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How industry vets tackle CES

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Keep up to date with Digiday’s annual coverage of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. More from the series →

Plunge into CES with our straight-shooting veteran’s guide. Newbie or seasoned pro, we’ve distilled the essentials to turbocharge your journey. Navigate the chaos with top-notch travel hacks, slice through the crowds with insider strategies, and hit the floor in style with smart fashion tips from seasoned attendees.

Plan ahead

InfoSum’s chief operating officer Lauren Wetzel said its important to make a plan and stick to it. Rid your mind of FOMO, because at the end of the day, it’s not about what parties you go to, it’s about progressing business goals, Wetzel continued. Resist the urge to get another drink and instead focus on what you want to accomplish, who you need to meet, and where you need to be to make it happen. Remember, you must have critical objectives going in if you are going to have key results going out, she added.

CES veteran since 2005, Todd Cochrane, CEO of Blubrry, knows the drill: Prep is key. Dive into the site guide, pick your must-see exhibitors, and strategize your visit. Big fish? Catch them in the quieter last days. Cochrane’s routine? Up at 6 a.m., first meeting by 8, wrapping up around 9 p.m., then off to after-hours parties. Bedtime? Maybe 1 a.m., if lucky. His survival mantra: Hydrate, grab sleep when possible, and brace yourself – it’s a four to five day sprint, not a stroll.

Gloria Kolb, CEO of Elitone, cuts to the chase for CES execs: Hit the basics first. Scope out the showroom with an eagle eye — start with the exhibitor map and zero in on your category. Like-minded booths are often neighbors. And here’s a pro tip: Snap photos of booths that grab your attention. Can’t circle back? No worries. Those pictures are your ticket to follow-up online later. “Be smart, be strategic.”

Steve Bagdasarian, ComScore’s chief commercial officer, knows the game: at CES, like Cannes, clarity is king. Don’t scatter your focus trying to see it all. Instead, zero in on ‘one or two’ major goals to conquer at CES. Stay sharp and avoid the chaos — from robot dogs to startup frenzies in the lobbies. Keep your eyes on the prize and dodge the discombobulation.

The Aria is where the action is at, especially if you’re into media and adtech, said Marisa Nelson, evp of marketing and communications at ad tech vendor Equativ. The lobby bars are hidden gems for bumping into industry folk; helping you to network and make new friends over drinks and food.

Stay hydrated

Beat the desert thirst trap without breaking the bank. Kevin Gentzel, Newsweek’s global chief commercial and growth officer, spills a hydration hack: Skip the $10 casino water robbery. Instead, hit the convenience store next to the Cosmopolitan. Snag a crate of water on check-in, save big, and stay hydrated like a pro

Pack comfy sneakers

At CES, comfort is king — especially for your feet. Kevin Gentzel knows the drill: long days on the go call for one thing — sneakers. Ditch the formal footwear; when it’s go-time at CES, it’s sneakers that rule the floor.

Pay attention to shortcuts

Jaan Janes, vp of publisher partnership at PubMatic, has a hot tip for CES rookies: master the shortcuts. Skip the long detours — use the staircase by the Vdara to zip between Aria and Cosmopolitan. Forget the Strip’s walkway maze; this insider route is your fast track to getting around. 

Don’t peak too soon

Marla Newman, evp of sales at Raptive, drops a CES truth bomb: don’t jam-pack your schedule. From dawn till dusk, back-to-back meetings? Big mistake. Navigate smart — like from Aria to Cosmo, it takes time. Build in breathing room for those chance encounters and golden networking moments. Remember, the best connections at CES often happen on the fly.

CES is a whirlwind from touchdown, and it’s easy to catch FOMO, says TripleLife’s CMO Jordan Bitterman. His key to conquering CES is straightforward: Leave breathing room in your schedule. The magic happens in those spare moments post-meetings or during random hallway run-ins. This approach is crucial for two reasons: First, in our zoom-dominated world, rare face-to-face connections are gold. Don’t rush – savor these encounters. Second, innovation doesn’t clock-watch. Case in point: the NewFronts concept was born from a casual CES chat I had years ago. Don’t cram your day. Allow space for those spontaneous, brainwave-sparking moments.”

Get the apps

Maggie O’Neill, chief client officer at Peppercomm, knows the Vegas Strip can be a maze, even for the coolest ad execs. Her secret weapon is apps. Think of them as your CES cheat codes for every challenge. The CES App is a goldmine, she said, but don’t overlook lifesavers like Uber, Lyft, and OpenTable. When taxis and tables are scarce, these apps are your fast track to smooth sailing.

Don’t forget the follow-up

Once the madness of CES is over, don’t be that person who forgets to follow up, said Equativ’s Nelson.Shoot a message to those you met while the memory is still fresh and cement those relationships quickly.

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