Let’s start by taking a look at the numbers. Last year, 177,393 people from all over the world swarmed Las Vegas for CES 2016–over 81% of the countries in the world had representatives in attendance. This year, they’re projecting record-breaking attendance numbers. And you need to know two things: how to get noticed in a sea of people who all have the same goal as you and how to maximize every single second you have out there. You’ll understand once you’ve been, but your time is extremely precious during those four days.
1. Start preparing yesterday
My number one tip is to prepare as much as humanly possible. Once you get there, you WILL NOT have time to plan. I repeat: you WILL NOT have time to plan. If you wait, you’ll watch opportunities pass you by. Most of my tips below will help you develop these plans I speak of.
2. Register for just $100 and don’t pay any more than that
All you need to do is register to access the showroom floors for $100. Sure, an exhibition booth is great, but do you want to be tied down to a small booth while you could be doing more important things, meeting important people elsewhere? Having a booth is not the number one way to get noticed, I promise you that.
3. Plan your days…as much as possible
You can spend weeks planning, but I promise you, something will fall through, and not everything will go according to your thoroughly-developed plan; there’s just too much [good] chaos going on at CES. Try to prioritize events or meetings you have planned. If you need to choose one over another because a bus is late or it just takes longer than you thought to get from point A to point B (it will, sometimes, trust me), you’ll know ahead of time which one is more important.
4. Familiarize yourself with local transportation options
Use this resource as your guide, and note the following tips:
- There are LONG lines for the shuttle busses. Yes, they move quickly, but if you planned on just jumping on to get to your next meeting, it probably won’t work out that way, so allow for wiggle room.
- Uber/Lyft is a tossup- it just depends on how many people are looking for one at the same time. I highly recommend sticking to the Uber pickup and dropoff locations, or you’ll find it extremely hard to find your Uber at the event locations.
- The monorail is reliable, but you’ll probably need to resort to the busses or Uber to get to where you want to go.
5. Play around on the CES website to find opportunities
Visit the “Events & Experiences” tab on the CES 2017 website where you’ll find countless opportunities to get your startup noticed. There are networking events, media events, television opportunities, Shark Tank casting calls and so much more you won’t want to miss. There are certainly a handful of both free and paid opportunities that you should familiarize yourself with ahead of time– what do you have to lose?
6. Search www.meetup.com for events you’ll want to attend while you’re in Vegas
As we get closer to CES, you’ll see these events popping up every minute. They’re not all necessarily endorsed by CES, but they’re held during CES for a reason. Take a look at all of the different meetups and opportunities you can find there (that are relevant to your startup) and sign up for as many as possible. You might just do most of your networking at these events. *Bonus points if you can get into exclusive events. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
Now that my planning and logistics tips are out of the way, we can get to the fun stuff that will get you noticed!
7. Bring lots of business cards
You’ll most likely meet more people at CES than any other event in your life, so be sure to bring plenty of business cards. Make sure they’re up to date with your contact info and website where you want to drive interested parties for more information.
8. Build an email list while you’re there
This day in age, there’s little that’s more valuable than an email list or customer base. While you’re at CES, make sure you have a way of taking down people’s email addresses so you can market to them in the future. This is a GREAT way to build up your list. Tip: offer an incentive for signing up. Maybe a free app download or some other type of SWAG!
9. Download CES’s media list and use it to build your own custom list
If you are an exhibitor, you’ll have access to this list–use it. If you’re not an exhibitor and you’re paying that $100 to access the showrooms, don’t panic. Ask around (ahead of time, of course). You’d be surprised about who might be willing to share their list with you. And, if you just can’t get access to it, guess what– it’s not a complete secret. If you’ve done any PR work at all for your startup, you know the outlets you want to write about you and you can dig a little deeper to find the specific journalists you want to write about you too. Run some searches on Google or Twitter to see what journalists are talking about attending and go from there. Use any resources necessary.
10. Create an online media kit that provides interested media with more info
This can be as simple as a Dropbox or Google Drive folder that contains all the info a journalist might need to write a story about your startup. Think: list of features and benefits, specifications, founder/team info, hi-res photos, videos, logos and more. Just make sure it’s put together neatly, professionally and it’s easy to access.
11. Create a one-pager info sheet to hand out
When you’re talking to someone and they want to know more about your startup, have this sheet handy– and it should definitely look pretty. Include the top benefits of your product, some photos and a link to your online media kit.
12. Bring your product with you for demos
People are going to want to see what your product can do, in action. If it’s small enough, take it with you and show people how it works, and take some extras to give to the media. Being able to show a functioning product adds trust and credibility to your pitch!
CES is its own animal, and I encourage you to take advantage of everything possible while you’re out there because you won’t get another chance to make so many connections and meet so many great people until next year.
Feel free to let me know if you have any questions that I can help answer about CES, and I’d love to hear if you have any additional tips you’d like to share.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.