Ideas fresh off the wire

5 Tips for Surviving CES (Or Any Tradeshow or Conference)

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) takes place each year in Las Vegas immediately following the Times Square ball drop. (All right–it’s several days later but feels sooner.) It kicks off the new year and heralds the beginning of the busy tradeshow and conference season. CES brings together 170,000 global consumer electronics industry insiders – not only companies but also retailers, distributors, manufacturers, service providers, buyers, suppliers and shippers. Even the U.S. Postal Service was there, offering a giant Tetris video competition to attendees.

CES 2016 showcased  many cool new products ranging from autonomous cars to virtual reality goggles to robot pals and  coding caterpillars. But I’m not going to highlight these when many of my favorite news outlets do it much more succinctly (see here, here and here but come back here after!).

Instead, I’m offering a survival guide to what we public relations professionals like to refer to as our Super Bowl, if the Super Bowl lasted for a week and had terrible Wi-Fi. CES is full of high highs, low lows, long days/nights and gratuitous eating and drinking. How am I qualified to give you these tips, you might ask? Well, I’ve just survived another CES and have multiple other tradeshows under my belt to draw from. So, read on!

CES Survival Guide Tip #1: Pack (stylish) sneakers

CES is spread over two convention centers and countless hotels along Vegas’ famous strip. Exhibit space covers 2.2 MILLION SQUARE MILES and if you’re on the hunt for press contacts or edible food, comfortable shoes are your greatest ally. This year, I walked an average of 5 miles a day, which was great for my fitness but not for my feet.

Most tradeshows’ hours extend far beyond the showfloor times, so you’ll need footwear that lasts longer than your iPhone battery, which brings me to my next tip…

shoes

Wear what you need to wear to stay comfortable.

CES Survival Guide Tip #2: Bring USB battery packs

You know that sinking feeling you get when your battery percentage dips into the red zone and you’re simultaneously texting a client, calling a reporter and flagging down a cameraman? Ain’t nobody got time for low juice, so get savvy by packing USB battery packs. Charge them as often as possible back in your hotel room, stick a few in your bag and save your anxiety for ensuring your client hits all his talking points.

battery

Avoid this terrifying possibility. (Image: Gizmodo)

CES Survival Guide Tip #3: Give yourself at least 30-to-60 minutes as a travel buffer

Don’t let Google Maps fool you into thinking that the Sands Convention Center is a short 10-minute walk from The Mirage hotel. Vegas was designed to confuse its denizens. You get from Point A to Point B by winding through The Venetian’s blinging slot machines, ritzy Grand Canal Shoppes, jumping over said “canal,” passing three Cookie Monsters and two Elmos and asking three hostesses, “How do I get out of here?!”

Also don’t believe that the Las Vegas Convention Center is a 15-minute drive from anywhere. Traffic is terrible and it will take you at least twice as long. Try to take the shuttle, the monorail or your own two feet everywhere and give yourself a solid travel buffer.

traffic

Always expect back-to-back traffic

CES Survival Guide Tip #4: Hydrate!

Obvious, right? Well, when you’re juggling multiple clients, tracking down reporters, managing interviews, scanning for coverage, handling booth conversations and then networking at Lavo (highly recommended, by the way), you sometimes forget to drink water. This is a mistake. Vegas is an unforgiving desert and she will punish you for not taking the time to hydrate.

This is my MOST SECRET TIP, and I’m giving it up because CES makes you do crazy things: ask your hotel for a humidifier when you check in. It’s free and it will save your nose, throat, skin, you name it.

This guy has the right idea!

This guy has the right idea!

CES Survival Guide Tip #5: Don’t wear black cocktail dresses

This is for the ladies. Regardless how cute that black dress is, don’t wear it. You will be mistaken for a hostess and asked to fetch a drink order when you’re trying to schmooze.

cocktail

This dress is cute, but try it in a different color from black.

In all seriousness, I really enjoy CES. It’s a tremendously fascinating and fruitful event and an important place for consumer companies to launch new concepts and products, meet face-to-face with top-tier press and kick off the new year.  I’m proud of the work that Highwire PR has done at CES and other conferences (like HIMSS–which is in Vegas this year!–and RSA) in the past few years and look forward to preparing for 2017, which will start around…June.

Happy tradeshowing!

Do you have any CES or tradeshow survival tips to share? Put them in the comments or share with us on social!