We just returned from one of our favorite places: the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. If you’re planning on attending CES next year (and you really should), here are 10 tips that will help make your experience even better.
1. Plan your transportation before you choose a hotel.
The main modes of transportation for CES are the Las Vegas Monorail, CES shuttles, cabs, and feet.
Monorail pros: Fast, cheap ($28 for a three-day pass), goes directly to Las Vegas Convention Center, environmentally friendly.
Monorail cons: Packed in the morning, packed in the evening. Depending on how close your stop is to the ultimate destination, the cars may be packed to capacity by the time the train reaches your station. Doesn’t go directly to the Venetian or LVH.
CES shuttle pros: Free, comfy seating, go directly to the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Venetian
CES shuttle cons: Not all routes run during the day, so if you want to leave the main CES area early, you’ll need to take a shuttle on a different route to the closest hotel and walk. Shuttle makes multiple stops and traffic can make the trip longer than you might like.
Cab pros: They’re right there.
Cab cons: Traffic is dense. Although this has not been our experience, we have heard stories of cabs refusing to drop people at their desired destinations because of traffic and of driving people around aimlessly to drive up the fare. We have taken cabs from our hotel to the airport, and they have been great.
Feet pros: Fast, depending on you. You can go wherever you want, and you get to see Las Vegas while you do it.
Feet cons: You will be walking much of the day at the show. Plan before you set out, because you can easily end up making a wrong turn and end up across town from where you want to be. Stay alert for pickpockets and other interesting characters.
Figure out what kind of travel makes sense for you and your trip, and choose a hotel accordingly. Planning to take cabs everywhere? Pick a hotel with a manned cab stand. Wanting to take the shuttle? Try for a hotel that is one of the official CES stops; guests at hotels closer to the Convention Center will have a shorter trip. If the monorail sounds good, look at the monorail map. Staying in a hotel that’s close to CES venues means a shorter monorail ride, but also means you may not be able to get on to the train during peak times when the cars are packed with riders staying farther away.
2. Wear comfortable shoes.
This is printed in CES programs and should be really obvious, but I ignored that my first year. I opted for patent leather pointy toed flats and wound up with bloody feet by the second day. You’ll be walking the equivalent of 37 football fields, so do yourself a favor and really take this to heart.
3. Photograph everything, take nothing.
Exhibitors will be offering large glossy catalogs, business cards, samples, and postcards. If you take everything offered, you will end up having an entire box full of materials that you have to carry around or ship back to the office. A better bet is to take a picture with your phone of booths and products that interest you. Make sure you capture the company name as well as specific products. You can even photograph business cards for later review. A great app we use for sorting and tagging these photos is Awesome Note, available in iTunes.
4. Don’t count on the internet.
CES does a commendable job of trying to insure that all 156,000+ exhibitors and attendees have constant and immediate access to the internet, but you won’t always be able to connect. Download any apps you need before you get to Las Vegas, if possible, and definitely before you get to the CES venues. Don’t plan on being able to work remotely if your work involves sustained, uninterrupted internet access, heavy downloads or lots of images. To save phone battery life, turn your wireless off before entering the CES venues so your phone isn’t constantly looking for a network.
5. Don’t drink coffee.
On average, we spent about 30 minutes in line each time we bought coffee at the venues. If, like us, you need caffeine but don’t want to stand in line, bring chocolate covered espresso beans with you and snack on those while you drink water (hydration is crucial with the dry air in the venues, hotel and outside).
6. Pick up your CES badge holder at the airport.
You’ll receive your CES badge in the mail, but you’ll need to show your ID and your badge to retrieve your badge holder when you get to Las Vegas. You can do this at the CES sites and some of the hotels, but the best place to do this is the airport when you arrive. CES sets up a badge holder retrieval booth on the baggage claim level (ask for the specific location at the information desk) and they’re open until midnight the night before CES starts. You may be tired when you arrive at the airport, but getting the badge there means you don’t have to wait in line the next morning when all you’ll want to do is see products.
7. Plan your strategy before you go.
CES is amazing. Seriously, truly amazing. It’s easy to throw yourself into it head first and realize after the first day that you’re exhausted and can’t remember exactly what you saw. Figure out before you go what you absolutely have to see, what would be nice to see, and what you can miss if you have to. Determine where those things are on the map, and plan your days accordingly. Each morning, visit a “I have to see this” zone, saving the afternoons – when you might be tired and debating going back to the hotel — for the “it would be nice to see that” and “it’s not the end of the world if I don’t see that” zones.
8. Get your badge scanned at booths that interest you.
Your badge has a strip at the bottom of it that exhibitors can scan to collect your information and send you follow-ups and discounts. If they don’t offer to scan your badge, politely ask if they have a scanner.
9. Don’t skip the little guys.
CES is the place where big guns like Sony and Panasonic reveal their latest amazing technologies. It’s also the place where you can meet the minds behind new start-ups and businesses that are trying to break into the U.S. market. Eureka Avenue is a CES Tech Zone at the Venetian that shouldn’t be missed, if for no other reason than the infectious enthusiasm of the exhibitors. They will happily talk to you about their inventions and their business, reminding you that even Sony was once in that place.
10. Don’t forget that you’re wearing a name badge.
Your CES name badge, which you’ll need to wear at all times while at CES, has your name, employer name and home city on it, in a typeface that is easily visible to everyone. If “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” is for you not a marketing line but a mantra, avoid embarrassment and leave your CES badge at your hotel when you’re not at the conference.