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TechnoBuffalo Survival Guide: How-to Get Through the CES Circus

by Brandon Russell | December 26, 2014

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CES is only a few weeks away. The five-day circus happens annually this time of year, bringing together the tech industry’s biggest players to parade around new (and existing) ideas. If you’ve never been—or if you haven’t seen our exhaustive coverage—the week-long event is essentially a lavish high school science fair. We see connected home appliances, curved TVs, and an inordinate amount of mobile accessories. The expo is unlike anything all year—no matter how much you plan, you’re never truly prepared. I can’t believe it’s already here.

While CES isn’t open to the public, I thought I’d talk about the kind of preparation that goes into doing a month’s worth of work over a long, long five days. Maybe you plan on attending in the future, or maybe you are for the first time this year, to which I say: Good luck. From the sidelines, CES looks like tech’s interpretation of Spring Break, a debauchery of products and PR people trying to convince you to buy their stuff.

In reality, it’s a nightmare; it’s what I imagine the apocalypse will be like: a horde of people with bloodshot eyes aimlessly ambling down the convention center’s dull carpets. If you insist on dragging yourself through the grueling marathon, there are some things you need to know to survive. Next year’s CES will be my third—by industry standards, I’m still a rookie. But if I could go back and tell myself how to prepare, what to bring, etc., here’s what I’d say.

Bring comfy shoes

We walk a lot. A LOT. I’ve never used an activity tracker to see precisely how much walking I do, but I imagine it’s upwards of a few miles per day, probably more. The show floor is absolutely massive, which means your feet will ache no matter what shoes you wear. But don’t, under any circumstances, bring new shoes and expect to get through a full day. I’m not saying wear Crocs—that’s not exactly acceptable business attire. But don’t buy new shoes with the intention of wearing them comfortably throughout the show. That’s a rookie mistake I made my first time attending the show.

Bring a camera

Bring a camera? Duh. CES is a barrage of aural and visual stimulation, all the side effects of illegal narcotics without actually popping pills. You’ll no doubt want to document your experience, because more than likely there will be something worth taking photos of. Weird accessories, enormous speakers, fancy cars. If anything, that large and obnoxious TV would make a good background for a Facebook selfie. We’ve recorded our adventures at the show in years past, and it’s quite the experience indeed.

Be prepared for anything

Plan all you want, write out a detailed itinerary; chances are something will inevitably go awry. It’s how events like this work, and how life works in general. I got swallowed up by the accessory abyss my first year at the show, and struggled with battery life the second. This year, I have ample battery packs, and I even purchased a compass to ensure I don’t get lost again while wandering around (kidding). When things get rough and it all falls apart, it just means you’re doing it right. Not everything is in your control, but it definitely helps to bring the tools necessary to make your job easier.

Wash your hands

With thousands of men and women descending onto Sin City, germs get spread around as a matter of course. Even worse is that people are herded into the same convention center, walking around and touching the same products. People will cough on you, sneeze, shout, and worse. The best you can do is wash your hands—don’t just use hand sanitizer, which studies show doesn’t even work—at every chance you get. Touch a tablet or phone? Go wash your hands before touching your own gear. And once you do type a new article on your laptop, go wash your hands again. You’ll thank me when you’re not in the hospital with the CES Plague. (Hey, that sounds like it was referring to me! – Sean, Editor-in-Chief, who went to the ER at CES 2013 with the plague)

Drink lots of water

Seriously. This isn’t a suggestion, it’s a requirement to survive the parched neon wasteland. Because you’ll be walking everywhere, you’ll need to replenish and revitalize every moment you have free. Trust me. Drinking lots of water will encourage a healthier experience overall. Fewer headaches will make for a more enjoyable trip, and drinking water is the first step toward making it out of Vegas alive. Which brings me to my next point.

Get as much sleep as you can

You won’t just be walking around all day, but meeting with company executives, sitting in meetings and covering announcements. From the moment you’re downstairs at 6 a.m. the first day, you’re working, and because of the sheer amount of news to cover, you probably won’t be in bed until 10 p.m. at the earliest each night. But that’s just the beginning. Oftentimes companies will hold parties at the end of the day for a more casual meet and greet. You’ll constantly be going at 100 miles per hour, which means sleep deprivation is common at CES. That’s why, rather than hitting the Blackjack table at 2 a.m. the first night, my recommendation to you would be to sleep. You’ll thank me as the week wears on when you’re full of energy, unlike everyone else who look like zombies.

Bring backup (cables, chargers, extra phone)

Your phone, computer, smartwatch, respirator will probably run out of batteries, so it’s imperative you bring backup. You’ll likely be indoors the entire time you’re there, which means reception is pretty non-existent. That said, your device(s) will probably run out faster than usual because of the amount of notifications your phone will try to pull in. We already know that phones have pretty awful batteries; compound that with the perils of Vegas, and you’ll have a paperweight in no time. A portable battery is incredibly helpful. And whatever you do, don’t forget your laptop’s charging cable.

Relax

You’ll make mistakes, meetings will get canceled, work will pile up. Whatever you do, stay calm. CES events can be incredibly fun and rewarding, but there are always moments when it all seems like too much. Take it all in stride, communicate, and you should make it to the end no problem. From the outside, the industry can look like all fun and games, when in reality you need to be incredibly dedicated day in and day out. As long as you learn to deal with the pressure, you’ll actually look forward to CES, rather than dreading it.

Hotspot

Given the amount of technology at the show, you’d think Wi-Fi would be readily available. It’s actually more scarce than water in the Sahara. With everyone trying to get on the same access points, things can get clogged up pretty quickly, which is why it’s important to have a backup connection just in case. Networks will get bogged down at the show no matter what you do, but it still helps to have that extra security. Just make sure to share the password with co-workers.

Wrap-up

There’s no perfect way to tackle a show like CES. The annual event isn’t what it used to be, but this year is shaping up to be a big transition for the tech industry. We’ll see more connected home gadgets than ever, and TV screens will only get sharper and more curved. We’re also expecting some big mobile announcements, along with more emphasis on the wearable space. There will be no shortage of stuff to talk about, that’s for sure.

If you aspire to one day join us in the glorious Vegas sun, the commandments above are important rules to live by if you want to make it out alive. I can’t wait to see you all there.


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Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...


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