Attending CES can result in the greatest networking week of your business life – or it might be an onslaught of tech, lights, and massive booths that can overwhelm you. What’s the secret to a great CES show? A lot of planning and sticking to a strategy, says CNN Tech Correspondent Lori H. Schwartz, the author of the forthcoming The Tech Cat and long-time host of a popular podcast by the same name. Schwartz has taken executives on CES tours for more than 20 years through her groundbreaking company, Story Tech, and knows the ins and outs of the show as well as anyone.
We asked Lori to give us a quick 10-step breakdown on how to make the most of your CES experience. Here are her thoughts:
TAKE A TOUR
A tour is like context on a plate. It gives you a broader sense of what happens at the show, so afterward, you know what you’re digging into. They are the best overview of trends that are happening. Tours are about 2 ½ hours and 12 stops. (Check tour times and book a tour at firstname.lastname@example.org)
WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES
CES consists of a vast series of halls; you can easily walk six to eight miles per day. Bring comfortable shoes, water, and snacks. Dress business casual – but make sure you’re ready for a day of activity.
STRATEGIZE WHERE YOU PUT YOURSELF
Pick one day for each main hall: one day at the Convention Center, one day at the Las Vegas Sands and Eureka Park, and one day at the Aria. Once you’re at the location, try to stay there throughout the day. The cab lines are long, traffic is snarled, and it’s really hard to get from one place to another.
SPEND EXTRA TIME IN EUREKA PARK
This section is the foreteller of years to come. Eureka Park has hundreds of startups. These booths are less showy but offer much more one-on-one networking. You gain insight on where things are going and see tech or business patterns within the startups.
ATTEND KEYNOTES AND PANELS
CES works with partners that are experts in the topics presented. These partners are directly connected to the industry, and their content is the very latest. Be strategic and buy a pass that allows you to attend panels.
BUILD YOUR SCHEDULE WITH OPEN SPACE IN IT
Meetings often happen spontaneously in the aisles or booths; business happens on the fly at CES. People pack their schedules, only to lose out on magic moments on the floor. Those might be your magic moments.
ATTEND EVENING EVENTS
A lot of networking and education happens at the evening parties and events. Make your restaurant reservations now; don’t wait. And attend evening events to take advantage of the additional networking opportunities.
HIRE A DRIVER AND CAR FOR GROUP
If you’re attending as part of a group, hire a car and driver rather than dealing with cabs and public transportation. At least you’ll have someone there to get you at the end of the day. Also consider investing in a Metro Pass if you don’t get a driver.
KEY APPOINTMENTS AND DEMOS
Set your key appointments now, if you haven’t already done so. These book fast and require you to get ahead of it.
TRY TECHNOLOGIES NEW TO YOU
So many people go to CES to see what’s happening in their industries, and then don’t try out any new technology or look at industries unfamiliar to them. Don’t be that person! Arrive with an open mind. You learn most about tech and consumers by what’s happening outside your category. As a suggestion, explore overall trends early in your CES week, then deep dive into your category later in the week. You might meet people you thought you’d never partner with. Think of fitness watches that are also highly fashionable, that’s the marriage of three industries – digital tech, fitness, and fashion. Go outside the box.