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Big Tech companies cancel conventions over coronavirus fears, but small businesses hurt the most

Big Tech companies cancel conventions over coronavirus fears, but small businesses hurt the most
Small businesses catering for conventions and trade shows are feeling the pinch as major technology companies are canceling or postponing their event plans due to fears of the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

Over a dozen Big Tech organizations have either postponed, canceled, or changed their conventions to web-based events, according to ZDNet.

Facebook canceled its F8 developers conference that was scheduled to take place in May in San Jose, California. Google is turning its San Francisco-based Cloud Next convention into an online-only event and is canceling Google I/O, the biggest developer conference, also scheduled for May. 

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Both Facebook and Twitter have pulled out of the SXSW interactive media convention in Austin, Texas over health concerns.

The trade show industry in the US accounts for over $1 trillion of direct spending for things like renting the venue, paying guest speakers, product demonstration, merchandise and security, according to a 2017 study

The industry has already taken a $500 million loss over coronavirus, with supporting vendors and hospitality companies taking the biggest hit, experts told Recode.

It’ll disrupt the ecosystem supported by the trade shows and conferences,” Professor Nick Vyas of the USC Marshall School of Business predicted in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

While we’ve already heard how the coronavirus outbreak has affected public markets, we’re starting to see the effect trickle down to the [small business] community,” Veem CEO Marwan Forzley told Small Business Trends. “Small businesses struggling with the ripple effect of the coronavirus will need to find opportunities to mitigate risk, protect cash flow, and potentially find new suppliers to re-work their supply chain.

Vendors, caterers, logistics services, advertisers and companies seeking to introduce their products or services to broader audiences all stand to lose from the cancellations.

Some conventions are choosing to move forward, however. Even after losing Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey as the keynote speaker, SXSW will go ahead with its nine-day conference in Austin.

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Seattle's popular comic book convention Emerald City Con, which had over 90,000 visitors in 2019, has also decided to move forward with the three-day event – despite the city being at the epicenter of the largest US coronavirus outbreak, and all the registered fatalities so far.

Organizers are promising potential attendees that there will be “enhanced cleaning and sanitization across the show.”

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