This is my fifth consecutive year of posting Tips for Surviving CES (note – nobody typically dies at the show, so the whole “survival” thing is a bit tongue-in-cheek, though the CES Flu is a pretty much guaranteed thing), you can find prior editions for 2007 (and part 2), 2008, 2009, and 2010. If I go to the show (game-time decision due to recently expanded family) it’ll be my 11th consecutive time attending (there’s a picture of me winning best of CES in 2004 – gosh I look young!). Much like the past few years, little has changed, so here’s the minorly edited version…
- Wear Comfy Shoes!
Of all the feedback I get on these lists, this is the one people appreciate the most. CES isn’t supersized like it was back in ’08, but it’s still big, and tired feet equals sore back equals unhappy attendee. 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.
- Stay Clean
I’m not a purel fan in general, but for a show like CES with over a hundred thousand people visiting from every continent, you are guaranteed to bump into someone who has exposure to some bizarre strain of something that’s going to make your next few days pretty miserable. Keep your hands clean, wash before every meal and snack, and you’ll at least up your odds of avoiding the CES Flu next week. Good luck.
- Pack Light
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…
- Be Nice to the Staff
Booth workers have likely sacrificed their entire holiday season to prep for CES. They have to answer a thousand questions or so an hour. Their demos are probably going to go awry as they are probably dealing with brand new gadgetry that doesn’t really work so great. Treat them nice – don’t pester them as if they are tech support – they aren’t. Don’t ask them hour-long questions on some weird technology nuance. Don’t badger. And don’t suck up all their time considering there are folks standing right behind you with questions to ask too. Just be nice, they could use a little break from time to time.
- Plan Everything
Figure out which booths in which halls you are going to prior to getting there. Figure out where your dinner is, and book enough time to get a taxi. Figure out where to get your badge before going there. Figure out where your parties are, and plan that properly. “Winging it” utterly sucks when it comes to CES and Las Vegas. Traveling between any two destinations could easily take an hour, even as early as 8am. If you try to leave the show, go to a hotel, then come back, your day is done.
- 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 Samsung with an extra truckfull of mints (note that for the 2011 edition I changed LG to Samsung, just for funsies).
- Stay Hydrated
If you carry only one thing (a simple backpack, remember? no? back to #3 for you!), 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.
- Get Connected
Since about 80% of everyone at CES will be using an iPhone, odds are y’all won’t have much of a signal. Further, wifi is going to be spotty at best. I recommend relying on texting as your go-to method of staying in touch with folks. Either that or grab a MiFi for the week.
- Share Cabs!
When you get to your hotel taxi line in the morning, and it’s huge, here’s a simple trick to save yourself 30 minutes per day(or more). Walk to the front, ask if anyone’s going to the convention center, if they say yes, offer to pay for their cab. You aren’t actually “cutting” in line, because the person who was 2nd in line remains 2nd in line and you have no impact on their wait. Easy one, eh? By the way, you should be sure to tip a little extra when you do this, since you’ve taken away a full fare. Plus, sharing is caring (I don’t know how that fits in here, but it sounds so nice to say). Oh, and don’t forget – you can’t hail a taxi in Las Vegas, so grab them at hotels, restaurants, or the LVCC.
- Layer Up
Vegas is in the middle of a big desert, and while it may be warm during the day, the nights are very cold in January. Bring a jacket or a sweater when you go out. But don’t forget to leave your CES badge in your hotel room before you leave for the night!
- 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 200920102011: Still true.
- Follow Live Online
Engadget puts up a post every 3.8 seconds during CES (this is not a fact, I am just guessing – it’s probably more frequent than that). Make sure you tap into theirs (or Gizmodos or your own favorite gadget blog) during the course of the show. If you are AT the show, you might find out about something cool to see; if you are stuck in your office, it’ll be kinda like being there, except you are stuck in your office and they’re in Vegas. Loser.
And there you have it, the elusive Top-12 list in action. Hope it helps, hope you have fun, hope I can be there myself (can’t break the Ironman streak!!!).