When I picked up my badge at CES last year, it came with a special ribbon for joining the twenty-five-year club. I don’t know how that happened. When I add up all the years since my first CES in 1991, I’m positive I took more years off than that, but my wife disagrees, and she has a better memory than I. And now another CES is upon us. I’m thinking and I’m planning and planning on planning, but trying to keep in mind my survival tactics and instincts. Things you rarely write down even for yourself. Then I noticed many of my colleagues who attend CES post their own survival guide. They all say the same things, but, you know, I’ve got my unique style and everything. So… if you’re going to CES in almost any capacity, here’s my survival guide:
- The very best strategy for surviving CES is to eat a good dinner and go to bed by 11 (that’s 2am EST). Minimize drinking. You’ll sleep better.
- Wear comfortable shoes. No matter who or where you are, you’ll be standing.
- Dress in layers. It’s 50 degrees outside and warm inside.
- Don’t stay in Vegas more than three nights unless they make you.
- Gambling. My career has satisfied my lifetime desire for gambling. Keep in mind, if someone like me could roll into Vegas and make money, it wouldn’t be here.
- Hydrate. You’re in the middle of the desert.
- Travel light. Don’t take a lot of paper from booths. Thumb drives are ok. It’s all on the web anyway.
- Write on business cards. If someone gives you a glossy business card or a dark one you can’t write on, throw it out later. Some people give cards with their picture on it. Anything to make yourself stand out. But. Not. Glossy.
- Be thankful you have your phone to distract you while waiting in lines. Bring external power to charge cell phones and laptops. You will need it.
- Avoid eating at the LVCC. The food trucks outside are better.
- It takes a long time move between venues. Allow an hour. I arrived for an event at Caesar’s and had to walk thirty minutes from curb to the meeting room. Organize your day geographically. You can waste a lot of time venue hopping.
- Be flexible, be honest, communicate. If you’re not going to make a meeting, let the other party know as soon as possible. Meeting people and making appointments at CES is hard. People are going to cancel on you and you are going to cancel on other people. Deal.
- Be open to serendipity. You are going to see things, be exposed to ideas, and meet new people. Many of these encounters will be the most memorable parts of the show.
- Parties. There are several varieties. In my view, only the networking parties are slightly useful, because you can see a lot of things, and/or meet a lot of people and swap a lot of cards really quickly. These are generally the early ones that start at 7pm. The later parties are in deafening nightclubs where you can’t hear anything. It’s a waste of time, generally even with friends. Ditto if you find yourself at a company party where everyone knows everyone except you, and there’s not even a place to sit. Leave immediately. I go to the wrong parties all the time. PR people can spin things and if you’re in a rush you can get spun. Don’t linger like a victim. You’ll benefit more from rest, anyway. Also, after 9pm whoever you talk to is going to be going on their third drink and is unlikely to remember your encounter the following day.
- Even if you are an independent and not a bigwig on the company’s account, there are useful events you can pay for. There are run by industry gadflies who make a modest profit for their efforts to knit the community together. These are often surprisingly good networking opportunities because there are no bigwigs there.
If you’re on the company tab (we used to say “it’s on the mouse” or “on the triangle”), or if you can afford it, blow off CES and see a show and get a hotel spa massage.
Cirque du Soleil show owns Vegas stage entertainment. Vegas hotels like New York New York and MGM have built massive theaters specifically for these shows. The whole deal, the theater, the epic scale of it, is something you have to see in person.
I find the whole zeitgeist of CES and *sigh* Vegas itself, influences me in ways it’s hard to articulate. Last year, part of CES felt like an auto show. Suddenly everyone is talking about self-driving cars.