CES 2017: A Rookie Experience

CES 2017: A Rookie Experience

Last week was the 2017 edition of CES in Las Vegas. The massive annual event, attended by nearly 170,000 people this year included members of the media, industry representatives, product buyers, financial analysts, and investors from all over the globe. This year was also unique because it was the 50th anniversary of the consumer focused electronics show.

I can also definitively state that I am no longer a rookie when it comes to CES but, just like I brought home the post-CES Show Crud, I came back with some observations that I will carry forward to my future trips to cover the show.

Let me start with just the sheer size of this event.

When almost 170K people are in attendance that alone shows the scope and size of the show. The focal point of CES is located at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) and its North, South, and Central Halls covering two million square foot of exhibition space.  The LVCC, along with the Westgate and Renaissance Las Vegas hotels, made up the area known as Tech East.

A little further down the Las Vegas strip was Tech West which encompassed the Sands Expo, The Venetian, The Palazzo, Wynn, and the Encore at Wynn. Tech South, which was a little further down the strip included the Aria, Cosmopolitan, and Vdara hotels.

There were additional show floors (aka Marketplaces), meeting rooms, and company suites through both Tech West and South that were used by exhibitors and other companies throughout the entire week of CES.

With the venues for CES spread from one end of the Las Vegas strip to the other taxi's tended to be the way to move around however, the Las Vegas Monorail was a reliable and inexpensive option for moving between Tech East and West. Yes, it got a little crowded in the early mornings and late afternoons but the ride is so short it really wasn't an issue. I also lived in Europe for 18 years at one point in my life, and if you have ever traveled on public transportation in Italy then the space in these packed monorail cars was wide open even when they were crowded by American standards.

The Press Conferences

For the two days prior to the official opening of CES, major company product announcement press conferences were held at the Mandalay Bay with the exception of Sony who conducted their press conference in the LVCC in their booth.

Here is some Press Conference B-Roll I took during those events:

By holding their press conferences prior to the official opening of the show floor, all the big players get the opportunity to show off their new products to the tech press and garner some initial coverage before the show starts to pick up. Of course, their big names also help with that process.

The Show Floors

The basic fact with CES is that exhibitors big and small are looking to grab your attention. For the big companies that is easy as they have the big booths with lights, bright displays, loud speakers, music playing, and product demos and samples laid all around.

For smaller companies, which there is a lot of especially those who manufacturer various electronic products and are looking for vendors, seemed to take a wait and see approach. Basically, they would wait and see if you showed any interests in one of their products and then engage you for further discussions.

The variety of products being offered were as varied as the number of booths on the show floor. However, there was just as much similarity between products being offered for distributors to choose from so there was a lot of choice for buyers.

I guess someone could make a point to hit every show floor and marketplace of CES in the four days the show is open to attendees but, after trying to cover as much of the show at just the LVCC, I think having a firm plan in hand is the best way to take in as much of CES as possible.

Evening Events

I attended three evening events at CES 2017 which included CES Unveiled, Pepcom: The Digital Experience, and Showstoppers. Each of these had some overlap from the other events when it came to exhibitors showing off their products. However, I am glad I was at each one of them because it was a nice way to focus on a much smaller group of exhibitors that might have otherwise ended up lost on the larger CES show floor.

By the way, when I say small CES Unveiled had about 200 exhibitors, Pepcom had 240, and Showstoppers had about 120 so small is always about perspective and this one is in comparison to the total number of exhibitors at CES overall.

My Lessons Learned

First is travel time. Everything I read prior to attending CES indicated that travel time could be severely hampered by traffic and long lines for taxis or shuttle buses. Turns out that by heading the venues early and leaving late in the day this never became an issue. In fact, I may have traveled too early on one day which was particularly cold in Las Vegas and was sitting outside the LVCC until I realized I could enter at 8 AM and access the Media Room to knock out some work. It was much warmer in that room that it was outside.

Schedule smart. I scheduled my one on one meetings with at least one hour between each appointment and I schedule these meetings in the same venue for the same day. This prevented me from having to travel between Tech South, West or East in the course of the day and avoided all the aforementioned traffic issues in the middle of the day.

Connectivity. Wifi is not provided in every venue so I was glad to have my LG Nexus 5X on AT&T which had great connectivity everywhere in Las Vegas to tether the Surface Book to for email, social media, etc. At the LVCC there was Wi-Fi but it was only free for 30 minutes and anything more than that needed a fee to be paid. Occassionally, hotel Wi-Fi in some of the venues might be available but it quickly gets overwhelmed.

Packing light. After one day on the show floors and press conferences, I quickly figured out what I really needed in my bag and what was unnecessary. By eliminating those items from my bag I was able to lighten my load which helped a lot but by the end of most days that bag still felt like it weighed 100 pounds.

Food and Well Being. I mentioned at the top of this that nearly 170K people were in attendance at CES 2017 and that means lots of germs floating around. Despite being prepared with hand sanitizer and taking a vitamin C concoction each morning and evening, I still came home with the CES Crud. This may just be an issue of building up a tolerance but since it only happens once a year I guess it is a small setback. The granola bars I kept in my bag came in very handy to recharge a little bit between meetings and I also drank water at every opportunity to stay hydrated in the dry desert of Las Vegas.

In Closing

Attending CES for the first time was a great experience overall and I look forward to the opportunity to do it in the future. This is also not the end of our coverage for this years event because I have follow ups and some upcoming product reviews thanks to a few of the exhibitors I met on the show floors.

So check out all of our CES 2017 coverage so far and bookmark that page for new content as it arrives in the next few weeks.

But, wait...there's probably more so be sure to follow me on Twitter and Google+.

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