The 10-step CES conference planning guide

The road to Las Vegas and CES starts with these ten steps

One of the superstars of CES 2016 was a startup named EHang. Known mostly for its crowdfunding campaigns and unique drones, EHang headed to Las Vegas as just one of hundreds of drone companies showing their latest creations. The big difference? EHang went home with media coverage in CNN, CNBC, Wired, TechCrunch, Fortune, Entrepreneur, NPR, Popular Science, Digital Trends, and other top-tier outlets.

What made EHang stand out? First, it was the product: The EHang 184 is a drone big enough to carry a person — essentially a personal autonomous helicopter controlled by your smartphone.

But even with a great product, CES success requires months of planning, from product development to creating an eye-catching booth to connecting with the reporters who could spread your story far and wide.

CES 2017 is just four months away, and there’s a lot to get done. We just published a free guidebook, “Operation CES Success,” to guide you step by step through the process. Drawn from those pages, here are the top ten ways to get started planning for CES 2017.

1. Decide if CES is a go or no go.

If your plans are still up in the air, start the process ASAP. Contact CTA to discuss booth options that fit your budget, where companies similar to yours will exhibit, and what hall is best for your company. Most companies already have booths by now, so the sooner you get the go-ahead, the better.

2. Get your product together.

What technology are you planning to show at CES 2017? The competition can be overwhelming and no booth stunt outweighs a great product. It’s possible to get coverage for an existing gadget, but the media is there to see what’s new. Give them something to talk about.

3. Sign up for pre-show events.

You’ll make the biggest splash if you get on the media’s radar before the show even starts. The pre-show events are smaller scale and give reporters more time to ask questions and try out your product while learning about your company.

4. Think like the media.

Figure out what makes your product or story worth telling and how to describe it in a way that whets reporters’ appetite. The first or fastest is always great, but, especially if you aren’t showing anything new, try teaming with similar, noncompeting products to offer the media a trend piece. Know what’s being covered by major media and figure out where your product fits. What will be on the minds of media at CES? VR again? AR due to the popularity of “Pokemon Go”? How has the drone story evolved? Wearables? You better know the latest reporting, and the reporters, in your space months before the show floor opens.

5. Draw crowds to your booth.

In the battle for attention among CES’s nearly 4,000 exhibitors, we’ve seen companies use everything from celebrity appearances to pizza-flipping chefs to good ol’ product demos to draw the masses to their booth. It’s the last one you should aim for. If you can attract people to your booth with your product alone (see Oculus Rift, which had hours-long lines at CES 2016), you don’t need any stunts.

6. Figure out who’s going.

You’re going to need a team to run your booth, demo your product, and answer any questions from the media. You might also want to bring employees who can speak to potential customers. Ultimately, who goes depends on what you can afford in terms of lodging, airfare, and meals for each person.

7. Prepare your materials.

You’ll need to develop press releases, fact sheets, head shots, and other information for the media. Many booths also offer giveaways to draw in visitors and help potential customers remember their name. But if you’re planning a giveaway, be smart about it and offer something that’s prized by your target audience. Too many booths give out candy, which only attracts hungry strangers, or pens, which don’t hold much value.

8. Figure out logistics.

How are you getting your product, booth materials, and people to Las Vegas? Where are you staying in relation to the convention center and how will you get from point A to point B? Planning now will save you time, money, and headaches in January.

9. Get help.

Find a design company to build out your booth concept. Find a PR firm (hint, hint) that can set up interviews with top-tier media and win you the exposure you deserve. CES attendance includes a lot of moving parts, and bringing on outside help can put expertise and experience in your corner.

10. Do something no one else is doing.

Or do it better. The biggest stories out of CES are what’s different. There are a lot of drones at CES. EHang created a giant, person-holding drone. Wearables are always big. Belty created a self-adjusting belt. Car tech was everywhere in 2016, but Faraday Future stole the show with its ultra-quick electric race car concept.

There’s a lot to get done, and not much time to do it. CES is a major investment of time and money, and you don’t want to walk away empty-handed. In “Operation CES Success,” we break down exactly what matters and what you can ignore in your CES planning, giving you checklists and roadmaps from here to January — and beyond.

Whether this is your first CES or your 30th, you’ll learn new tools and strategies behind some of the biggest CES wins of the past few years. Get your free copy now to kickstart your CES planning.

Originally published at