Microsoft kills off all physical conferences for the rest of 2020, replaces them with virtual versions

2020 is over for conferences.

Microsoft has announced it will no longer hold any physical events this year, and will instead move them to virtual get-togethers, with some conferences planned for 2021 looking uncertain. It may even rule out all physical staff meetings for the rest of this year.

"In light of the challenges presented by COVID-19, we are adjusting our event calendar and strategy," said a spokesperson for the American giant. "For the remainder of 2020, we are embracing the opportunity to experiment with new platforms to provide our partners, customers, and developers the highest quality, digital-first experiences."

The cancellation of big meet-ups, particularly in the tech industry, was the first sign of the massive economic impact that the COVID-19 coronavirus is going to have. Conferences, as well as concerts and festivals, have been slowly dropping off the calendar as the extent and impact of the problem became clearer.

Organizers have now started looking forward to other upcoming events and ongoing uncertainty, combined with the huge upfront costs of an event and high cancellation fees, has led more and more corporations toward investing in virtual meetings.

As just one example, a huge climate-change conference run by the United Nations planned for Glasgow, Scotland, in November has now been moved to 2021. Tens of thousands of other conferences are expected to make the same decision in the next few weeks, especially as estimates on the tail-off of the COVID-19 cases stretch into the summer. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics will be the 2021 games.


The biggest impact in the Microsoft world will be its Ignite conference, planned for New Orleans in September, which typically attracts 20,000 attendees, and will now be digital. A message on its website reads: "The safety of our community is top priority. In light of global health concerns due to COVID-19, we will deliver our annual Microsoft Ignite conference as a digital experience, in lieu of an in-person event."

The Windows giant's MVP Summit scheduled for March 2021, and Build planned for May 2021, are set to be online-only, too.

The news that the company is looking to push even far off conferences into a digital format comes one day after Microsoft published a guide to "online meetings and live events" in which it provided advice for how to run digital meetings and which resources to use.

Unsurprisingly, it recommends that the solution in each case rests with using Microsoft software and services. ®

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