CES is a big investment. How do you make sure you get your money’s worth?
The most important aspect of any successful CES campaign is a surprising, new, useful, and camera-ready consumer tech product.
But even with a great product, CES success requires months of planning, from creating an eye-catching booth to connecting with the reporters who could spread your story far and wide.
CES 2020 is fast approaching, and there’s a lot to get done. Here are 11 ways to prepare for CES.
- Make the decision.
- Put your best foot forward.
- Share what’s NOT at CES.
- Sign up for pre-show events.
- Think like the media.
- Draw a crowd.
- Assemble your team.
- Prepare your materials.
- Nail down logistics.
- Get help.
- Do something no one else is doing.
If your plans are still up in the air, start the process ASAP. Contact CTA to discuss booth options that fit your budget, where companies like yours will exhibit, and what hall is best. Most companies already have booths by now, so the sooner you get the go-ahead, the better.
What technology are you planning to show at CES 2020? The press attends CES for news, and if you have nothing new, playing the media game is all the more difficult. Hopefully your pipeline of new products and features will hit in time for CES. Even then, know that for most media, simply announcing a product isn’t enough. Your story needs an interesting and/or unique angle. “Firsts” are always a good sell.
- Yubico debuted the first Lightning security key for iPhones in 2019, earning coverage in The Verge, ZDNet, and other outlets.
- LG unveiled the world’s first rollable TV, covered in Fast Company, CNET, and more.
- Startup Royole beat Samsung to the punch with the world’s first foldable phone, the FlexPai, revealed at CES a month before Samsung introduced its Galaxy Fold at Mobile World Congress. It caught the attention of TechCrunch, ABC News, and others.
When possible, use numbers to tell your story. A device that’s 10 times faster or costs half as much is more meaningful than one that’s simply “faster” or “less expensive.”
I once heard Walt Mossberg ask a client “What’s not here at CES?” If you have something really special that’s too early for the show floor and public debut, bring it along and try to set up a few high-level media meetings under NDA. You’ll either impress the reporter and have someone who’s interested when you announce the new product, or you’ll get invaluable feedback to consider before it’s unveiled. Either way, you’re also developing deeper relationships with media.
You’ll make the biggest splash if you get on the media’s radar before the show even starts. The pre-show events are media only and give reporters more time to ask questions and try out your product while learning about your company. These are the three pre-show events you’ll want to attend:
- CES Unveiled: January 5, 2020
- Pepcom Digital Experience!: January 6, 2020
- ShowStoppers: January 7, 2020
What makes your story worth telling? If you aren’t showing anything new, try teaming with similar, noncompeting products to offer the media a trend piece. Last year, smart home products and robots were everywhere, and a lot of devices got coverage simply because they fit those trends. Know what’s being covered by major media and figure out where your product fits. What will be on the minds of media at CES? 5G? Gaming and esports? Privacy and security? Dig into the latest reporting, and the reporters, in your space before the show floor opens.
In the battle for attention among CES’s 4,500 exhibitors, we’ve seen companies use everything from celebrity appearances to pizza-flipping chefs to good ol’ product demos to draw the masses to their booth. It’s the last one that will make the biggest difference. If you can attract people to your booth with your product alone, you don’t need any stunts. Know what makes your product unique and attention-grabbing and prepare a demo that plays to the media’s desire for photos and video. Client Movesense did this well in 2019:
You’re going to need:
- A team to run your booth and demo your product
- A PR team with CES experience and established media connections to answer any questions from reporters
- You might also want to bring employees who can speak to potential customers
Ultimately, who goes depends on what you can afford in lodging, airfare, and meals for each person. Once you have this worked out, spend time training your staff. They’ll have to deliver answers even if they’re not the one qualified to deal with that topic. Nothing’s worse than a prospect stepping into a booth and being told, “I’m sorry, there’s nobody here who can talk to you. Maybe you can come back another time.”
Don’t bother with a USB stick or brochure. Just make sure all the information a reporter will need to cover your product is available via a single link that you can send during the show or in follow up after. Include high-res images, pricing, availability, detailed specs, and more. If you’re planning a giveaway, be smart about it and offer something your target audience values. Too many booths give out candy, which only attracts hungry strangers, or pens, which don’t leave much of an impression.
How are you getting your product, booth materials, and people to Las Vegas? Remember, you can’t cart your gear into the exhibit hall on your own — you’re limited to what you can carry. It may work better to have the materials shipped to the site so you don’t have to worry about delivering them yourself. Where are you staying in relation to the convention center and how will you get from point A to point B? Forget the hours-long lines for taxis. Try Lyft or Uber, the shuttle services, or the monorail. Pro tip: Walk to the Westgate monorail stop to skip the end-of-day lines at other stops, especially if you’re in the North Hall. Planning now will save you time, money, and headaches in January.
CES attendance includes a lot of moving parts, and bringing on outside help can put expertise and experience in your corner, especially when time is limited. Find a PR firm (hint, hint) that can set up interviews with top-tier media and win you the exposure you deserve. CES is a big investment, and if media coverage is one of your goals, a good PR team at the ready raises your chances of success.
Find a design company to build out your booth concept. There are two main strategies in booth design:
- Spend as little as possible
- Make your company look much bigger than it is
Both have their merits, but a design company will be able to steer you toward the best options for your budget.
Or do it better. The biggest stories out of CES are what’s different. How will you stand out? Here’s one idea. If you’re a cybersecurity expert, you could offer to walk the floor with a reporter and discuss new devices that could be vulnerable to hackers. The topics of smart home security and autonomous car security are always interesting and in the news, and offer a twist for media on all the new gadget announcements.
There’s a lot to get done, and not much time to do it. CES is a major investment of time and money, and you don’t want to walk away empty-handed. If media coverage is one of your main CES goals, get in touch and let’s talk through your strategy.