i3 | November 24, 2021

The Energy of Live Events

Gary Shapiro
Audience at a live event

French President Emmanuel Macron and Gary Shapirp

A few weeks ago, I had an amazing experience at the Élysée Palace, France’s equivalent of the White House. In a seven-minute speech, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke movingly about my role in supporting France’s innovation ecosystem and bestowed me with the Légion d’Honneur, pinning a medal on my suit jacket. It was one of the most humbling experiences of my lifetime, and prompted some reflection on how important human interaction is to our experience of the world.

Technology can play a powerful role in keeping us connected. From immersive home theater to AR/VR, to connecting far-flung family and friends for reunions and religious services, to capturing the best authors and educators in their own voices, technology has revolutionized what it means to engage with people and experience content. Technology has provided solutions to global challenges in healthcare, education, communication, mobility, climate change and clean water — and is poised to do even more.

But one lesson from this horrible pandemic is that technology — as important and powerful as it can be — can’t replace face-to-face human interaction. Technology helped many of us stay employed and productive during the difficult Covid months, but it also taught us about our own humanity. We discovered that as humans, we really do need each other.  

Talking to business executives, I hear the same frustrations about a loss of communication and culture in a virtual-only environment. Relationships suffer. Vital information is lost. Employees are less engaged and more stressed out, overworked and disconnected. Customers are frustrated. Layer on the mental stress of isolation and endless video calls, not to mention ever-expanding supply chain issues, and only the most pollyannish optimist would describe the past 20 months as anything but challenging.

Technology helped many of us stay employed and productive during the difficult Covid months, but it also taught us about our own humanity. We discovered that as humans, we really do need each other.

And yet, thanks to vaccines and a better understanding of effective health protocols, the world is beginning to open back up. CTA recently hosted live, face-to-face business events in Amsterdam, New York, Washington, DC and Paris. One word describes all of these events — joyful! The happiness our guests shared as they saw old friends and met new people was real and palpable. Each event was different but attendees at each of them shared an enthusiasm for coming together with people passionate about innovation and technology.

That enthusiasm was evident in my meeting with President Macron as well. While his words may have been scripted, President Macron’s personal belief in CES and its impact on France and hundreds of French companies shone through. Even in a tough moment in U.S.-France relations, President Macron took the time to recognize the value of CES as a driving force for innovation — an incredible testament to the event and the work of the thousands of people who make it possible each year.

On a personal level, I still recall the strength of President Macron’s words, the sincerity of his gratitude, the presence of the French friends in the room who nominated me and the overall ambiance of the historic location. No video call could have conveyed any of those things.

In the same way, no technology can fully replace the magic of the CES show floor. I so look forward to the five-sense experience of CES. It’s about the relationships created and strengthened. It’s about the joy of discovery and serendipity of chance meetings. It’s about sharing a meal or a drink with colleagues. And it’s about growing business by getting there first, discovering new opportunities and forging and strengthening ties with partners, investors, customers and media.

I look forward to sharing those experiences with you in Las Vegas in January.

Have a safe, happy, healthy and grateful holiday season.

Gary Shapiro,

President and CEO

i3 magazine November/December 2021 cover

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