This year marked my first ever International Consumer Electronics Show, and what a week it was. Still, I emerged from the experience with some hard-fought knowledge I really wish I’d’ve had going in. If you’re thinking of attending next year – or if you’d just like a peek behind the curtain – read on for a handful of helpful tips.
1-Bring Business Cards
I believe it was 2012 when I encountered my first “death of the business card” headline, and since then scores of articles have similarly decried those tiny paper cards of old. Ironically, at CES, an event that has more cutting-edge technology per block than anywhere else in the world, the business card is alive and well. Prepare to receive business cards from all your new industry contacts, and definitely bring enough to reciprocate. Pack as many business cards as you think you’ll need. Then pack 30 more.
2-Be More Than Your Badge
Each CES attendee is issued a badge stating all your relevant information – name, business, city/state/country of origin – that is also color-coded to make you easily recognizable as a exhibitor, buyer, member of the press and so forth. This is your ticket into the show floor, but don’t let it limit your interactions. Maybe you’re there representing your own company or product, but your organization is also on the lookout for other quality goods to distribute. Or maybe, like me, you’re a blogger who’s there as an ambassador for an exhibiting product line. (Thanks again, Kwikset!) Either way, remember that if you’re at CES you’re a part of the larger international tech industry, and it’s in the best interest of you, your company and the community as a whole if you step out of your own booth to explore everyone else’s.
3-Always Share a Seat
I’ll not lie; I originally snickered at the proper designation of “International Consumer Electronics Show.” Then I got there. CES is indeed an international affair, and it goes out of its way to encourage cross-pollination of cultures and ideas. It’s in that same spirit that I encourage you to always, always make room for strangers. Whether it’s sharing a cab or moving your mountain of swag aside so a fellow attendee can join your booth at one of the on-site restaurants, there will surely be ample opportunities to connect positively with your fellow members of the global tech community.
4-Bring a Bag, Bring a Battery
Speaking of swag, exhibitors are more than happy to supply you with massive, branded bags to store all the promotional items you acquire on the show floor. But a better idea is to bring your own. Moreover, while charging stations are readily available, they’re also crazy crowded. While this does afford you another opportunity to bond with your fellow attendees, I’d also encourage you to bring your own mobile charger as well. (You’ll thank me when your phone battery hits 15% as you’re rushing to an appointment.) As luck would have it, I received a Phorce Freedom bag for review shortly before I left for CES, and it easily proved its mettle over my week in Vegas. Its rugged canvas exterior is waterproof (which saved my gear from multiple coffee spills), and its airplane friendly design can easily transform from briefcase to messenger bag to space-saving backpack. It features two padded inner pockets that are micro-fiber-lined to keep your laptop and tablet safe and scuff-free – though it’s worth mentioning that the Freedom model can only accommodate up to 13″ models. Quick-access exterior pockets gave me plenty of options for storing and separating all of the handouts and press kits I acquired, but the Phorce Freedom’s best quality is likely its integrated 15,000 mAh power core. With two high-speed USB power ports, I was able to keep my iPhone and Kindle Fire powered up on the go throughout CES on a single charge. Obviously you don’t have to have a similar all-in-one solution, but a solid quality carry-all and high-capacity charger are certainly recommended.
5-Lighten Up Your Wardrobe
The floor at CES is awash with black sport coats and navy button-downs. A quick way to stand out is to switch up your wardrobe game. Go for lighter colors to help make an impression and differentiate yourself from the thousands of other attendees that pass through the halls each day.
6-Wear Comfortable Shoes
This goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway; wear good shoes. Quality sneakers are a fine choice for obvious reasons, but if those don’t jive with your business casual slacks there are other solutions. I wore a smart pair of Dr. Martens Zack three-eye Oxfords for the duration of CES 2015, and my feet emerged none the worse for wear.
An easy way to manage your time at CES is to schedule appointments. Maybe there’s a new product you just have to get some time with or a particular booth one of your PR or media partners asks you to check out. Either way, be sure to approach appointment-making rationally; if you have a 3:15 at Tech East and a 4:00 across town at Tech West, you’re just setting yourself up for failure and frustration.
8-But Don’t Schedule Too Many Appointments
If you’re a tech journalist, gadget lover or just a geek in general, you will get sidetracked. For our kind, a visit to CES is very much a kid-in-a-candy-store type of affair. Distractions lurk around every corner, so be sure to leave ample time between appointments to just wander around and soak it all in. That’s the best way to discover new and exciting products and the people who make them.
CES, like Las Vegas itself, is big and wild and weird and wonderful. First-timers and other outsiders should expect a little confusion at first, but this too will pass. Don’t know where to catch a cab? Ask someone (or just look for the longest line outside any hotel, casino or similar hotspot.) Looking for the complementary event shuttle? Keep an eye out for helpful signs. Hopelessly lost outside the Las Vegas Convention Center? A CES staffer in a garish vest is surely just a few feet away. In short: you got this!