Plan to Get the Most Out of CES

Without a plan you risk CES being a blur of cool tech and missed opportunities to meet the people you need to know.
Plan to Get the Most Out of CES
Image credit: Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
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Entrepreneur is on the ground at this year's Consumer Electronics Show. Check back for highlights from the event as well as insights from thought leaders and innovators. 

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has become one of the most anticipated events of the year, drawing technology enthusiasts from around the globe. It’s also become one of the most derided. As the conference has grown, it has become unwieldy, to put it mildly. All of the sessions and crowds overwhelm professionals, leaving them unsure how to best use it as a networking opportunity or as an avenue to learn more about whatever field they're in. Some executives have even opted to skip the event altogether in favor of smaller, less formal events where they can enjoy more one-on-one interaction.

Instead of staying at home, though, savvy professionals redirect their approach to CES. With a little planning and effort, you can make lasting connections at this year’s event, just like you can at other, more manageably-sized events. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of CES as it takes over Sin City.

Set appointments

Well in advance of the conference, spend time researching who else is going to be there. This includes reviewing the full schedule and paying close attention to the scheduled presenters. Watch your social media feeds for existing connections discussing the event. Experts recommend using CES as an opportunity to impress contacts you’ve been trying to keep happy or to win over for a while. People sometimes forget, but Las Vegas actually offers some of the best restaurants in the world, so wine and dine your contacts. It’s important to set these appointments and make reservations before you arrive, since many top establishments are fully booked during the days of the conference.

Related: 5 Steps to Secure New Business at CES and Other Big Events

Plan your sessions

With so many sessions and exhibits, it can be tempting to spend the entire conference taking in information. To ensure you get to see all of these things without sacrificing the goal of making or nurturing connections, plan the sessions and exhibits you want to see in advance and carve out a schedule that optimizes your networking time. This site lists most of the parties that will be happening in conjunction with CES. Be sure to mix these events into your time at CES and even when you’re attending sessions, focus on the connections you can make in addition to the information you can learn.

Related: CES Has Become an Innovator's Pre-Crowdfunding Launch Pad

Be bold

CES isn’t the time to be shy. Force yourself to interact with others, introducing yourself at every opportunity. Even the person seated next to you on the plane on the way to the event could be a valuable potential contact. Practice your introduction ahead of time and make sure it properly conveys your message. You likely want to sell your business rather than yourself, so you should have your elevator pitch perfected before you leave.

Related: A Tech Entrepreneur's Insider Tips for Exhibiting at CES

Listen

One of the biggest mistakes you can make at any networking event is spending all of your time talking and no time at all listening. If nobody’s listening, everyone’s networking efforts are wasted. When you let people talk, you learn more about potential business partners who can help you. Also, consider that people are naturally drawn to those who show genuine interest in who they are and what they do. Instead of focusing on your sales pitch, come up with some questions to ask that will get the other person talking. The pressure will then be taken off of you to talk. Once you get to know the person a little and you both feel more comfortable, you can bring up your business. They may even bring it up for you!

Related: Why Many Tech Execs Are Skipping the Consumer Electronics Show

Follow Up

All of those connections you make will be useless if you don’t translate them into a post-CES relationship. In the days after you return home, send a quick email to follow up on your introduction. If you recall specifics of your conversation with a particular contact, mention those in the email, as well. Follow each contact on social media and make a note to follow up again in a few weeks if you don’t get a response. You may not form lasting connections with everyone you meet, but by following up, you’ll likely at least add a few new people to your professional network.

Oh CES. Just the thought of you brings up images of long taxi lines, incredibly crowded showroom floors, and nights with too many parties for any one person to actually attend. It may have gotten too big for its own good, but it does indeed bring prime opportunities for networking with professionals across many industries. Before arriving in Vegas though, it’s important to plan what you’ll do to ensure you get the most out of your attendance. Otherwise, you may find you’ve spent several days learning about tech products with not much benefit to your own business’s growth.