There are tons of articles for the "Best of" at CES, and there were some great things to see this year: Robots, AI, Smart Cars, and millions of USB chargers. However, I'm taking a different approach in this article and talking about four things that happen every year that diminish, or at least impede, my CES experience.
Let's start with the petty. CES is HUGE! Sized to the tune of 11 official venues (not counting the growing popularity of Hospitality Suites) and more than 2.9 million net square feet of exhibit space. It almost takes up the entire Las Vegas Strip and continues to grow every year. According to my wristwatch step counter (no endorsement, no free advertising), I'm clocking 30,000+ steps daily at CES. I experience CES almost entirely with shoe leather and the monorail, minus the rideshare to and from the airport. And every year without fail, I am dumbfounded by how many escalators are out of commission. It honestly seems like the routine maintenance schedule of 85% of all escalators in Vegas happens during CES. I need the cardio; I get it. It helps with the New Years' resolution, sure, but it is so annoying. How about that week between New Year's Eve and CES? You know, the week where you can sometimes hear crickets on The Strip.
T.G.I.F. Right? The end of a long week. Standing for 10+ hours a day. 150,000+ steps. Walking up broken escalators. CES is behind us. Only, CES is technically still happening. Isn't it?? Why did Friday become a throw-away? This year is the first time I saw companies breaking booths at closing on Thursday, but Fridays have always been slow, sluggish, and (maybe) pointless. Everyone took a red-eye home Thursday. Just give away what you don't want to pack, broadcast the closing speech, and let us all go home, recover, and shovel out our inboxes. Three and done? Maybe? Can you do everything in just three days? Maybe we start on Monday?
There are 4,400 exhibitors, and a lot of these companies are international. I get that flying staff across the globe to staff the booth is expensive. I understand the need to hire stunt doubles and human shields to stand there when the rest of the company needs to meet with a buyer or other representative. Here's a New Year's Resolution for you if you exhibit at CES: if you have a booth at CES and have hired a stand-in, make sure they are equipped with a basic understanding of your product. I am completely fine having to circle back to speak with an engineer who is off scarfing their food court lunch to come back and answer technical questions. "Can I get this in orange?" isn't a technical question. People standing at your booth should have a basic working knowledge of what you sell and what it does, which leads me to the last and most infuriating thing about CES.
We have come to the burr under the saddle. The one thing that every year without fail makes my blood pressure go up faster than having to climb a broken escalator. You are an exhibitor. You have traveled, in some instances, thousands of miles to exhibit. You have spent a good deal of your annual marketing budget to do so if you are a small/medium-sized company. You have a booth, the product, the uniforms, the stand-ins, and most importantly, your product all shiny and new ready to show off to the world. You have flown in multiple employees and, in most cases, are housing and feeding them. Exhibiting at CES is a big deal and not inexpensive. So for the love of Elvis, please, please, please, spend the extra $500 or whatever it is on the lead generating system and ensure your booth can scan my badge and contact me after the show. I shouldn't have to beg someone to take my business card and get back with me. I shouldn't be responsible for clawing through the CES Exhibitor Directory to find your booth to remember who you were, and why I wanted to talk further. Why are you here if not to gather leads? There is an adorable QR code on my badge that kind of looks like a pixelated Snorlax. SCAN IT! Get my information. CONTACT ME! I don't understand the appeal of playing hard to get when you've laid out at least $15K on a roulette wheel of customer retention. PLEASE.
Now that I've had my airing of grievances, and I feel better getting it off my chest, it was an impressive year at CES, and the ingenuity, engineering, and cleverness of exhibitors never ceases to amaze me. No other show I've been to makes me say, "Wow!" multiple times a day. See you next year.
Alan E Brown is the MarCom Manager at Technologic Systems