The International CES, the largest consumer electronics show in the world, takes over Las Vegas at the beginning of the year. Its occupation is already weeks under way in the convention center and around Las Vegas as the area readies for the over 150,000 expected attendees.
Official and unofficial venues that have been commandeered for CES and ancillary events and showings include The Las Vegas Hotel, Renaissance, Venetian, Mandalay Bay, MGM, The Wynn, Palms, Riviera, Mirage, and Bali Hai Golf Club.
Along with incorporating Vegas-style glitz, more companies this year have been plying attendees with promises of gifts to garner attention. And for those in town during CES, the week is just as much a battle. A good plan of attack is essential in getting the most during CES.
Split the 8s (or 9s or 7.5s)
With over 1.87 million square feet of exhibit space officially in use at the convention center, not to mention all the mayhem off-site, dress shoes are destined to be more than one’s Achilles’ heels. Even surviving the South Hall can quickly deteriorate into a death knell — that’s why the hall is separated into four sections. Unless your feet sport devices that filter the stink of your bunions into electricity, no one is much interested in your shoes. So dump the pumps and give your feet a reprieve.
Show Your Cards
Especially for press conferences, business cards are essential to get in. Some reps won’t allow access without them. Can’t they just scan your badge? Well, that’s time-consuming and an extra cost, and most reps catch a pupil in their haste to scan you. After being stupid enough to look under the price scanner at Target, I know better. Carry a stack — you can’t get your badge without a biz card.
Down and Dirty
“If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.” Sun Tzu might also have been referring to phone numbers and phone calls, because if you list your real number on your CES registration, you might just get a hundred “who-the-f-is-calling” calls. Still wanting your badge scanned? Certain companies do scan badges for entries into their sweepstakes. I lost out on a Game of Thrones-designed Xbox console because I didn’t pick up my phone at Comic-Con. (You’d think most people in CE would be smartphone-enabled, but maybe not.) After covering the Small Business Expo in L.A., I received about 15 phone calls from Restaurant.com and had to beg them to stop calling me.
Go All In
Unplugging for the holidays is not an option. Wild fun begins Friday, January 4, four days before the actual show begins. There’s no time to nosh on eggnog and fruit bread. For press reps, the only down time they have away from demanding clients is during the holidays, so there’s a lot of last-minute campaigning on their part. And once news spreads of open party lists, available spots rapidly dwindle.
Reps have been actively scheduling since mid-November. Those who have been stuck in a candy cane haze since Thanksgiving will get shut out of events due to others’ pro-activeness.
Succumb to the reality that there’s absolutely no way to see everything. Power shoppers who implement a walk-about strategy at stores will fail at CES. Almost every exhibitor will debut new products and/or new models of existing lines. Even if you stop for five minutes at each booth, you can visit a maximum of only 396 exhibitors, leaving the other 2600 out in the cold. So get a map and highlight the booths you are most interested in.
The CES website has a planner and directory, allowing the user to choose exhibitors prior to the show. The planner will also color-highlight the booths on a map for you. At the show, you can print out your personalized maps free from kiosks.
If you haven’t been to the Las Vegas Convention Center before, there are four major halls: North Hall, Central Hall, Upper South Hall and Lower South Hall. You’ll want to be sure that you map out your plans according to hall. And don’t be fooled by South Hall — which is separated into four sections — there is only one escalator connecting Lower to Upper inside South Hall. You’ll have to make the trek outside the hall otherwise.
And forget about the aisle numbers—they do not make sense. The banners hanging from the ceiling are a cartographer’s nightmare.
To make things easier, CES groups exhibitors into zones. Want new ideas and startups? Head to Eureka Zone. Big on iOS? Try the iLounge. Didn’t get enough of automotive electronics at L.A. Auto Show and SEMA? Head to the North Hall for more. Want to see the conglomerates such as Sony, LG, and Panasonic? Most are exhibiting in Central Hall.
You can search by zone as well as product category on the CES website.
Larger companies will have several booths spread apart over the zones. They might also have meeting rooms, which are held for doing business, although smaller companies do secure them for exhibiting as well.
Let It Ride
To get from hall to hall, one may opt to take the Convention Center Loop shuttle or the golf cart service which will take you from Central to South Hall. If you plan on hopping on a shuttle, be warned that lines are long especially toward the end of the day. But it’s better than the wait to get out of the campus by car.
DO NOT DRIVE TO THE CONVENTION CENTER. If you have major installations or pallets of merchandise then drive. Otherwise, find another option, because you have plenty of better ones. There are CES shuttles, hotel-owned shuttles, trolleys, monorails, and public transit. Really have to drive? Try a happy medium and park at The Las Vegas (formerly Hilton) which is Convention Center adjacent.
Don’t Blow Your Wad
Time is money at CES so it’s incumbent upon you to not linger at a booth for too long. Oh, the reps will keep you there to get the sale or provoke interest, but if you’re like me, with back-to-back meetings, you have to set the terms of your visit. Why see iOS when you specialize in Android? You don’t have time to learn about steadicams for the noggin when you’re more interested in power solutions.
Go for Broke
All tapped out from the tables and one-arm bandits? Well, when cash runs low, at least free handouts are plentiful at CES. They may not be inherently collectible as they are at Comic-Con, but there’s plenty to load up one’s limbs. Bags are plentiful, as are the usual pens, buttons, and lens cloths. Express some interest and you may walk away with something better.
One-Arm Bandit: Last-Minute Deals
Lastly, Friday is desertion day for several booths. Many reps don’t want to ship back product so they may be more inclined to make a deal…. Flash them some bills with one hand and maybe get something on the cheap with the other. And if you’re really looking for a deal, waaaaay out-of-towners often abandon their excess loot. I’m not going to say any more, but you’ll definitely find me “looting” (legally!) at the end of the show.