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A Rookie’s Guide to CES

After more than a decade in “the industry,” I finally got my opportunity to attend CES last week. Years of begging and pleading didn’t get me a ticket. Heck, creating the world’s most original RFP “in partner with CEA” didn’t even get me a ticket. But this year, I was heading up a sales team, and a lunch meeting with Xbox at The Cosmopolitan sealed the deal. (Thanks Juhee and Gustavo!)

I arrived midweek with a few assumptions based on my experiences at SXSW. That it would be hectic and crowded. That traffic would be a mess. That there would be some serious stimulus overload. But in truth, I had no clue. So if you’re planning on attending CES, or if you’d just like to commiserate, here’s one rookie’s list of tips for surviving the Consumer Electronics Show. I’ve also included some tips from veterans and fellow rookies for good measure, too. #reporting

1. Taxi Lines Suck

No matter where you’re going, you probably require wheels to get there. To avoid standing for hours on end, try any of the following:

— Avoid the main lobby lines. If a casino has a side entrance—usually labeled North, West, East, or South—try it. Bonus points if it’s closest to the back casino access roads.

— Share taxis with strangers. You’re likely at CES to sell, share, buy, or learn about something. You’re all going to LVCC, the airport, or the Aria/Cosmo. This is a good way to network.

— Avoid taxis altogether. The monorail, shuttle, and busses are all good alternatives. Most shuttles run every 30 minutes and from every major destination. The majority includes unsolicited free tours (via chatty drivers) and some come with water, Red Bull, and even wine!

— Rental cars may be more valuable than you think. But drive responsibly.

— Veteran tip: “Stay at one of the nicer motels. Everyone is at the big casinos. You won’t fight for lines at motels.” —Christina Babbits, VP of Sales at The Wall Street Journal

2. Pad your plans

Vegas really throws your perspective off. Everything is so big that it’s hard to realize that “next door” really means 2.8 miles away. Couple this with the transportation issue, and you’ve got problems. Even if you’re punctual, your clients, prospects, colleagues, and dates won’t be. Here are some cheat codes for planning:

— Pad 30 minutes to get to and from adjacent locations and 60 minutes to and from the convention center.

— Meeting with East Coasters? They’re on EST—feed them earlier. This applies to anyone who will let you get away with it. It may be cool to have the 9 p.m. reservation, but there’s a dead zone between when the floor closes and when people go to the big parties. Six-thirty may make everyone a heck of a lot happier. This applies to lunch, too. Take advantage.

— Rookie tip: “Plan client meetings far in advance. Then you’ll can get the most out of your time there.” —Laura Scaglione, Director of Events at Re/code

3. Come Prepared

Vegas can be a fickle friend. Throw in 300 percent more people than usual, some truly awesome things worth traveling to see, and that nagging reminder that you’re here to do business… and you’ve got yourself a real adventure.

— CES provides a map of every show floor and a directory for every exhibitor. You can chart a course pretty easily and save yourself a lot of time.

— Have the LinkedIn pic of the person you’re meeting with loaded on your smartphone. There’s a lot of people and they all start to look alike. At a minimum, you’ll get their first name right and avoid the embarrassment of squinting at their badge. Is his name Brad? Bradley? The tie is blocking everything!

— Pack water. Bottles are $5 and up and the only fountains are decorative. It’s hard to close a deal with a dry mouth or while battling dehydration.

— Lanyards are currency. They give you entry to the show, to the clubs and parties, and even to some VIP experiences. If someone invites you to their table, but doesn’t give you a lanyard… your night will be more “trip to the DMV” than “Bradley Cooper movie.”

— Rookie tip: “Don’t be afraid to ask the exhibitors questions. They’re really informative.” Alex Gottsegen, Digital Media Coordinator at GSN

And above all else: Have fun! You’re one of the chosen thousands who get to see the world’s most innovative gadgets. And you get to discuss them over cocktails, cigars, and craps. Enjoy it, but know when to call it a day.

Closing veteran tip: “If you party… you post. [Editor’s note: If you’re like me and aren’t hip to the hottest sales lingo, post means “close a deal.”] But if it’s 4 a.m. and you are playing blackjack surrounded by people still wearing lanyards and you think to yourself, ‘Should I have another drink?’ The answer is no. Go to bed.” —Ed Diller, SVP of Sales at Stitcher

Image by Jae C. Hong
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