Government Shutdown Puts Damper on Association Meetings

A number of major conferences and tradeshows taking place in January, including this week’s CES and many scientific conferences, are dealing with the loss of numerous attendees and presenters from the federal government—leading events to quickly switch gears.

The ongoing federal shutdown, now in its third week, is starting to affect the meetings sector in a big way—including at one of the largest association events of the year.

The Consumer Technology Association’s CES, taking place January 8-11, has to account for the loss of multiple speakers from the federal government. Among them, according to Engadget, is the head of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, as well as top officials at the Federal Trade Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security.

“Because of the government shutdown, some of our scheduled government speakers at CES 2019 have alerted us that they must cancel their travel to the show,” CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro said in a news release. “As a result, some of our scheduled CES 2019 programming and speakers will change.”

CES, of course, isn’t alone on this issue—many events this month, especially in the scientific world, have faced challenges with attendees and speakers having to drop out because of the shutdown.

As Associations Now’s Samantha Whitehorne wrote last week, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) faced severe effects from the shutdown, with more than 700 federal employees missing its annual meeting, in part because the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration directed its employees not to attend the conference.

Some federal employees who were to attend the event tweeted about the situation from afar:

AMS Executive Director Keith Seitter said these impacts are a small sign of a much larger problem for scientists.

“That’s difficult to recover from,” Seitter told The Washington Post of the shutdown. “We’ll be seeing ripple effects from this for a long time.”

Other scientific conferences are feeling the pain too, including the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ SciTech Forum in San Diego and the 233rd Meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), which takes place this week in Seattle. One of its key features—a massive telescope attached to a Boeing 747 plane—was outright canceled because of the shutdown.

AAS is taking a variety of steps to attempt to maintain order at its meeting, per MeetingsNet, including by allowing coauthors to lead presentations by themselves in a case where a lead author is unable to attend and by providing livestream access for those who cannot be there in person. But some events may not be able to go on as planned at the conference. In those cases, the society will host equivalent virtual events after the shutdown ends.

The long-term shutdown is showing no signs of ending soon, leading to a push by Democratic officials to introduce legislation intended to fund specific parts of the government not directly affected by the conflict that led to the shutdown. President Donald Trump, who is pushing for more than $5 billion to fund the creation of a border wall, has suggested he may declare a national emergency to end the shutdown while allowing him to get around Congress.

(waddle/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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