By Special Contributor: Doug Mohney
As a technology reporter steeped in a couple of decades of trade shows, I begrudgingly made hotel and plane reservations for CES 2018 at the end of June.
“But CES 2018 is still six months away!”, you say. “Aren’t you being a little paranoid?”
Not really. If you want a successful product rollout or media event in Las Vegas, the planning clock is ticking NOW. If you wait until the last minute — and more on what “last” means in a moment — you are asking for a world of headaches and lost opportunities.
Last year, CES logged over 180,000 people in attendance, including nearly 7,500 media. The show adds roughly half the population of New Orleans to the streets of Las Vegas, filling up all major exhibit spaces in the city, including the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) and immediately surrounding hotels, the Sands Convention Center, and the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.
CES is a sea of humanity and chaos, pushing Sin City to overload. It’s easy to get lost in the hype and noise even before Big Auto, Microsoft, Intel, and numerous others start writing checks to amplify their messages to get top line coverage and buzz through web sites, social media, and Ye Olde Print.
Reporters covering CES get bombarded with meeting invitations. Last year, I was getting 18 to 25 email requests a DAY in mid-December. By the end of December, my schedule was full, with four days of meetings including two days of wall-to-wall movement from 7 AM to 9 PM.
Scared yet? Scheduling meetings at CES is especially challenging due to holidays and two days of pre-show media events before the exhibit floors open.
Net-net: If you want face-to-face meetings with media at CES, you have to start pitching early.
Prior to CES opening on Tuesday, January 10, 2018, opportunities and obstacles exist in an array of media events before and during the show. Official CTA blessed media meeting opportunities sponsored by CTA start two days before the CES show floor opens at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, launching at 11 AM on Sunday, January 7 and continuing bright and early at 8 AM on Monday, January 9 throughout the day. (And it’s only mid-August! CTA may choose to add and adjust to that schedule — check their website at http://www.ces.tech for the latest updates).
I’m not saying you should conduct an official press conference event through CTA, but opening up your meeting calendar earlier than the show floor opening is a must. The odds are significantly better you will be able to get quality time with a rested journalist, rather than dealing with one rushing from point A to point B during exhibit hall time trying to take as many meetings as possible.
Time and cost-effective ways to meet journalists exist by taking advantage of one of the media-specific events taking place before and at the beginning of CES. The official CTA media tabletop event, CES Unveiled, takes place at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center two days before the show opens. Attendance runs to a thousand or so media reviewing a couple hundred exhibitors side-by-side in 10×10 booth space put into a large ballroom.
Independent media events, such Digital Experience and ShowStoppers, have several hundred exhibitors on one or more tables and get over a thousand journalists in attendance. Digital Experience typically takes place at the Mirage the evening before CES opens while ShowStoppers traditionally happens at the Wynn the first evening of the show.
By the time the show floor opens, many journalists have had one or two full days of press events already. It’s easy to understand why the odds of scheduling a press meeting go down each day of the event. The best way to get the most effective media opportunities and exposure at CES is to start planning now on where and when you’ll meet with people.
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Doug Mohney has clocked over two decades in the tech arena, working in and writing about the Internet, telecommunications, data centers, satellites and the Internet of Things (IoT). You can follow him on Twitter.