Officially the news is that electronica 2020 will be held digitally: a positive spin on the fact that the in-person event was cancelled because of COVID-19. The announcement, made on Saturday, is a response to the increasing travel restrictions in Europe due to coronavirus, and no doubt the expectation that as we move from summer to winter the situation is likely to get worse, rather than better.

The press release from the organisers states:

Messe München will organize the world’s leading trade fair and conference for electronics as a virtual event this year. The current travel restrictions in Europe, which are becoming more stringent, have required a re-thinking of planning. The digital format for electronica in November will give exhibitors the opportunity to book digital trade fair booths. electronica virtual will also provide all customers additional ways to interact and network. A large portion of the conference and supporting program will also be available digitally.


An inevitable decision?

Alfred Vollmer wrote an excellent analysis of the situation on, and this article is well worth a read even if you need to use Google translate to get an English version. According to Alfred, the show was seeing around 100 companies a week withdrawing from the event, and had less than 900 exhibitors listed (a significant fall from the 1006 exhibitors on the website on 24th August. It seems that not only were the number of exhibitors around 70% below the previous electronica, but they were continuing to fall rapidly. With many of the companies that attract the visitors, particularly the large American semiconductor companies, having already withdrawn, it seems likely that numbers would continue to fall, leaving the organisers little choice but to cancel. Furthermore, with around half the visitors coming from outside of Germany and the increasing restrictions on travel, even if the show went ahead the character would almost certainly be very different. Basically I just don’t think there was any way of holding a show that would feel like electronica this year.


Little Information about electronica virtual

Although the need to cancel has been something that electronica must have planned for, the information about the virtual alternative is rather sketchy. The announcement says:

The virtual format of electronica will provide the electronics industry with a platform for global industry discussions this November. Its opportunities will include virtual trade fair booths, which will enable exhibitors to continue to communicate with their international customers and sell them on their products and solutions. The virtual event will be complemented by a digital conference and supporting program. Individual talks and panel discussions on trend topics like the automotive industry, embedded systems, IIoT, 5G, medical electronics and smart energy will be available online.

The question is whether the virtual trade show format works, and if it does whether it will work for electronica. I see a number of problems, not least that the virtual events that have been held to date have seen patchy success at best. More worryingly, electronica is not a show that is driven by the conference presentations: yes, there are presentations, but they are attended by a small percentage of the visitors. Given that there is perhaps less of a need for people to attend a virtual event than for a show like PCIM, where the conference is a core part of the show, it’s likely to be harder for electronica to attract people to a virtual event.


Fingers crossed, but low expectations

Very few people in the industry really want to see electronica fail this year. Even the marketing managers, who have enormous volumes of work in the run-up to an event like this, recognise the benefits. So I really hope that the organisers can make the virtual electronica a success. Unfortunately the feedback I’ve seen about the results from virtual shows has not been great. When you couple this with the fact that virtual trade shows still haven’t cracked the code for great 1:1 meetings, my expectations are not too high for electronica 2020.

Hopefully we’ll look back on 2020 as an exceptional year. I think we’ll all be doing more video conferences in the future, but the deficiencies of tools like Zoom have also highlighted the benefits of in-person communications. I certainly expect that electronica will return as the world’s largest electronics components show in 2022, but wonder whether it might be smaller and how it will change. I’ll certainly be fascinated to see what the next couple of years brings.