Exhibiting at CES is a tremendous opportunity for your start-up to meet many investors and get exposure to media. Eureka Park is the specially designated spot for start-ups to strut their stuff without a six-figure budget.. Here are five things you must know to maximize your time, effort and budget.
1. Preparation and Anticipation Will Help You Avoid Disaster
* Las Vegas was masterfully designed to make you slow down and spend money, which is murder on your CES schedule. Plan for bad traffic and lengthy walks.
* Your booth measures 10 feet by 10 feet. Plot this space in your office or garage weeks or months before and create the space there. You should plan to arrive a few days before CES starts to get your booth set up.
* Use materials that can be shipped or brought in a checked bag, and send the files for your printed material ahead of time to the FedEx Office right inside the Palazzo.
* If you need televisions for a digital display, reserve them at Rent-A-Center and pick them up the first day you get there. This will be a significant cost-saver.
* There’s a limited supply of internet in most places during the event. This year the Wi-Fi was not available until the first day of the show, which meant that we couldn’t test out the video feeds that we planned to play at our booth. You’ll have an internet hardline, but keep in mind that many laptops don’t come with Ethernet ports these days. (Ours didn’t.) Do what you can to avoid relying heavily on internet access at your exhibit.
2. Take the Initiative When Getting Media Attention
* You will be given an attending media list on your CES dashboard. Use it to identify media outlets that would be interested in your product. Send them a friendly email letting them know you’ll be at CES in Eureka Park and provide your booth number. Briefly explain what your company does and why it should be of interest to their readers. Many journalists prepare for the event by keeping a schedule of who to visit and when.
* Despite this planning, expect to have reporters showing up with camera crews asking you for an interview. This is your time to shine, so be prepared, be likeable, speak concisely and try not to be visibly hungover.
* Our public relations person made contact with many journalists leading up to the event this year, which at one point put me at times in back-to-back on-camera interviews, followed by an interview over coffee outside of the showroom. This coverage is terrific for your company, and it also gives you video content to share through your networks.
3. Your Booth Should Slow People Down and Grab Their Attention
* If you have a tangible product to show off, place it close to the front. You want those who are passing by to feel like they’re inside your booth for that moment. Plaster the rest of your booth with large images and vibrant colors. Colors go a long way in an otherwise gray showroom.
* My product, Videotape, is a mobile app, but people talking about something on a phone doesn’t cause anyone to slow down. So, we constructed a green screen studio with bright studio lighting and a camera. We filmed people making funny videos and had them download our app to share them. Sure, the idea was fun, but the most value we saw from this setup was that the bright lights on that green screen caused everyone to look and be instantly curious. The rest is just a pitch and a demo.
4. Talk Talk Talk!
* Capture the passing attendees in your tractor beam and draw them into the sights and sounds of your booth. It may seem unnatural, but it’s not bad form to go straight into a pitch. It shows you respect their time. It’s not the time to be cool, understated or coy. Because of CES’s restriction on attendance by the general public, most people who walk by are there for business.
* CES sells a service that allows you to scan badges with a smartphone to rapidly build a contacts list. This is the most effective way to get as many names and emails as possible, but it’s not my style. Call me old fashioned, but I like swapping business cards. After each one I received, I scribbled notes about each person, including what their interests were and what we talked about. When I followed up after CES, I was able to recall each person with context and deliver a more personal note.
* Initially, I had planned to take some time to cruise the floor and see who was exhibiting. I wound up staying at my booth for three eight-hour days with no breaks, because it seemed like each hour I had made more and more connections who could play a part in Videotape’s success.
5. Have a Big Presence
* Ten badges are included with your booth. Use them! Bring a group of people who already love and support your company and deploy them around CES. If they’re not available, you can easily hire professional promotional people.
* Dress them in branded t-shirts and hats and give them stacks of cards to hand out with your booth number and product information.
* It is difficult to make a splash at such a large event, but you certainly have a better chance if you widen your reach by sending out a group of excited people. We brought some friends with us from Austin who are in an improv comedy troupe. They ran around using Videotape to record product reviews and exhibitor interviews. They were hilarious, and people would stop by our booth and say that they had seen our people already.
These tips will help you get the most out of exhibiting at Eureka Park. The success you’ll have won’t come without an equal amount of effort, so be prepared, stay healthy, and make the most of it.
Stephen Callender is a co-founder of Videotape, an interactive video app where users receive video replies and lightweight, fun editing inside the videos they share. It’s free and available on the Apple App Store.