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Can you still hold a technology trade show during a pandemic? The organizers behind IFA are going to try. 

Despite COVID-19, IFA —Europe’s biggest electronics trade show— will still take place from September 3-5 in Berlin as a physical event, event organizers announced today. However, the festivities will be very different. 

The event normally attracts 245,000 visitors and 2,000 exhibitors from around the world. But this year’s show is going to be capped to a mere 1,000 attendees for each of IFA’s four standalone events, none of which will be open to the public. People such as journalists, company executives, and business customers will only be able to attend if they receive an invite. 

IFA decided to hold the physical event, citing how other trade shows and tech conferences have been canceled in the wake of COVID-19, depriving companies a chance to show off their products in-person. As a result, IFA is hoping to provide publicity boost for big brands in the run-up to Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the Christmas shopping season.

 “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,” said IFA Executive Director Jens Heithecker in a statement. “The recovery of our industry starts here at IFA Berlin.”  

Heithecker added that a virtual gathering can’t replace the “hands-on experience and human connections” a physical trade show event can provide to attendees, many of whom are often company executives looking to strike business deals. 

The proceedings will kick off with a press conference led by a keynote from Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon. Other events will focus on giving startups publicity, and helping companies source manufacturing and components from suppliers. 

IFA actually anticipates interest in the show to outstrip the booths it’ll have available to exhibitors. So organizers are going to also hold an online version of the trade show so all interested companies will have a chance to feature their products.  

The news arrives as Germany has managed to curb the death rate for COVID-19 cases to 4.5 percent —far lower than the 14 percent and 15 percent death rate in neighboring Italy and France, respectively. On Monday, Germany reported only 182 new COVID-19 cases as the daily confirmed infection rate in the country has plummeted, according to stats from John Hopkins University.  

So it’s possible attendees, particularly in Germany, may feel more comfortable traveling to attend the show by September. 

“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,” IFA added. “The organizers will make sure that social distancing, careful crowd control and other effective public hygiene measures are all in place.”

Another trade show that also refrained from canceling is Taiwan’s Computex event. The organizers have decided to move the proceedings from June to September, while also downscaling the event’s scope. 

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