CES 2018 Survival Guide

Convention booth showing Give Away Starts in 39 seconds

Scout the giveaways, then arrive in plenty of time to get a seat. You don’t want to stand for too many 10-minute presentations.

This might be the last chance I get to reach some readers before they fly off to Las Vegas for the 2018 edition of CES. (Don’t call it the Consumer Electronics Show.) If you want to read a good summary of the TV-related stories that might develop at this year’s CES, CNET has a good one. It’s been four years, so I guess I ought to forgive them for that time they cheated the Dish Hopper receiver out of a Best In Show award.

Based on hotel prices, this could be the busiest CES ever. If you’re going to join the crowd next week at the show, here’s a freshened version of my evergreen Convention Attendee Survival Guide.

  1. Wear comfortable shoes. This is the highest priority, because if you have bad shoes, it will ruin the whole show for you. You will be walking. A lot. On hard surfaces. Most of the time, when you’re not walking, you’ll be standing. Unless they’re used to that kind of treatment, your feet won’t be happy with this. Find those comfy shoes now and break them in before you arrive.
  2. Have a plan, but don’t expect to stick to it. Make note of the high points that you absolutely have to see. Add some topics that sound interesting, but which don’t have the same high priority. Make a list of exhibitors you want to meet. Then walk onto the floor with the expectation that your schedule may change. There will be a lot of interesting stuff out there, including something you never thought of. Don’t be afraid to set aside what looked good yesterday when you want to learn more about something that’s amazingly cool today.
  3. Bring food. It shouldn’t be a lot. A PowerBar or Clif Bar or maybe even a Snickers will do. If you prefer something warm and mediocre, you can take a half hour to wait in line, pay too much, then struggle to find a place to gulp down lunch. Or you can unwrap a protein bar from your pocket or bag and munch on it as you sit and watch an exhibitor’s presentation. Save your time to visit more booths, and save your money for a real meal after the exhibit hall closes for the night.
  4. Drink, especially water. The air is dry in Las Vegas, and hours of walking and standing take more effort than sitting around all day. Dehydration will make you and your muscles feel more tired. When you pass a water fountain, take a drink. Consider bringing a small refillable bottle – it might go well with your PowerBar snack. And when any exhibitor offers any kind of liquid refreshment, it’s probably a good idea to take it. Come to think of it, that’s good advice on any occasion, isn’t it?
  5. Download the CES app before you arrive. Every year for every show, the official app is always lame. But it’s still the best way to put all the exhibit floor maps in your pocket. When you remember that you wanted to visit TooCool’s booth, you’ll want to know where to find it. When you need to find the nearest rest room, you’ll definitely be thankful for the map. (Side note: The best rest rooms in the LVCC are along the southeast wall of Central Hall. Keep that in mind when you’re in the neighborhood.) On the other hand, don’t carry the thick, physical convention guide book because …
  6. Beware of heavy freebies. There are so many great things for free at a big show. Free magazines. Free catalogs. Informational flyers. Pens. Paperweights. Bags for carrying them all. You can probably haul around all the pens that you’ll get, but anything that feels a little heavy at 11 is going to be a burden by 4. If you really need that two-inch-thick catalog, plan to pick it up as you leave for the night.
  7. Wear comfortable shoes. Seriously.
  8. Choose your bag well. With all those flyers and freebies, you’ll want a free bag to carry them around. Don’t just grab the first one you see, especially not the one hanging there when you pick up your badge. This bag will be making a first impression for you for the rest of the show, so find something useful and interesting. You might even spot a bag from one of your favorite brands, made with sturdy fabric with a side pocket for your water bottle. When you see one of those, grab it fast; the most popular bags run out before the show’s over.
  9. Time your presentations well. If you pass by a booth with a mob standing around watching a presentation that you’d like to see, make a note of when the next showing will be, then keep moving. If you pass by a booth with a presentation that’s going to start in 10 minutes, have a seat if you think it’ll be of interest to you. Use this 10-minute break to check your schedule, check your email, and get friendly with the folks at the booth. You’ll get the benefit of an unobstructed view of a full presentation and your feet will get the benefit of a full half-hour break. Then get up and walk back to that booth you passed, if it’s about 10 minutes before that next showing.
  10. For your top priority event, get there early. If your schedule is built around the 2 o’clock show at the Virtual Reality Theater, get there at 1:30. If Harrison Ford is signing Star Wars posters at 4, get to his booth by 3. If it’s really that cool, it’ll be that popular too, and you’ll probably be waiting in a long line. If there’s no line when you arrive, hang around the neighborhood until it starts to form. If no line ever forms, make sure you’ve got your schedule right; maybe Harrison isn’t supposed to sign anything until tomorrow.
  11. For everything, include plenty of travel time. It takes over a half mile to walk from the back of South Hall to the northwest corner inside North Hall, with plenty of foot traffic along the way. If you visit a Westgate hospitality suite, that’s another 1000 feet each way. Want to shuttle between Tech East and Tech West (the Sands)? It’s only a mile and a half, but give yourself at least a half hour to stand in line, ride the bus through clogged traffic, and unpack at your destination. It might be a good time to eat that PowerBar.
  12. Wear comfortable shoes. Okay?