1 Year Into the COVID-19 Pandemic, The Hot List Remains #EventStrong

March 22, 2021
Michael Cerbelli's Hot List presentation.

On March 12, 2020, the 19th anniversary of our hallmark annual event, Michael Cerbelli’s: The Hot List™: 2020, debuted in Las Vegas at the Special Event + Catersource Show. For the first time in the history of The Hot List™, this was the one and only live show that we did during a year.  

Usually, I’m bouncing around the globe, from city to city, speaking for numerous event affiliations and conferences. After a year—and not a single live speaking engagement—we’re already back to planning for this year’s 20th anniversary of The Hot List™, which will debut in Miami July 22, 2021.

Michael Cerbelli's The Hot List™ 2020 Handout.
Michael Cerbelli's The Hot List™ 2020 Handout

Last year’s show was the largest one we ever produced. Fifty-two—yes, 52!—different companies were involved with creating an experience that literally closed Vegas! That’s not much of an exaggeration, either!  

The night before the show, the federal government officially announced that air travel was about to shut down. We were scheduled to have about 4,000 people in our audience the next morning but many of our industry colleagues saw the writing on the wall and ran to the airports that Wednesday night. 

The Show Must Go On! 

On Thursday morning, nothing was going to stop this show—the show must go on! When the doors opened at 8 a.m. for the 30-minute pre-show, hyped-up attendees ran to compete for the best seats with suitcases in hand. The second the show was over they were headed to McCarran International Airport to get on any flight possible to get home.

[Related: See the Show Program]

As I cracked the curtains to peek at the crowd, I knew the audience of events industry professionals was looking to me to uplift and inspire. I had no idea we would lose out on an entire year of live events, but I knew my friends in the audience were about to go through a storm.

Harrison Greenbaum on state during Michael Cerbelli's Hot List.
Emcee and comedian Harrison Greenbaum on stage during Michael Cerbelli's Hot List

The morning started with an amazing pre-show musical performance and wild show opening. (Which involved fire and a catapult springing me onto the stage!) Then, I went off-script.  

As my executive producer, Sara Meletis, says, I “called an audible.” I asked everyone to put down their phones and clear their heads for the next 90 minutes. Whatever they or their business were going through in that moment would be addressed after the show.  

I reminded everyone that our event industry is resilient, strong and unbreakable. That’s when I first used the term Event Strong, and the #EventStrong movement was born. The crowd responded with resounding support and the pressure was on to give the people what they came for…a non-stop energetic show of ideas, creativity laughs and encouragement. 

Words of Thanks 

I want to really thank the companies and individuals that were part of The Hot List™: 2020. Thirty-three incredible partners traveled to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, on their own dime, to be a part of the show. The businesses behind these innovative products and exhilarating performances invested weeks in preparing to take the stage, and sent dedicated teams, performers and products all the way to Las Vegas (some from as far as Australia!) just for their chance to be in front of over 4,000 industry professionals.  

After all the sacrifice, these companies lost out on over a year of bookings and attention due to the closure of live events.  

For the first time ever, I’m providing the official Hot List™ to everyone in the industry—not just those who were at the show. We hope you will keep the 2020 list on file and consider these incredible acts, products and event technologies for your future live events. Live events will be back and the demand for new, trendy and innovative concepts will be higher than ever. 

Though I could say something about each and every idea on the list, I can’t because this article would be 12 pages long! Here is the official Handout of Michael Cerbelli’s: The Hot List™: 2020. One side of the yearly handout includes all of the ideas that made the list, and the other side highlights the production partners and performers who starred in the Opening General Session for TSE + Catersource. 

Inspiring Stories 

For the first time last year, Cerbelli Creative designed, choreographed and produced the high-energy show opener to kick off the conference…Vegas-style! We called it “The Opening General Session Entertainment Spectacular: Vegas Baby!?” 

The 19th Anniversary of Michael Cerbelli’s: The Hot List™: 2020 closed with the most perfect, emotional and bittersweet ending: 100 Million Moments by keynote speaker and documentary filmmaker Brett Culp. This moving, three-minute letter to the events industry debuted StageStory, a scripted live performance synchronized to a custom video.  

I hope it helps you to feel that spring is in the air and there is light ahead. We may be producing meeting and events very differently in the future, but we will always be creating everlasting memories. I hope this takes you there. 

Get Your Act or Product Featured 

To have a your hot entertainment, technology or product idea considered for Michael Cerbelli’s: The Hot List™: 2021, and for more information on how to cast a submission, contact us at 

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About the author
Michael Cerbelli | CEO & President, Cerbelli Creative

Cerbelli Creative is a New York-based event production company that operates in the corporate, social, entertainment and wedding sectors of the industry.