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Lessons learned from my 7th CES

Posted on January 25, 2012 at 2:10 PM

If my shoddy memory serves, this year’s CES show was my seventh. And while that might feel like an infinity-worth when you are actually the one IN Vegas doing ALL of the walking (and walking and walking...) and writing and eating and drinking, the reality is, in the world of CES show attendance, I am but a babe.


There were many in my press crew that were into double-digit show attendance numbers. Some that can claim the badge of *never* having missed a show. This was Darryl Wilkinson’s like 25th or something. (He apparently missed one show for some lame excuse. Something totally weak like, “I stayed home one year to witness the miracle which was the birth of my daughter.” I know, it’s like he doesn’t have any respect for this industry at all.  Seriously, Wilkinson, if you had love for this industry the size of a mustard grain, I think you could have planned a bit better. Look, it’s not rocket-science. You should have just completely abstained from marital relations  8.5 to 9.5 months prior to the show date if you *really* wanted to go. Just sayin'...)


Anyhow, even after just 7 shows, you manage to learn a few things about attending and covering the show in Vegas. This is a list of some things I’ve learned so far…




•    The row of slot machines that greets you when you step off the plane is likely the second most depressing sight you will see. The people playing these slots is the first.


•    Seeing those same slot machines several days later is like a glimpse of soon-to-be freedom. Go on, give in to the urge to cry and run up and hug one of the machines. It's the best way to get the Stockholm Syndrome out of your system.


•    No matter how many times you’ve been, the show will STILL be bigger than you thought possible. I believe the Vegas showfloor space is the same kind of ever-expanding phenomena like the universe.


•    The show is massive and it is spread out and there are thousands of vendors covering over 1.5 million square feet of space. All of them vying for as much of your time as you’ll give them. Triage. If you gave them all just one second of your time, that is still too much.


•    Whatever you think you’ll see, it will be 10-15% of that. Maybe less. The sooner you accept that you won’t see but a fraction of the show, and that you will DEFINITELY miss something awesome, the sooner you’ll get over your disappointment and be able to move on.


•    Talk to other show-goers. Ask them what they’ve seen that’s cool. There’s a lot of eye and brain power on the showfloor; tap into it and get some actionable intel. Keep some flexibility in your schedule for serendipitous discovery moments.


•    You will walk WAY further than you ever imagined possible. It’s probably not an exaggeration that most people walk 8-10 miles a day. Important note: Just because you can see it does NOT mean you can walk to it. Nowhere is this more true than when walking the Strip. That hotel that appears 100 yards away is actually in another state. Possibly two states away. Or might just be a mirage (or the ACTUAL Mirage) and not exist at all.


•    Fight the urge – and pressure – to make appointments. You likely won’t be anywhere near the right booth when the time comes, or you will be in the midst of something else important, and then you’ll have this appointment hanging over your head like some dreadful ticking time bomb. Also, if you make an appointment, figure that they people will want 30-45 minutes (at least) of your time.


•    “I have another appointment to get to” is pretty much the universally accepted response for “this meeting is over; I have to leave now.” Use that phrase liberally; it will serve you well.


•    Decline the offer of receiving a booth tour. Again, it usually just takes way too much time and they are going to show you things you totally don’t care about. “Wow! You have a new line of headphones? How totally now interesting.”


•    If you’re press, see if you can flash your badge to cut to the front of any demo line. Hey, there has to be some privileges, right? (Also, try and keep the smug, self-satisfied look to yourself as you cut in front of people that have been waiting in line as you plop into the choicest demo seat.)


•    The more shows you’ve been to – or the longer you’ve been in this industry – the more people that you are bound to know – and run into – and the longer it will take you at and between each stop-in. “Great seeing you, but I have another appointment to get to” is totally cool. And, truth, the other person is probably looking for a way to bail on you anyhow.


•    Drink a ton of water and bring lip balm. Keep a bottle of water by your bed. 3 AM you will thank me.


•    Do NOT wear a new pair of shoes. Your feet will punish you for this. On top of just the total obvious of wearing the most comfortable shoes you can pull off, don’t wear the same shoes two days in a row (courtesy Melissa Andresko) and bring some band-aids in-case you get blisters (courtesy Dennis Burger’s feet).


•    If you plan on snagging one of the free Press Lunch boxes, be at the press room AT LEAST 30 minutes prior to lunch. They have a formula for determining how many lunches to order, and it is a ratio that works out to approximately 1.83 lunches per 100 press.


•    Bring something to carry all of the literature, USB drives and other miscellany you’re likely to pick up. I prefer carrying a nice backpack. It also has room for my computer, iPad, camera, notepad, water, and blah-blah.


•    Do NOT bring a roller bag. You will be the scourge of MANY on the showfloor but especially Geoff Morrison and Dennis Burger. They *may* have a game of seeing who can kick more roller bags between them. (Picture the orc killing scene between Legolas and Gimli. Except Legolas is bald and Gimli is way taller.)


