CES Plans Ahead, Moves Digital for 2021

August 05, 2020 by Shannon Cuthrell

Initially planned for Las Vegas next January, CES 2021 has now switched to a virtual format, citing COVID-19 safety concerns. 

Conference organizers worldwide are adapting their programming to an increasingly digital audience amid the COVID-19 pandemic. CES 2021 is the latest to follow suit. Last week, the Consumer Technology Association announced that the prolific annual electronics trade show will transition to a virtual format this upcoming January. 


CES 2020 photo, courtesy of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).
CES 2020 photo, courtesy of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).


CES 2021 was originally scheduled to be held in Las Vegas from January 6 to January 9 of 2021. This year’s CES was held in early January in Vegas, just before COVID-19 become a threat to U.S. and world conference attendees. The 2020 APEC conference, the power industry’s premiere U.S. showcase, was scheduled for just two months later than CES 2020 and was ultimately canceled.

The Consumer Technology Association says the program is being transformed into a digital experience, featuring keynotes from tech leaders, networking sessions, and a product showcase with live demos. 

Details about speakers and sessions will be announced at a later date. Speaker applications are currently open on CTA’s website.

The event typically amasses a turnout of more than 100 thousand technologists, executives, marketing and advertising professionals, journalists, investors, and tech enthusiasts every year. The 2020 program brought in more than 4,400 exhibitors and over 171,000 attendees. 

This year’s CES hosted an array of exhibitors including multiple EV automobile companies and charging technology groups. 

“Technology helps us all work, learn and connect during the pandemic – and that innovation will also help us reimagine CES 2021 and bring together the tech community in a meaningful way,” Consumer Technology Association President and CEO Gary Shapiro stated in the announcement. “By shifting to an all-digital platform for 2021, we can deliver a unique experience that helps our exhibitors connect with existing and new audiences."

As of August 5, there were more than 52,260 confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 860 deaths in the state of Nevada. Clark County, home to Las Vegas, has claimed the bulk of cases in the state, with 44,997 at the time of writing. 

Las Vegas’ hub of casinos and resorts are laying off staff as revenue dries up. MGM Resorts, M Resort, Circus Circus, Tropicana, Hilton Grand Vacations, and more casino and hotel companies laid off or furloughed hundreds of workers in Las Vegas over the past month. 

Looking ahead, the Consumer Technology Association stated in the announcement that it plans to be back in Las Vegas for CES 2022, “combining the best elements of a physical and digital show.”

Other popular electronics industry trade shows have either moved their events online or rescheduled to later dates. In July, PCIM Europe held its 2020 event virtually over two days. PCIM Asia 2020 was recently postponed to November, but organizers decided to keep the event in-person in Shanghai. Meanwhile, APEC 2021 is still on for March 21-25 in Phoenix, Arizona.