Okay, so I assume that if you are reading this post, then you are either (a) attending the International Consumer Electronics Show or CES for short for the first time, or (b) are interested in learning more about what happens at The Big Show. CES is the largest technology expo and convention in the world, and in January each year, hundreds of thousands of folk swarm Las Vegas to see the latest in tech innovation. When I first attended CES in 2011, I had no idea what to expect, and because of that, I was ill prepared as to how to properly prepare for the event. Now that I am going for my fourth time, I feel like I am a seasoned pro!
There are plenty of websites with blog posts and articles about CES, but many of them gloss over what you really need to know. So I have taken the liberty of writing a guide that can help those of you who are attending CES for the first time, or those that want to know how to better prepare themselves for the onslaught.
Here’s A Newbie’s Guide to Attending CES #2014:
What to Expect
Each year, CES gets bigger and bigger, with a larger attendance than the year before. I have been told that size wise, CES is about 33.5 football fields big. And if you add some of the locations at the Venetian and Las Vegas Hilton (private suites and other CES events and booths are held here), it may even be bigger than that. There is no way to see everything, so I suggest you go through the list of brands that will be present and map out how you are going to conquer the floor. CES is held at the Las Vegas Convention and World Trade Center, which is a humongous space divided into sections or halls. You have North Hall, Central Hall, and South Hall, which has an upper and lower section. You can see the full map of the LVCC here.
If you are attending CES, then you probably have a reason for doing so. Keep that reason in mind while plotting your course. Have a plan in action and follow it accordingly. Be prepared to do a lot of walking. Shuttle services run to and from the LVCC from nearby hotels during most of the day, so getting to the show shouldn’t be bad. You can also use a taxi service, but beware, the taxi lines can be very long. I’ve found in the past that utilizing the shuttle service works best since they are free and pretty much leave promptly and on schedule. I am also told they will have golf cart service this year between the halls, but it isn’t something I’ve been able to substantiate.
There will be thousands upon thousands of people. Last year, there were over 150,000 in attendance. That is a lot of tech-heads! So keep this in mind—you may have trouble with data service on the floor since everyone is trying to tweet, text, upload, etc. Bring your patience with you. AT&T, in my history with CES, seems to have the most lags in data service. If you can, bring a secondary wifi supply with you. Also, make sure to bring extra battery life for your devices. Finding an outlet to charge at CES is rather hard to find, although some brands have charging stations in their lounges to use.
If you can, make appointments with those brands you want to meet with, so you can have some face to face access and dedicated time to your needs. Many brands at CES hire people in Vegas to work their booths, so sometimes, they don’t necessarily have the answers to all of your questions, since they are not fully trained. Be patient, and try to get the information of a key person you can correspond with after CES. It happens.
You may be invited to private events that are after hours or at another location. Keep in mind that many of these events are not sanctioned by International CES so attend at your own risk.
In terms of food, if you have a blogging or press pass, there is a free lunch available to you at the LVCC. If you do not have a blogging or press pass, the LVCC has several food courts and restaurants that you can purchase items from that won’t break the bank. If you can, take a snack or two with you (granola bar, etc.) so you won’t be hungry. The lines will be rather long so be prepared to wait.
I have seen numerous vlogs showing all of the items that people are packing for CES. But I am one who believes in packing light. CES runs for four days (and most people get in the day before it starts and stay a day or two after it ends), so packing effectively is essential. And there’s nothing worse than bringing things with you that you aren’t going to use. In my opinion, these are must-haves to bring with you to Las Vegas:
- Laptop or ultrabook (I bring my MacBook Air)
- Smartphone (I will be bringing my iPhone 5S and a Samsung Note 3)
- Tablet (I will be bringing my iPad Mini)
- Camera (I’m bringing my Samsung Galaxy Camera)
- Backup power sources (I’m bringing my Mophie charger)
Now, while I am on the floor, I will have my Kate Spade cross-body purse in hand with the following items. Everything else will stay behind in my hotel room:
- iPhone 5S and a Samsung Note 3
- iPad Mini
- Samsung Galaxy Camera
- Mophie charger
This will allow me to take sharp photos, communicate on social media, jot out a quick blog post or two while in on the floor, and do so without running out of power.
Also, make sure to bring plenty of business cards with you. Order up a supply just for CES so you have more than enough cards.
Bring your A game. Know what questions you want to ask and the angle in which you are coming from. Have your elevator or “spiel” ready, and most importantly, be friendly and engaging. If you are stressed out, don’t let it show.
Your needs may be completely different than mine so you can bring what you like. I just want to warn people from over-packing and bringing too much on the CES floor—your back will thank you.
What to Wear
Be comfortable. You will be doing a lot of walking, so being comfy is key. My usual wardrobe for CES is a pair of jeans, flat boots or ballet flats, with a blouse or top with a blazer. Sometimes, I opt for a skirt instead of pants. Las Vegas does get cold in January, so bring clothing for cold weather. Last year, the average temperature during CES was 48 degrees. And when you are in a line waiting for transportation, the last thing you want to be is cold.
There may be parties or events in the evening that you may be invited to, and for these, you can get a little more dressed up, depending on the event. I make sure alongside my daily staples to bring a couple of cute dressy dresses, tights, a couple of pairs of mid-level heels, and a jumpsuit or two that I can dress up or down. The photo below is from last year at CES. Still comfy yet fab too! 🙂
What to Do
First thing’s first, have FUN! The Big Show can be a stressful experience, but it doesn’t have to be. If you are organized and have a plan as to what you want to do while you are there, it should be a cakewalk.
Like I mentioned before, if you can, make appointments with those brands you want to meet with. Reach out to your contacts to see if they are going to be at CES and plan accordingly. Try to go with a friend or fellow colleague, which makes for an enjoyable time. Use Google Calendar or the CES app to stay on schedule.
Found this guide useful? Check out my Mistakes to Avoid at CES post for more do’s and don’ts. Click here.