Mar 4, 2020 - Technology

Scoop: Coronavirus forces TED conference to delay or go digital

Ina Fried, author of Login

Photo: Ina Fried/Axios

The TED conference in Vancouver is the latest major gathering to be affected by the coronavirus, with organizers telling Axios they plan to either postpone the event or hold a digital-only gathering.

Why it matters: The high-profile weeklong conference brings together some of the biggest names in tech, entertainment and business.

  • "We're presently working to figure out what makes the most sense for the health and safety of our community," TED organizers said in a statement to Axios. "We've narrowed it down to two options — either postpone the conference to July 26–30 (still in Vancouver) or go digital."
  • The organization is currently discussing the options with attendees and expects to make a decision by the end of the day on Monday.

"We are not canceling!" TED curator Chris Anderson said in a note to attendees. "We have two compelling options for how to outwit this virus, and we need your input."

Anderson outlined the pros and cons of each option and said organizers will take feedback until Friday morning.

  • An in-person event in July would be in the same place and preserve the traditional feel, but the virus could force the event to go digital even then. If the event moves to July, TED wold open the last day to family members, recognizing that the new date comes when many people are doing their summer travel.
  • Moving digital would allow the conference to go on as planned in April — and let attendees share the event with friends and family — but just listening to talks online is only a part of the conference.

The big picture: TED's move follows the cancellations of Mobile World Congress, Facebook F8, Google I/O, among other events. Others have been postponed, including Game Developers Conference and Lesbians Who Tech's San Francisco Summit.

Meanwhile: Organizers of SXSW insist their event will go on as scheduled later this month, despite Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, TikTok and others pulling out and tens of thousands of people petitioning for the event to be canceled.

Update: IBM told Axios it is converting its THINK conference in May from an in-person event in San Francisco to a digital-only event. Last year's conference drew 30,000 attendees.

Go deeper: Coronavirus drives more tech industry events to be postponed or canceled

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