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‘It wasn’t ISE as we’ve known it, but we’re glad we did it’

ISE’s Barcelona show was held safely and received a warm welcome from in-person attendees and Spanish supporters, says ISE MD Mike Blackman.

‘It wasn’t ISE as we’ve known it, but we’re glad we did it’

“It wasn’t the ISE show that we’ve known over the years but it was something. The people who were there were so grateful and so happy to be meeting other people and connecting with customers. What was evident was that it really meant a lot to people in the city of Barcelona and we are glad to have done it.”

This is how ISE managing director describes the hybrid Barcelona show which took place safely last week, after a tortuous year in which the show was first postponed from February to June, reinvented as four regional shows in Barcelona, Munich, Amsterdam and London, before taking its final form as two shows, one in Barcelona last week and one in London later this month, alongside an ISE Digital format.

The show received a rapturous welcome from the Spanish press, and also from government institutions, eager to see the first industry event take place in person at the Fira de Barcelona Gran Via venue since the Covid-19 pandemic put everything on hold.

As you might expect, numbers weren’t at the level to be seen before the pandemic. The Barcelona show had just under 1,500 in-person visitors on the first day and just under 1,000 on the second day.

Prior to the Barcelona show taking place, it looked as if it would be a more international show than many were expecting. While the majority of visitors were Spanish, there were a lot of German visitors, quite a few Eastern Europeans, some Russians, some French, Dutch and even a few Brits, Blackman said.

The exhibitors were a mixture of firms taking stands individually and those joining together as part of a group. “You had just over 30 individual companies,” Blackman said. “Then you had the Catalan pavilion with about 28 companies. They each had their individual desk and space there. The City of Barcelona had about 10 companies on their space. And then there was the AV Experience Zone from AVIXA with about 20 companies participating in that.”

As thoughts turn to the ISE show which is due to take place at Battersea Evolution in London from 23-24 June, discussions in the UK centre on whether there will a further easing of Covid-19 restrictions on 21 June as currently planned or whether this date will be postponed. But ISE’s London show does not depend on a further lifting of restrictions.

“We didn’t want to rely on a decision that could affect us that would take place just two days before the event. That’s too risky. We based everything on the situation as it was when we planned it,” said Blackman. “We have based it on being able to go ahead if nothing changes. If it changes to be regressive, that’s another matter. But as long as there’s no more restrictions, we can still go ahead. We ran a safe show in Barcelona and the reaction we got from everybody was that people want to get back to events.”

Current expectations are that there will be between 20 and 25 companies exhibiting, although this could change, but the show will have its own programme of content and networking.

“This is an opportunity for people to hear what’s going on but also to meet up and connect with people. We know of a lot of companies who have said ‘We’re not allowed to exhibit but we will be attending because we want to meet people there’. We’re not going to ban anyone from coming in if they’re not exhibiting. We want people to connect and get back together,” Blackman said.

A big achievement has been holding the Barcelona event safely. “We tested everybody coming in. Anybody who was in the building had a negative antigen test and we actually offered PCR tests to anyone who was leaving the venue to get on a plane. That was free of charge for our exhibitors and key accounts there. And everybody had to wear an FFP2 mask in the venue as well,” Blackman said.

“We really have to thank the Spanish health authorities for working with us. Throughout the show period six people tested positive and those people were not allowed to enter the venue.”

ISE used Hall 1 at the Fira de Barcelona venue for testing. “We had the deputy prime minister, we had the mayor, we had the deputy mayor, we had a lot of ministers, and they all had to go through the same process. There were no exceptions for VIPs. They had to get tested and wait 15 minutes for their result.”

Once a result came in it was attached electronically to their badge. Tests were also followed by temperature checks before a visitor could enter.

The London event will take place in line with UK health regulations and advice although these may differ from those in Barcelona. “The venue has advised us against on-site testing as it is not required and we’ve gone backwards and forwards about this. Social distancing is paramount and we will follow what the UK health authorities and venue advise,” Blackman said.

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Posted: 18th June 2021

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