•    Human beings put off about 4 BTU of heat, or roughly 70-watts. There are MANY thousands of these so-called “human beings” – 153,000 at this year’s show – packed into quarters that would make a Parisian metro train at rush-hour seem vacant. Ergo it is often faint-inducingly hot on the showfloor. (Not sure how to combat this, but, you know, just an FYI.)


•    Map out a gameplan for the show. Plan what you absolutely HAVE TO see and then pare down to things you’d just LIKE TO see and then take a big, black Sharpie and mark through everything else. Build each day's agenda around things that are near those must see criteria. If you just wander about aimlessly, you’ll end up getting lost and probably find yourself in the hall of cell phone cases or -- worse -- the chamber of batteries.


•    Trying to take on more than one building a day will result in tons of lost time and extra-extra walking or transportation time. There is PLENTY to see in whatever building you're at.


•    There is some amazing food in Vegas and there are plenty of awesome dinners to be had. Saying, "Oh, I can't eat that; I'm on a diet!" is a punch-worthy offense at CES. Eat it, drink it, be merry with it for tomorrow you seriously could die.


•    Plan on waiting in lines for cabs, the monorail and shuttle buses and then figure on their being traffic. Depending on the time of day – and your location – it can EASILY take 30 minutes to an hour to get from one hotel to another when you factor in the waiting and traffic.


•    Off-site stuff sucks. Unless it is totally awesome – IOSAFE 's“Cage of Death” – or something you have been dying to see – umm, nothing this year – then figure it isn’t worth going to and put it out of your mind.


•    The bathroom is usually on the Casino Level of the hotel. (This advice will be both helpful and cruel when you find yourself in need on the 30th floor somewhere.)


•    When you’re walking by a booth and someone tries to hand you something, generally ignore it. It’s CES in Vegas, baby, you’ve gotta stay focused.


•    When you’re walking down the STREET and someone tries to hand you something, DEFINITELY ignore it. It’s CES in Vegas, baby, and *nothing* good lurks on the street.


•    Booth numbers are frequently a mess and often make no sense. Try and navigate based on land marks such as “it’s to the right of the giant video wall in the LG booth” or use some giant overhead sign like a North Star or something.


•    Try for at least 6 hours of sleep a night. The show is cumulative – like lead or arsenic poisoning – and you don’t want to be completely wiped on Day 3.


•    There is almost always free booze whenever you attend an event – well, the evening ones -- so pace, pace, pace. Try and drink at every one, and you’ll likely be hating it the next day. Hold something in your hand – you know, so you look cool – and then nurse on it for awhile.


•    You’ll never regret the drink you didn’t have the next morning.


•    The Digital Entertainment Group (DEG) is the ONE party you *really* want to get an invite to. Just trust me on this.


•    When choosing a hotel, it’s location, location, location. Being within easy walking distance to the Venetian, convention center or monorail can save you not only tons of cash on cabs but also time, which is the most precious commodity at the show.


•    Press Day at CES is a cruel joke dreamed up by companies to punish real journalists for some bad review they may or may not have written. It is a total and utter mess. And since practically every person that has ever written an e-mail, posted a comment or basically used a computer seems to be eligible for a Press Pass, expect to wait in lines that would make summer at Disney waiting for Space Mountain seem tame. Plus, you’re waiting in lines to sit through some boring announcement you probably don’t really care much about to begin with.


•    You will wander around lost in the convention center or a hotel more than once. Likely even inside your own hotel. More than once.


•    Realize that getting to the hotel is just step one. You will likely still have up to a mile of walking once you GET to the hotel before actually arrive at your destination. Also, hotels have multiple entrances; find out which is the best one to use.


•    Just know that you will miss something that someone else will call the bestest, greatest most awesomest thing they’ve ever seen. At the same time, you likely saw something super awesome cool that they missed out on. Hey, it’s Vegas, baby.


•    Plan on either A) getting sick at the show or B) getting sick when you return from the show. You are encountering more foreign germs in Vegas than if you were to walk into an Ebola cave in Africa and just start licking walls and mouth-kissing monkeys.


•    Much like the horrific pain of childbirth or self-amputating a limb, the mind slowly forgets the pain which is those 5 days at CES. It is a pattern much like this:

Mid January: I would rather be beaten than have to go to another CES again!

Mid March: Remember that event I went to in January? Yeah. That was pretty awful. Sure glad that's over! How is CES even legal?

Mid May: It was nice seeing my pals at CES. I wonder what they’re up to? Oh well, not worth going through CES again to see them.

Mid July: I still pretty-much HATE CES, but if I had to go again, I guess it wouldn’t kill me. No, wait. It probably would.

Mid September: Wonder what they’re going to talk about at CES this year?

Mid November: God! I need to get out of town for a bit! I’d do just about anything to get away from this place! When’s CES?

Mid December: Man, I can’t WAIT for CES this year!

Categories: January 2012, CES/CEDIA

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