2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES)— aka the Super Bowl for nerds. Startups get the chance to demo and present their products, meet influencers in the industry, compete, and try to score the media’s attention. Last year, there were upwards of 175K attendees who gathered near Nevada’s Mojave Desert to network with nearly 4K exhibitors across 2.5 million net square feet.
In Eureka Park (the CES area designated for start-ups), you’ll exhibit alongside hundreds of prototypes and growing businesses looking to network. Several global accelerators and incubators, like HAX, also set up in this area to provide information and guidance to aspiring companies.
Despite an immense media presence at the event, CES is a difficult place to stand out among the masses. It can be challenging to get media coverage for a few reasons. The sheer volume of tech is overwhelming. There are some big, established companies that use CES as a launchpad to unveil their latest – and they grab a lot of attention. Journalists don’t typically want to be tied down with scheduled demos, as they’d prefer to circulate freely and attend the main events. Also, they typically go to cover CES as a whole, not to report on one startup.
Here are just some of the things you need to know before venturing to the Strip for your first show:
- Ensure that you’ve filled out all of the pertinent details of your exhibitor profile on the CES website, including links to your active web properties and contact info. You’d be surprised how many companies leave out this simple but essential information.
- A strong pre-conference social media presence, plus live at the event activity/engagement with strategic use of hashtags can help you get noticed.
- Your booth should clearly indicate what you do. In addition to your company name, include an informative photo or graphic and a short statement on the purpose of your product or company in large print. Aesthetics like good lighting, attractive design, and full cases or pedestals can also help draw in media, investors, and like-minded CEOs.
- The person behind the booth is crucial. Be approachable and open—or if the outgoing nature of sales isn’t your strong suit, find someone on your team that can do it.
- Beyond the media, CES provides an opportunity to start and grow relationships will fellow startups, collaborators, engineers and future campaign backers. Make sure that you have a foolproof method of capturing emails for your mailing list. Email lists are the foundation upon which good crowdfunding campaigns are built, and loyal customers are maintained.
- Pass out and ask for business cards, give away relevant promotional products, and utilize digital materials. Consider sending a digital version of your materials by email in the week following CES to your recently beefed up mailing list. Sending files in this manner lets you collect business intelligence on who’s opened and shared them (plus you’ll save massively on printing costs).
- From daytime keynotes by industry veterans, pitch events, and award presentations, to evening socials, the opportunity to meet wise informers, straggling media, or simply fellow startups looking to brainstorm are endless—and often overwhelming. Check out the extensive CES event calendar and plan out the schmoozing that’s most valuable to your business goals. Don’t forget to consider your energy level and budget (many events come with a hefty price tag), and know that while participation may allow for more fly-by interactions with press, media coverage is never guaranteed.
- If your product is under embargo, use your time on the event floor to book later date, in-depth demos with media who come by your booth. The key is to show only certain elements of your product at CES and save the “wow” moment for the meetings that will eventually occur when you are ready to launch. This is more likely to result in in-depth coverage, rather than grouped-in coverage which is a hallmark of big tech outlets’ output at CES (e.g. being part of a piece on “X cool things we saw at CES on day one”).
- To boost your chances of drawing media in, you want to prove you solve a problem that is actually a problem and have all your media releases and kits finalized. Also make sure you know how to tell your story and answer the core questions:
- What is the news and why should the media care? Be able to clearly state what the product is, what it does, the problem it solves, who it benefits and how it differs from the competition.
- What are you inviting the media to test out, learn, or experience? Are you making a new product announcement or an update to a product you previously showcased? Do you have an exciting new case to present?
- Who are the core spokespeople? Have a solid backstory of the founders’ background, reason for creating the product, and your personal connection to it.
Our CES Experience
On having realistic expectations…
Our client Revols, a Montreal based startup that makes custom fit Bluetooth earphones that mold to users’ ears in 60 seconds, chose to end their 60 day campaign while at CES last year. Despite raising a hot $2.5 million, getting over 150 global media hits, and receiving significant interest from investors, potential partners and retailers, their experience was there wasn’t as much media presence in Eureka Park as they anticipated.
On breaking through the white noise…
Nua Robotics attended CES 2016 with an early prototype of their smart suitcase that follows a user around hands free. As their agency, we were tasked with generating media coverage to support them at the event, but we knew the show would be a zoo with potential for our client to get lost in the shuffle. We booked demos meetings with big outlets before CES began. Mashable shot video and published one day ahead of the show. Because of the outlet’s klout and ability to influence global conversation (not to mention the freaky Jetson-esque nature of the product), the piece spurred a ton of additional media interest while at CES. Note: this strategy only works with very freaky tech.
On CES 2017…
This year, about a dozen of our past and present clients are exhibiting at CES, at various stages of product readiness. Our client POWERUP (attending CES for the third time), is a great example of a startup that has evolved from newcomer to established brand. This year they’re exhibiting on the heels of a retail launch of their 2015 Kickstarter campaign paper airplane drone with live streaming camera and first person view, now delivering on their promise to backers.
In addition to representing our clients at CES this January, we’re also looking to meet new start-ups. If you’d like to arrange some one on one time to chat with us in Vegas, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.