Coronavirus ravages another crypto-focused conference, with London’s Blockchain Week seeing a horde of empty seats.
In 2007, Lebanese-American essayist, statistician and risk analyst Nassim Nicholas Taleb introduced the world to the notion of a “black swan.” A black swan is Taleb’s metaphor for large, unexpected events that wreak havoc across finance, science and technology. Thirteen years on, the world is reeling from its latest black swan in the form of coronavirus, with London Blockchain Week as the latest event in crypto to feel the effects.
With public events being canceled around the world and with many people reluctant to travel until the Covid-19 scare blows over, event organizers at the summit must adapt to keep the show on the road.
WeWork Blockchain Labs was set to host an evening event at their Canary Wharf site on March 9, but has now shifted to live streaming the event online in lieu of a physical meetup:
“Dear all, we have received communication from many people that because of the very short notice for this meetup they would have not been able to physically attend the presentation at the Wework labs, and because the presentation is going to be live-streamed from the USA, we have decided to make this our very first LIVE webinar!”
Aside from the short notice, it’s highly likely that coronavirus fears played into the event’s cancellation. Attendance at Finance WorldWide’s two-day summit on March 5th and 6th was remarkably low, both from panelists and audience members. Some speakers at the event had been placed under travel bans by their employers, while others had voluntarily self-isolated from the coronavirus. Several prominent speakers at the event told Cointelegraph that they had travel bans enforced since they arrived in London for the event.
Despite the unique pressures of trying to organize an international conference in the midst of an emotionally charged public health crisis, the organizers managed to pack the roster with compelling and prominent speakers. Chris Gledhill, an independent fintech advisor, writer and speaker, told Cointelegraph that he was impressed by the way organizers handled troublesome circumstances:
“Physical attendance was obviously down at London Blockchain week in March 2020 which I think can be reliably attributed to the COVID-19 situation. The speakers were as relevant and good quality as I would expect from such an event and the enthusiasm for blockchain, and particularly the social good opportunities it brings, was evident. The organisers dealt with the situation well, providing live-streaming of the event for attendees not able to come and for a much wider potential online audience. I think going forward over the next few months this is a good template for how to operate events and use COVID-19 as an opportunity to actually increase the audience for events.”
Despite the hysteria gripping the country and a rise of 46 confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, taking the United Kingdom’s total to 319, London Blockchain Week soldiers on. The British government held a COBRA meeting on Monday morning, in which ministers discussed whether or not to step up defensive measures to slow the spread of the virus. For the time being, the government has decided to delay social distancing measures, such as closing schools and canceling public events.
Event organizers will be having some uneasy moments this week. The CryptoCompare Digital Asset Summit, one of the most hotly anticipated dates of the week, is still set to continue. But safety is clearly on the mind of organizers, as an “Attendee Health & Safety” message has now been posted on the summit homepage:
“CryptoCompare takes the welfare of our community very seriously and has been closely monitoring Coronavirus, taking our advice from, and following the guidelines of Public Health England and the respective governments of the infected areas.”
Both event organizers and the panelists have shown remarkable resilience in choosing to go ahead with the events here in London, despite the looming threat of coronavirus. The atmosphere is certainly unsettling, with many people refusing to shake hands and abundant scenes of manic hand-sanitizing. While the remaining events are scheduled to go on, all eyes will be on UK and Public Health England announcements, with organizers clearly ready to pull the plug if necessary. CryptoCompare’s Digital Asset Summit has some big industry names on their schedule. It will be interesting to see who actually turns up.