The coronavirus crisis has caused large spread event cancellations and shifts to online events. Without a clear answer of when large gatherings will be permitted again, how are major industry events planning for upcoming year? Here’s a guide.


AHR Expo

The 2020 AHR Expo was held in person, a month before the uptick of coronavirus cases in the United States that led to large-scale event closures. Currently AHR Expo plans to hold the 2021 Show in person as well. The event will take place from January 25-27, 2021, at the McCormick Place in Chicago.

Mark Stevens, AHR Expo show manager, explained the Expo’s plans in a letter posted on He wrote that the show does not currently have confirmation from the Chicago area government regarding the changes and permissions that will be made to large events. The safety of attendees, exhibitors, speakers, and the HVACR community is the show’s top priority, and decisions will be made with that in mind.

“We continue to be impressed with the exceptional effort and dedication within the HVACR community to remain on the front lines providing vital services in the most uncertain of times,” he said. “HVACR has a strong history of being at the forefront of societal shifts, and we look forward to seeing innovation at the helm as we move forward.”

AHR Expo remains in close contact with McCormick Place, area hotels, local city tourism offices, and vendor partners to evaluate and address updates in the event they affect AHR Expo’s visit to Chicago for the 2021 Show. Stevens said that as guidelines are updated and changed, AHR Expo will modify recommendations and practices.

Currently, the Expo plans on increasing cleaning protocol in all shared Show areas, such as registration bays, attendee lounge space, bag storage and drop off, Podcast Pavilion, and any recommended areas. Hand sanitation stations will be provided throughout the building and on the show floor, and if masks are required, the Expo will provide distribution for those who need them.

In addition to this, AHR Expo will continue to mail badges for those who register by the cutoff date and will set up remote areas around the venue for those who will pick up the badge on-site. Seating in education settings will be in accordance with social distancing guidelines.


HARDI Annual Conference

The HARDI Annual Conference is scheduled to take place on Dec. 5-8, 2020, in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.

“We are still operating under the assumption that we'll be able to hold an in-person annual conference,” said Talbot Gee, CEO of HARDI. “And we've gotten a very excited strong response from our membership on that.”

In addition to this, HARDI is working to add virtual options as an enhancement to in-person registration, as it understands that some usual attendees will be unable to attend.

Gee said that HARDI plans to put safety efforts in place at the conference so that attendees can enjoy the conference in safety. He said that HARDI acknowledges that this year’s conference will likely not look 100 percent like the usual annual conference.

“We've already announced to the members that we're going to have a very liberal refund policy, knowing that things can change quickly,” he said. Gee added that he expects members to register to show their commitment, which also helps companies plan their time and meetings according to who is attending.

In addition to this, HARDI is working to add virtual options as an enhancement to in-person registration, as it understands some usual attendees will be unable to attend.

“There's always going to be a need and a place for people, especially decision makers, being physically together,” said Gee. “We're taking extra efforts to fill that role. And there will be some changes to our traditional program format, primarily to facilitate a lot of the face-to-face networking and meetings that have not been able to take place all year.” He explained that HARDI is working to give distributors and manufacturers a venue to safely enjoy face-to-face networking.

He said that he believes there is a lot of pent-up demand for an in-person event, since many people have not been able to travel and attend meetings as they usually do. He said that HARDI is working hard to make this an event worth traveling to.

“My team has been tremendous in terms of their creativity and brainstorming on how to make this a unique event for this year,” he said. “It's going to be a really special event.

“One of the most exciting things this year has been watching the resilience and innovation of our member companies,” he added. “And so we're really anxious to give them an opportunity to celebrate what they accomplished this year.”



The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors–National Association (PHCC) announced that it will offer its annual conference, PHCCCONNECT2020, in a virtual format. The event is scheduled for Sept. 30-Oct. 1, and will offer education and networking opportunities.

“This decision to ‘bring CONNECT to you’ was made after much careful consideration and input from PHCC members,” said PHCC president Jonathan Moyer. “It was the right thing to do in these current times, and we embrace the opportunity to safely deliver this highly anticipated event in a new innovative, ease format.”

The conference has the theme “Expand Your Vision for Success.” The program will include more than 20 educational sessions, inspirational and informative keynote speakers, Q&A sessions with select speakers, a virtual product and technology showcase, networking opportunities, and access to education session content for 30 days.


Service World Expo

Service World Expo is making a major pivot, company officials announced. The show is still on, but based on the responses of a survey of prior attendees, the show will not be physical.

“In 2020, people have become so accustomed to virtual meetings that they are now boring, passé,” said Service Roundtable president, Matt Michel. “That will not be the case with Service World. This will not be a glorified webinar. It is not another Zoom call. It is a true virtual event. As such, it will be virtually unlimited. It will be science fiction virtual. It will be like something you would expect from a video game or from a movie. It will be unlike any virtual show seen in the service trades to date. Service World Expo is making a major investment to bring contractors and exhibitors the industry’s most exciting event in 2020.”

Each day will start with a general session and a keynote speaker. The keynotes are Phoenix contractor Lou Hobaica; motivational speaker, Kevin Brown; and Service Roundtable president, Matt Michel. Breakouts follow the general session. The trade show follows the breakouts. The same speakers who were lined up for breakouts in the physical show will give the breakouts for the virtual event. Each speaker will go to a virtual room after the presentation to answer questions.

A number of booths at the trade show will be able to use virtual reality and augmented reality. Attendees will be able to immerse themselves in one of these booths and get a 360-degree panorama. They will be able to see products in three dimensions and walk around them, just like a real show.

Show attendees can talk with key personnel manning a booth in one-on-one situations to learn more about products and services that can help them make more money. Or, if the queue is too long, they can set an appointment for later. Time is reserved in the afternoons for appointments.

An exhibitor can build a portal into a booth that takes people directly to the factory. Step through, and look around the factory in real time.

After hours events are being created that contractors will want to attend. They will have the opportunity to meet virtually with others in a similar way to a physical show. Of course, attendees will need to provide their own adult beverages.

Building the virtual show will take the next two months. Each booth must be uniquely designed. The show will be held September 22-24.