Between November 16th to November 19th 2021, Malta welcomed thousands of people who flew in from several parts of the world for Malta’s largest international annual conference, SiGMA. This year, however, due to Covid, SiGMA is the first major conference in Malta since March 2020.
Thousands of people attended this conference, to be more precise about 13,500 attendees. According to many reports, things were not plain sailing for such an event. Here’s what we consider being the good, the bad, and the ugly!
EntertainmentMalta.com SiGMA 2021 Observations
It is great to see so many people come together in one huge venue all sharing the same ideas and networking. To be honest, we were expecting a scaled-down event, but this was not the case. As one can see from the photos, across social media, stands are as they usually are. Some displays are more elaborate than others and attract many more people. Smaller businesses opt for smaller stands by the sides, still managing to attract a good flow of people to their stand. Looking at the photos you can see that the flow of people is as regular as in other editions of the same event.
The exhibits consisted of companies, each offering various opportunities for people in the industry to do business. As usual, most stands gave away lots of goodies made up of promotional merchandise ranging from a simple pen to gift bags containing more elaborate stuff such as Bluetooth speakers and more.
“Stands opted for other sorts of entertainment.”
Those on show ranged from gaming operators, gaming platform providers, payment providers, companies dealing with affiliates, insurance brokers, property agencies and several other such companies all operating in the iGaming industry. To provide enough space to accommodate the number of stalls and attendees, this year a huge exhibiting area served those companies mostly operating in the Crypto world. New Tokens were launched such as the FUN token amongst other innovative initiatives spread across the festival.
Then there was the entertainment value that SiGMA always provides to the attendees. Several of the stalls serve free food and drinks, some with elaborative bars with proper barmen and even DJs attracting hundreds of people to their bar where they could approach the bar and grab a drink or more and dance to the music!
Other stands opted for other sorts of entertainment, like VR games, sports car simulations, pinball machines, and chances for players to try their luck in lotteries and other competitions.
The experience was as normal as one would expect it to be as it was during previous editions.
There is always two sides to the coin! On this occasion, Malta, like the world over, is still under a pandemic. Here is where things get messy. The normality of the event angers other entities who are abiding to Covid regulations such as theatres. Those attending were asked to bring along their vaccination certificates to show upon entry. However, like most of the attendees, we were not asked to show it when registering and entering the venue the first time. There are many reports confirming this from other media outlets. Neither we nor others subject to any temperature checks upon entering the venue.
While hand sanitizers were handed out to all attendees, and face masks were available, either upon entering or even as giveaways on a certain number of stalls, we were amazed that almost everyone was not wearing a mask!
While there were a few stalls where there was staff wearing a facemask, the staff on the majority of the stalls were not wearing a face mask. One would think that it was necessary for people to wear a mask with thousands of attendees walking through, up and down the aisles, with many bumping into other people since their attention would be on their phone or looking at the stands, as normally is the case in such events.
“Maintaining a proper conversation when conducting business is not easy”
More effort could have been introduced to have the aisles utilising a one-way system. Of course, we understand that is easier to say than to do. However, attendees could have been obliged to walk through the stands in one direction according to the aisle. Then intersections between aisles could let attendees change directions. Having the conference exhibits already split into blocks one could have used a road network style of flow. Bars should not have been allowed in the halls. Neither should have loud music to avoid excessive mingling of people.
Obviously, there were no social distancing measures with most people acting like there is no pandemic to be cautious of. It is not easy to have a proper conversation with loud music on several of the stalls and lots of people talking at the same time. People do need to get closer in those conditions to have a conversation to conduct business. In such an ambient one tends to need to get closer to listen to intimate conversations.
The main bars serving alcohol amongst other drinks were always full of people. People drinking by the bar that is. They obviously were not abiding to any Covid regulations with several people surrounding the bars.
“DJ stands also attracted groups of people”
The DJ stands also attracted groups of people, dancing to the great sounds with a drink in their hand. There were those offering ‘finger food’ on their stands or having hostesses distributing it across the exhibition floors. Most of the food on offer was there to take without any sort of packaging or covering. While you could also see hostesses wearing no masks, passing through the aisles, distributing food too.
There were also proper food stalls selling properly packaged food on the outside of the halls. However, at certain times, ques leading to the stalls were quite considerably large and overcrowded.
In reality, there are more than two sides to a coin. One side not normally seen as a side id the edge. But it is a very important part of a coin. It contains many important things that distinguish one coin from another. That side is the edge. And during this year’s edition of SiGMA some things stand right on that edge.
As a matter of fact, three particular events attracted bad publicity for SiGMA this year. One involved a stand that had persons dressed as sexy air hostesses, some dancing on podiums to attract people to their stand. Unfortunately, that particular stand shouted more ‘Gentleman’s Club’ than it did ‘Gaming’.
One involved the opposite sex, where a video went viral of a man who stripped down to his underwear, who then picked up a much shorter male and swung him in a, particularly suggestive manner between his legs on a particular stand. Most media networks do carry this news making headlines across Malta.
At least the organisers did release a statement banning these from exhibiting in future editions of SiGMA.
“SiGMA 2021 Akon Party – 500 bottles of the best champagne “
The other, being the after-party where icon rapper, Akon was to perform and promote his new Crypto in one of Malta’s popular nightclubs. During the party, 500 bottles of the best champagne were to be distributed to all the guests. However as reported, police intervened closing down the Akon party before the icon even got to perform. Apparently, reports that Covid regulations not being met brought this event to a halt.
There were other ugly things. Some that could have easily been avoided. Most of these things, mainly being the responsibility of the organisers to do so. Upon entering the venue, almost none of the staff registering people were wearing a mask. This already gave attendees the wrong idea.
Moreso how can you expect attendees to abide by regulations when photos emerge of the organisers alongside authoritative figures walking through the convention, none wearing a facemask? How can one expect the attendees to respect the regulations when the ones who should be setting an example, are not the first to do so?
Our Conclusive Idea About SiGMA 2021
What’s done is done. Could some things have been avoided? Yes sure. There is always room for improvement and to fix errors. But now it’s over one needs to use everything in a subjective manner. Perhaps that is what will happen? To us, it appears SiGMA 2021 in Malta can serve a number of purposes for opening up events in Malta. Apart from boosting up the tourism economy, we feel that it serves as a manner to analyze the effects it will have in terms of Covid. Malta, having a high rate of vaccination, should not be suffering much due to this event, unless the vaccinations do not work.
But we know the vaccines are working. Fewer people are ending up in hospitals in Malta, unlike other countries where vaccination rates are lower. We know that a majority of people took the second dose around June or May this year. This means they are nearing the 6-month time span since taking the last dose. Perhaps this serves a manner to see if particular age groups can keep immunity at this stage?
“The Pandemic brought people together through technology”
To be sincere, we feel SiGMA was also a method of relief to many. Many are desperate to feel some sort of normality that is missing for the past months since March 2020. Such events create networking opportunities. While the pandemic has brought people together through technology, nothing beats meeting a person face to face to discuss opportunities. Like so many other people, we are not happy about how some of the things evolved. However, we still congratulate the organisers for making this event, despite the most of challenging times.
Let’s Hope For The Best
We truly hope that this conference doesn’t create any negative impact of Covid numbers in Malta. What will happen if there will be a rise in Covid numbers due to this event? Will the organisers and those allowing it to go forth be accountable for it? Will authorities stop or impose stricter conditions for entities organising smaller events? We hope not, especially if these are strictly abiding by the rules and regulations set out by the respective authorities.