How I miss those face-to-face events. The hustle and bustle in the hallways, the in-person conversations, and, of course, the latest news coverage. And now? No networking, no rumors. All of this makes it quite difficult to gauge the mood in the industry, shifts in companies’ market positions and the outlook for the year ahead.
In the past months, trade shows, congresses and workshops have been replaced with webinars, conference calls and online sessions. Many were not up to standard, not so much when it comes to content but rather because of dubious video and sound quality. Many providers ventured into the online world, moving their real-life events to internet chat rooms. For a while, NOW offered weekly webinars on a variety of topics, often with an audience of more than 200. Even smaller organizations reached quite a lot of people, many of whom might not have been able to attend in person.
And Silke Frank seems to have founded Mission Hydrogen at just the right time, that is, at the onset of the Covid-19 virus outbreak in Germany. Since March, she has been holding regular online conferences, with some pulling in more than 1,000 viewers from all over the world.
Meanwhile, others can do little more than wait for things to get back to normal. Tobias Renz, the organizer of the Hydrogen + Fuel Cells Europe in Hanover, was not the only one for whom 2020 was a total write-off. Quite a few announced that they were cancelling their carefully preplanned shows altogether.
Others hope that postponing their events will be enough. Peter Sauber is still planning on holding the f-cell, partly online, partly face-to-face, this year, with the shows in Canada and Germany taking place in the same month this fall. Cancelling them would have been greatly frustrating. Like our sister magazine HZwei, the Stuttgart-based f-cell symposium is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
Whatever happens, and regardless of whether some events will eventually be allowed to take place, one thing is certain: Covid-19 will leave a permanent mark.
Right now, one can only speculate which companies and event organizers will survive the pandemic‘s economic fallout. But the virus has and will continue to have clear social and economic repercussions.
Business trips have become exceedingly rare; the same has been true for live press conferences. Plus, congresses are partly held online, which provides few opportunities for networking. And what about trade shows? Will we even have any in 2021?
In all, companies are seeing a drastic reduction in travel expenses. The money they save by not having to process expense claims – an often cost-intensive, time-consuming task – can now be used to purchase new IT equipment, such as headsets and software tools.
The question that remains is what will happen to the energy market, climate action and the growing interest in hydrogen pre-Covid-19. When the dust has settled, will the hydrogen and fuel cell industry become a force to be reckoned with? So far, all signs point in that direction. Both in Germany and in Europe, it seems as if establishing a hydrogen economy has turned into a trend that everyone wants to get behind. And although hydrogen is not a panacea to all the world’s troubles, the colorless gas is finally receiving the attention that some idealists have repeatedly said it deserves.