Ever since the late 1990’s I have attended the Consumer Electronics Show and have seen the show floor, attendees, media, and exhibitors evolve over the years. The goal of this post is to help individuals and companies who are considering attending or exhibiting at CES 2019 to learn from my years spent in Vegas on the show floor, and to prepare for the show if you do find yourself in Las Vegas in early January for CES.
1) Product — whether your product is software, hardware, or a service offering, make sure that you have something tangible to show and share at the show! LifeFuels raised our Series A investment from strategic partner and beverage industry leader KDP (Keurig Dr. Pepper) after our initial meeting at CES 2018. We were able to have success with KDP because we had our working bottles in hand to demo for the executives. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a product in hand can be worth millions of dollars.
2) Media Kit — Have a kit available online such as this LifeFuels CES 2018 Media Kit, or have those materials on a thumb drive to share. Media Kit materials should include a one or two page corporate overview, press release materials, product specifications, product images, team/executive bios, the company logo (in usable formats for reporters and bloggers).
3) Innovation Award — If exhibiting, apply, FOR SURE! This was the best $300 application fee that I’ve spent since I applied to attend Virginia Tech as an undergraduate. If you have a product, apply, you never know if you will win an Innovation Award but if you do, the award provides exposure and access that makes for an incredible experience at CES. If you do win a CES Innovation Award, think about attending CES Unveiled, which is a media event where hundreds of members of the media mingle with Innovation Award winners and preview their products. Know your company and product pitch as if your life depended on it! Be ready to share your pitch at a moment’s notice. Know exactly how you will demo your product, and have collateral that is easy to share prior to, during and following the show.
4) Plan Your Visit — If you are not the organized/planning type, find someone who is and enlist their support. CES is a show that lasts all week but the days WILL fly by and you will be much more likely to have a successful week if you know what your goals are, who you are trying to meet with, what you are sharing with them, how you see the follow-up going, etc. We spend months leading up to CES reaching out in advance to schedule meetings with executives at partner companies and the media.
5) Attendee Budget — Make sure that you are registered and plan to spend at least $250 per day on hotel, food and transportation (buses are available for free between the various hotels and convention centers). If you have little to no budget, try to find a friend who is attending on behalf of their company, and try to stay with him or her.
6) Exhibitor Budget — The cost of a booth at CES ranges widely from $1k for qualified startups exhibiting in Eureka Park (the CES Startup Village), to large corporations that spend upwards of $1M on their temporary exhibit space for the week. Try to have something unique about your space and make sure to highlight the product that you are there to share with the world! Spend wisely as this exhibit space will only be erected for one week.
7) Body Fuel — Bring easy food that are portable and easy to consume on-the-go. Make sure to stay hydrated constantly, and throughout the week. Food and beverages are very expensive at the show and we saved time and money by doing a Costco run and having Amazon deliver Kind Bars (to our Airbnb in Las Vegas) and other healthy foods to keep us energized.
8) Comfortable Clothing — Working a booth can be as tiring as walking the show floor so be sure to wear incredibly comfortable/tested shoes, and breathable/layered clothing every day. Temperatures vary in the Exhibit Hall spaces and it is typically hot outside (it is Las Vegas after all). You WILL be walking between 5 and 10 miles per day, and your body will thank you for having comfortable shoes and clothing.
9) Follow Up — The founders and companies who get the most out of CES spend the days, weeks, and months leading up to the show preparing for potential partnerships and business deals. Perhaps more important, is the post-show follow up. Make sure to take detailed notes from every meeting and circle back in a timely manner (1–3 days) following the show, or follow-up during the show by spending time at the end of each day sending emails, etc.
10) DO NOT Party — Trust me on this one. Yes, I realize you will be in Las Vegas, and I love a good party, but it is NOT worth it. You are there to take your company to the next level, and if you do the hard work up front, if you are well rested during the week, and if you are properly hydrated and fueled, the results will be there and it will pay off. You will have plenty of time to meet the right people at CES and if you spend time researching who will be attending and exhibiting at CES, and try to arrange at-the-show meetings in advance of the actual show, you can avoid the packed bars where you can’t really hear anyone speaking anyway. Dinners with potential partners and customers are one of the best uses of your time and it goes without saying that you should not party at all over a business meal.
Best of luck to all CES attendees and exhibitors! I will see you in Las Vegas in January for #CES2019