My two posts last year on CES (1 and 2) had a lot of great comments and I got good feedback from colleagues long after the show. So I’m back again with a new version for ’08. Some of the content is recycled, some is brand spankin’ new.
- 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.
- Bring Purel and some chapstick. Wash before eating, because CES 2008 is also International Germfest 2008. Also, Vegas is in the middle of a desert, so having chapstick (and some moisturizer) will help. Bonus: if you have a overly dry hotel room, leave the bathtub 1/4 full of water overnight, you’ll feel better in the morning.
- Go counter the traffic flow. Day one will have the North and Central Halls buzzing. Head to the South Hall or Sands (do NOT miss the Sands!). If you are there through all four days, don’t even walk into the North/Central halls until Wednesday. 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
- Discriminate on 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 we won’t actually use, unless it’s a gift. New for 2008: I’m not allowed to bring mints home anymore either!
- 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.
- Plan ahead. If you have not registered for the show, you aren’t getting in (this happened to a commentor here last year). If you forget your badge, you are paying a fee to get it back. Pick up your badge at one o fthe non-primary locations (Sands, hotels, Hilton, etc). Traveling between any two destinations could easily take an hour, even as early as 8am (my calendar has 45 minutes of travel time between every two meetings, even if they are close to each other).
- 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. I recommend either your own hotel room, or if you are a blogger, the PodTech BlogHaus (which is a lot out of the way, but supposedly has awesome connectivity).
- Use SMS to coordinate. Last year’s CES was where I mastered the T9 10-key texting interface on my phone. You have to yell and scream to be heard on a phone call from the show floor, but texting works great. Even at night at the various industry parties we were still texting to find each other. If your cell phone plan doesn’t have texting, or you have waited to really try it out, now’s the time.
- 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.
- 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. Heck, one of the top CE analysts in the country isn’t even going!
That’s it folks, 13 tips for maximizing your CES experience. Have a great show!
Updated: I decided to put some tips for people whose job is to work the booths over on my company blog. Check em out!