Ugh, CES

Like the rest of the blogosphere, I am headed to CES tomorrow. Twitter (follow me @jaygoldberg) and my RSS feeds are filled with CES stories and an endless sea of regurgitated press releases. I was tempted to just avoid writing about it altogether, But the other day, in a state of New Year’s resolution denial I Tweeted that I liked MG Siegler’s idea of writing 500 words a day.

It’s a notion I have been toying with since I read an old interview with Graham Greene years ago. He started every day by writing several thousand words, but he had the advantage of having fewer family commitments to contend with (no 7-year olds to trundle off to school) and could also begin the day with a fifth of gin. In that light, 500 words seemed reasonable. 

So anyway, here I am, with a new year and the need to 500 words to cover.

Tomorrow, I will have something more substantive to cover from the show floor. For the moment, I thought I would lay out (rant) my view of the show and share my strategy (chaos management) for attending CES.

Several people have pinged me in recent weeks asking about whether or not it is worth attending CES. In general, my answer is ‘no’. The problem with CES is that it is: 1) too big; and 2) too inefficient. CES covers so much industry territory that the people I want to meet with are usually not there. I tend to meet with mobile teams, and they do not generally attend CES. And C-Level execs usually fly in just for a day, so do not have time to meet.  But it is also hard to get around. I will be at CES for two days and have 12 meetings scheduled including dinner/drinks. By contrast, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona I can do 70-80 meetings in four days. I have to budget an hour between meetings at CES be certain I can stay on schedule.

Also, the show is so close to California, that most of the people I meet there, I can see more easily closer to home. 

The best way to cope with CES is to avoid leaving the building. On Tuesday, I plan to spend the whole day at the Convention Center, on Wednesday, I am spending the whole day at the Venetian/Wynn. That way I can avoid 45 minute cab lines. 

The other key strategy is to recognize your limits. If you want to hear all of the news coming out of the show, do not go to the show. Stay at home and read the press releases and the blogs. There is so much news (and it started last week) that there is no way to stay on top of it while walking the show floor.  Every year, people ask me “what was the big theme of the show?”, and I never have an answer. I do not think there is any way to walk the entire floor in four days, it is just too big, and there are always seems to be one more hall to that I never noticed before. The convention center is just half the show. The Hilton has several halls, and the Venetian has even more. Then there are the hotel rooms in the Hilton and the Venetian. So there is no way to get a big picture of everything.

Instead, I suggest you just pick one or two areas to focus on. For me this year, I want to catch up with as many Chinese handset OEMs as I can. This should not be that surprising given my last post. (I am also working on an interesting side project which may involve one of them….)  I have noticed a steady increase in their presence at CES over the last few years. Five years ago, it was just a handful of exhibitors in the back of the South Hall next to the other ‘miscellaneous’ vendors of juice mixers and phone accessories. That presence has grown as all the big Tier 1 names started coming, and the second tier and ODMs took over a hall at the Hilton. Last year, I discovered an entire two-hall complex at the Venetian filled with them. I remember finding them on the last day, just as I thought I was ready to leave, there they were. Disheartening, and another two hours of walking. 

And as always, I recommend picking a point at which you stop working and start enjoying. As much as the show is a drag, if you like gadgets (and if you are reading this, face it, you are one of us) there can be some fun things to see at the show. Avoid the big halls, go to the back corners and explore. My personal favorite is the high-end audio systems. I never understood why someone would spend $100,000 on a stereo system until I found these demos. For me, this is one of the best ways to unwind after a long day at the show. Sit down in a comfortable chair and listen to some very loud, very clear classical music.

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