, while some people may still be subject to travel restrictions. That’s why IFA will offer everybody virtual opportunities to be part of the IFA Berlin experience.
Hans-Joachim Kamp, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of gfu Consumer & Home Electronics GmbH, the organizer of IFA, said: “IFA Berlin is the most important event for the consumer electronics and home appliances industry. These past few weeks, we have worked very closely with the IFA team to develop a concept that gives all our industry partners the platform they need to talk about their innovations.”
Dr Christian Göke, CEO of Messe Berlin, commented: “Our IFA team really has pulled out the stops for this one. I’m incredibly proud of how they have tackled this challenge and come up with a solution for IFA 2020.”
IFA Berlin will be open to invited participants from 3 to 5 September 2020.
Though Germany has been cited as a country that had its act kinda mostly together as COVID-19 started to seriously spread, it still got whacked hard and still has lots of cases. The projections show the caseload SHOULD be way down in that country by the start of September, but as we know, everything can change … and quickly.
The invite process will be quite interesting – as where people are coming from, and the state of spread in that city or region, will join things like buying power and influence as considerations.
Those invited to go will have to sort out, if coming from overseas, how they get there, whether they need to be screened and quarantined on arrival, and whether they are asked to quarantine once back home again. Right now, arriving in Germany from overseas necessitates two weeks of isolation. That may well change, but right now that would mean flying to Berlin in mid-August and hanging out in a hotel (or somewhere) for two weeks ahead of IFA.
With InfoComm and the ICX conference off, the next trade show of note in the signage space – at least in North America – is Digital Signage Expo in September. It is currently a go.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.