What is CES really like?
CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is one of the biggest and most anticipated trades shows of the year. Insert boring stats about show square footage and attendance here. Yes, the technology is amazing. Yes, the exhibits are over the top, and all of the industry pros are there too. But it is a lot of work attending and exhibiting at the show. It is an exhausting week of travel, meetings, and pitching your product (or yourself).
This is what it is really like to attend the world’s biggest trade show. Pack your bags, we are headed to Vegas.
The show starts at the airport. From the east coast, it is about 5-6 hour journey depending on the route. If you are exhibiting, you will have some mix of very valuable prototypes and/or accessories for the booth, so it can be a nervy trip. Two years ago I checked a full size range stove, which received a few odd looks and queries from the airline staff.
Once you land, two things are a must. First, you need to check in at the CES table at the airport and get your badge, as you need this all week to get into the exhibit halls. Second, and most importantly, get your Uber driver to drop you off at In-N-Out Burger for a double-double with animal fries. Yummy. You may regret this a few hours later, but don’t let that stop you.
With your body still on east coast time, you wake up early and plug into email to make sure things are still good at the home office. The exhibit halls are closed to show-goers on Monday, but it is prime time for exhibitors to set up their booths. Depending on the size and complexity of the booth, this can take all day and is not without its troubles. 2019 was the first year for Enventys Partners as an exhibitor and our name tag was spelled wrong. Fortunately, the CES show staff had a new one printed for us on the quick.
Monday is also media day and conference speakers. If you have a media pass (as I did), you can go to a variety of press release events for many of the large companies that exhibit at the show. If you have paid the extra bit of money for the conference track, you can go to the panel discussions with industry experts. I went to a couple of panels about augmented reality which were really informative. Then it is off to bed early to be fresh for opening day.
Whomp. Whomp. Enventys Partners spelled wrong, the day before the show, but my custom LED signs are looking great.
The first day of the show is a whirlwind. The show opens at 10am, but exhibitors are allowed in a couple of hours early to tidy up their booths and make sure that their prototypes are working properly. The lobby is buzzing in the minutes before the doors open and there is an audible cheer that goes up once security allows the first attendees through.
Day one is also where you refine your pitch.
Whether exhibitor or attendee, the day is a wall of conversation and you learn really quickly how to refine your product or your whole career into just a couple of sentences. Everyone has business cards and/or flyers about their product in addition to the other swag like pencils and stickers, and it is important to pick up a free tote bag from whichever exhibitor has them on offer to hold onto the flyers you want to keep.
Day one is the most attended day and you need to make the most of it. Lunch is quickly taken at the food court in the exhibit hall or standing up while manning the booth. If you exhibit, you may not leave the booth for whole day. The time is just too valuable. If you have done your job well, you should have a hamburger sized stack of business cards to bring back to the hotel at the end of the night.
Outside of the Eureka Park exhibit hall minutes before opening. Yes. I got a free Arduino.
In the months leading up to the show, there is a flood of emails that go out to show registrants. Being part of the media I get hundreds of requests for meetings and interviews for all sorts of companies. Exhibitors also get flooded with requests for meetings with vendors, media and potential partners. Wednesday is a great day to schedule these types of meetings. If you have a booth, people will often come to you, so you don’t miss any valuable time meeting with other show goers. If the meeting is sensitive in nature, there are private meeting rooms available on the show floor to talk through the details of a deal.
CES is all about the after parties, and Wednesday night is prime time. Groups like Hardware Massive and other tech companies will have either invite only or first-come after parties at venues on the strip. I attended a French Tech meet and greet in Caesar’s Palace and was treated to some free beer while I futilely attempted to network with French entrepreneurs. The show floor is chaotic, but these after hours events give you the chance to make some deeper connections with other show-goers.
A picture of me taken of me (top) with Yuriy Pryadko with the Fish Ball 360 degree camera lens.
It’s day 5 and the past two days have been spent on your feet. You didn’t overdo it last night, but you probably have remnants of that three drink haze that are compounded by staying up way too late. Coffee (or tea in my case) is a necessary pick-me-up as you lumber back to the exhibit halls for another day. Your voice is likely at least a little bit hoarse, but you have to push through.
Most of the important meetings are behind you so there is time to explore the other exhibit halls, and you can head over to see all of the 8K TVs, VR headsets, and other whiz-bang tech. It is a perfect time (if you are a Sony shooter) to drop your camera off at the pro-services booth for a free checkup and sensor cleaning.
The Sony support desk where you can drop your Sony camera for a free cleaning.
Friday is the last day of the show and the atmosphere is much more relaxed. Many of the show goers (especially the overseas crowd) start to head back home. The exhibit halls are far less congested and you can see the droopy eyes on those that are left. You finally have time to meet your exhibit hall neighbors and see how their show is going. With less people in the halls, it is easier to get some good photos too. A sit-down lunch may be an option.
At the end of the day, it is celebration time. Everyone grabs a beer from the food court to toast to a job well done and they start getting packed up. It has been a long but fruitful week, and there is plenty of promise in the stack of business cards you have collected. An investor, contract manufacturer, mentor, or new friend may be buried in that stack. Unfortunately, the real work starts when you get home next week. You have an awful lot of emails to write.
Give yourself a round of applause. You made it.
You made it to the end of the show. You win a Nice Award.