CES – the most influential global consumer technology event – will be back in (half) swing this year, testing an in-person and digital experience model after last year’s fully virtual event (aka the first time in 23 years I didn’t spend the first week of the New Year in Las Vegas). While January 2022 may not feel as isolating as 2021, we are still facing the prospect of navigating this “new normal.” And it will certainly feel different to those attending, exhibiting and reporting from the show.
For brand marketers, navigating a blended world at CES could be tricky, but it could also prove beneficial. This year, we can no longer depend on the days of journalists or prospects guaranteed to swing by the booth to say hello. Now, a swing by could come in the form of a virtual meeting.
From securing set meeting spaces to preplanning your hybrid schedule, it’s essential to get your calendar set before you board those likely packed planes and brave the potential taxi lines. Working in this industry and attending events for many years, I look back at the last two years (well almost) as one of relearning, innovation and flexibility. With this in mind, here are some tips on how brand marketers can prepare for and get the most out of CES 2022:
1. Do your homework: Review all attendee lists, onsite floorplans and the sponsorship webpage as soon as possible to understand who will be onsite so that you can make the most of your time. Don’t forget to set chunks of time to interact with those who are visiting CES virtually as well. Set your schedule of who you want to meet with in-person (and when) well in advance, because this may be the one year you can actually make it to all your appointments and meetings.
2. Scope out the premises: Be innovative in your suggestions of where to meet. For onsite engagement, think about more airy and less crowded locations where everyone can feel safe and comfortable. But also keep in mind that the people you’re meeting with in-person may want others joining virtually, so you don’t want a noisy space. For all-virtual meetings, you’ll need somewhere quiet. Does your brand need additional conference rooms or meeting spaces this year? Are there quiet restaurants or coffee shops that are convenient? Again, advance planning is going to be key to success.
3. Get ahead of the event rush: Consider organizing or attending offsite events just prior to the show’s opening. This will give you access to attendees before the Day One rush. If you design/attend the right type of event, including both in-person and virtual attendees, you are more likely to get your product ahead of the buzz and coverage of the show in general. Remember, most people arrive a day early, but rarely stay late.
4. Focus on benefits (not just widgets): By focusing on the narrative of how your product/solution actually improves a consumer’s life over just the features and functions of your new widgets, you will be able to tell a more robust and significant story for today’s world. Find a way to showcase your company offerings in a way that meets the many challenges consumers are dealing with today.
5. Rely on outside sources to spread the word: Engage with industry influencers to have conversations on the benefits of your product…and have them on standby for virtual meetings. It’s critical that media and prospects hear from third-party experts, not just your brand. Also, consider issuing a pre-CES news announcement to stakeholders that includes a point of view from these influencers. That’s never a bad way to entice engagement.
6. Leverage the benefits of hybrid: One of the biggest headaches of CES has always been the crowds, taxi lines and waiting. While those may or may not appear in January, you need to be planning that they will. Build in flexibility to your in-person meeting schedule. Leave open spots to accommodate people who are running late or have to rebook for a later time slot. This is also where you can leverage virtual technology. If one of your most important contacts misses the live product reveal, make certain your event is recorded so they can view it on demand. How much content can you pre-record with your executives, influencers and others so that media and prospects can experience all that’s great about your brand in whatever setting they choose?
As Chief Client Officer & Senior Partner at Peppercomm, Maggie O’Neill provides agency-wide communications and brand experience support to the agency’s expanding portfolio of clients. From Fortune 500 companies to start-up technology brands, she specializes in crafting compelling brand stories that reach target audiences at critical points in their path to engagement. She has worked with brands such as MINI, Whirlpool, Sharp, Darden Restaurants, Tyco and Capital One.