“We interrupt this regularly scheduled virtual auto show with breaking news: There are people attending the 2021 Shanghai Auto Show in person!”
That was the breathless opening line to a story capturing the highlights of the show on Driving, a website for auto enthusiasts. Not only was the mid-April Shanghai Auto Show notable because it was one of the first large in-person shows held in China in 2021 — there were around 1,000 Chinese and international companies participating — it was a chance to actually look under the hood at an industry and touch, feel, and see its future.
But the show in Shanghai also made headlines for another reason. A disgruntled Tesla car owner seized the spotlight on Day 1 by climbing onto the roof of a red display Model 3, repeatedly yelling, “Tesla’s brakes don’t work!” The protester captured the attention of the media, which then scrutinized Tesla’s lackluster public response in addressing concerns about malfunctioning brakes.
Leaving aside the question of whether or not the protester had reasonable grounds for her actions, the publicity she created underscores an essential truth: Things happen at IRL events that can’t be replicated in URL. It would be hard to imagine a complaint in the chat box of a virtual platform generating similar attention.
At the same time, we have seen over the past year the power of digital events to create communities, share knowledge, and make important connections. Our stories on the following pages don’t discount the value and benefits of online events, nor is it a call to action to return to physical events the way they were, no matter what, and simply view our past year of digital experimentation and success as a stop-gap measure. We know they are now part of the fabric of business events going forward.
What you find going to the links on this page simply demonstrate — via case-study examples — what we all know to be true: “Gathering is an essential part of being human,” as the hotelier and former Airbnb executive Chip Conley told Convene — and an essential part of our society’s progress. We can’t wait for the live events industry to rev up its engines — to quote what has become an industry refrain among CVBs — when the time is right. — Michelle Russell, editor in chief