I guess it’s time to call it a recurring theme, but with only 3 days left to go, it’s time for my annual “how to survive CES” post. As per my disclaimer last year, I am copy-and-pasting anything that is still relevant (and with so little time I don’t think I have a lot of the funny in me right now).
- Wear comfortable shoes. It was #1 last year and is again. Even if you are the guy wearing the $6500 suit (come on!), put on your Adidas or Reeboks or whatever to go with it. Few will notice, and if anyone questions, saying “yeah, I decided it’s smarter to be comfortable than look pretty at CES” probably trumps any kind of rebuttal. It’s a BIG show and you’ll end up walking a few miles every day. Freebie bonus tip: while walking the show floor, try to walk on the booths as they tend to have better padding than the walkways between booths.
- Leave your remote control where it belongs – at home. There is absolutely zero upside to pranking booths. Don’t do it.
- Bring Purel and some chapstick. Wash before eating, because CES 2009 is also International Germfest 2009. Also, Vegas is in the middle of a desert, so having chapstick (and some moisturizer) will help.
- Go counter the traffic flow. I’m not the only one with this theory – the Sands Expo is opening at 8am on Thursday, while the Convention Center only opens at 10am. Skip the huge taxi lines and head over to the Sands on Thursday, then save the LVCC for the rest of the show.The worst thing that can happen is you won’t get your hands on some crappy t-shirt you’ll never wear. Which brings me to
- Skip the swag. Do you really want a Panasonic pen, or a Sony plastic bag, or a brochure from TiVo? Really? My wife has actually forbidden me from bringing home anything, period. Also, for those of you into conservation (which should be, you know, everyone), no better way to send a message than to leave LG with an extra truckfull of mints.
- Don’t harass booth workers. They all have jobs to do (booth babes included), and just because they are there doesn’t mean they are the right person for you to give your 30 minute lecture as to why you are unhappy with your DVD player. It’s also not fair to beat up on some marketing guy who doesn’t have a uber-techie-detail question (although if they don’t help find you the right person, well, then they’ve asked for it). Also, if you see 12 people from CNN trying to set up a video shoot, you should probably realize you’ve become a lower priority, try to grab a business card and head out rather than wait for that awkward moment…
- Don’t hide your badge. First, it’s just a nuisance. Second, people like me train all our booth staffers to ask people like you who you are. Third, good booth staffers will treat you the same as anyone else, although they might just filter you to the right person. If you are an important member of the press or a senior guy at a huge company, well odds are you shouldn’t be talking to the 23 year old QA person who was roped into coming to CES to help with some booth shifts. Flip side comment here: if you are working the booth and someone comes up that is a competitor, don’t be rude or glib. Treat them the same as any random booth visitor. It’s just stupid to tell them they can’t see something or take pictures, when any random schmo can do exactly that.
- Hydrate yourself and your hotel room: If you carry only one thing (and you should – more later), it should be a bottle of water. Also, since your hotel room will be quite dry, leave the bathtub 1/4 full of water overnight, you’ll feel better in the morning.
- Plan ahead. If you have not registered for the show, you aren’t getting in (this happened to a commentor here back in 2007). If you forget your badge, you are paying a fee to get it back. Pick up your badge at one of the non-primary locations (Sands, several hotels, Hilton, etc). Traveling between any two destinations could easily take an hour, even as early as 8am. Despite “CES is sounding light” stories, I’d rather be pleasantly surprised and adjust accordingly than be late for anything.
- Need Connections? Figure it out ahead of time. Every year it gets better, but every year it’s still bad. Internet connectivity is unreliable anywhere in the convention center. Even the press room’s Internet service went down last year. If you MUST be online for a call/meeting/briefing/WoW session, have a place in mind to do it.
- Use SMS to coordinate. Texting is the easiest and most reliable means of communicating across the extremely loud and busy show. Forget any “advanced” types of technology and go with something that works.
- Bring business cards. I would say roughly 97% of the people that I’ve met at CES over the years who don’t have cards regret not having them. Maybe it seems cool now not to carry them. Maybe you think they are so 1990s. The truth is, there’s almost no reason not to carry cards, and even looking at it from a potential loss vs potential gain perspective says: carry the darn things! And Moo cards don’t count, people. Updated for 2009: Still true.
- Pack lightly. My recommendation is to walk the floor with either nothing or a near-empty backpack. Forget shoulder straps, you’ll be aching by the end of the day. Bring nothing you do not need during the day. Also, try to dump your bag prior to dinner, so you can spend the night on the town without having to remember anything later. What happens in Vegas…
- Check the live coverage. Engadget puts up a post every 3.8 seconds during CES (this is not a fact, I am just guessing). Make sure you tap into theirs (or Gizmodos or your own favorite gadget blog) during the course of the show. They might find something you hadn’t heard of before, and you might miss it otherwise.
- Lower your expectations. If memory serves, the last time a company introduced something that was genuinely new and interesting at CES was Moxi, about 6 years ago (which was about the last time they were really interesting, unfortunately). The show is rarely the place where a company will launch newly innovative products, although it is a great place to see the ones that were announced in the past. Expect bigger/flashier screens, cameras, etc, but don’t expect something new and amazing.
Expect some cool stuff. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this year will be a cooler one than expected at CES. First, the way mainstream media is positioning it sounds like there’s only 4 companies left demoing and about 17 attendees at the show. Sure, the count is down from last year, but so what? The truth is we’ve seen more, and pardon the phrase, “riffraff” come to CES than ever before. This is an industry show, not just some random tech meetup or Web conference, and major manufacturers and retailers are here for business. I’ve received tons of interesting pitches so far, and I think we may be pleasantly surprised with CES 2009.
Lastly, for a moment of brash self-promotion… I’m working with five cool companies at CES 2009 (several of these have new stuff coming just in time for the show!), and would love for y’all to get some time to see them at the show. They are: Boxee, Bug Labs, DeviceVM/Splashtop, TuneUp Media, and a new startup who’s actually launching a new gadget at the show. Yup, it’s going to be a very exciting CES!
And it’s not an HD Video Scuba Mask (yes, that’s a genuine product being pitched at the show)!