Sure you’ve heard tales from the front lines and even heeded warnings from helpful friends and colleagues. But if you’re one of the thousands of entrepreneurs registered to attend the annual January madness better known as CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas for the first time this year (January 9-12th), it may be difficult to truly envision what lies ahead for you.
How about this: Imagine football field-sized hall upon hall teeming with millions of lanyard-wearing, business casual-clad techies wandering among the thousands of booths and tables vying for attention among the mayhem. Within the masses, loud, colorful displays from the world’s largest brands – think Sony, Samsung, Ford and more – will likely rise above the din, as 87% of exhibitors at CES are Fortune 100 companies. Meanwhile, hundreds of others will cram in signage everywhere the eye can see, from bathroom stalls to coffee cup holders and everything in between.
If you're like most startups, you're not going to have the benefit of a big budget booth on the convention center floor (which can cost upwards of $50K for a 10×10 booth). If you’re a new startup with a tight budget, you might consider a more affordable alternative like Eureka Park – a space dedicated specifically to start-ups, a table at one of the nightly media showcases such as Showstoppers, or even just reserving a suite at one of the hotels adjacent to the convention center.
However, what you can – and should – do at the minimum is make sure the brand you have to show when you do meet anyone there, whether in a booth, at a table or just in passing on the show floor, makes the best impression possible.
Below is a bare-bones, basic checklist to ensure your company’s brand is ready to meet the masses at CES this year.
Not headed to the madness called CES? Most of the below tips apply to just about any major industry tradeshow your company will be attending this year. As we all know, exhibiting or even just attending to network a tradeshow is an expensive exercise, so it only makes sense to maximize your presence by putting your absolute best brand foot forward.
- Consistently branded materials from your logo on down – Make sure you've got a professional, beautiful logo and brand guidelines that can be adapted for every piece of collateral, apparel, and signage you want to create. A custom logo designed to fit a multitude of applications will help your brand stand out, even at an event like CES.
- Update your online presence – Before you're onsite in Vegas, make sure your website is up-to-date (correct and current contact information, press room with recent coverage and press releases, etc.) and most importantly, mobile-responsive. It’s a good idea to ensure your social channels are updated and that someone on-site is monitoring interactions throughout the weekend.
- Table or Booth Signage and Handouts – If you plan to showcase products or samples at your table, consider creating some small signage to direct attendees’ attention to them. Have a beta version of your product for attendees to test? Include that information here. Want to offer attendees a promo code? Invest in a professionally designed four-color postcard for media and others to take from your booth so you don’t lose that lead.
- Signage – When it comes to signage, be sure to learn the dimensions you have to work with at the specific table or booth you’ve reserved. It’s likely you’re working with a very small space and will not have a wall to affix a banner to. That means you’ll need to source free-standing banners. Some affordable sources for these: Fast Signs and Displays2go. When creating your signage, resist the urge to squeeze every value proposition for your company in the printable space as you can; your logo and a simple, memorable tagline that’s legible from a distance works best.
- Giveaways – Giveaways are your chance to get creative. Consider what people want and need most at these types of events. It doesn’t have to be super clever – you’ll be best remembered by providing something of value and thinking of the user’s needs first. Think breath mints, tote bags to carry swag, or notepads. Out of time? You can’t go wrong with candy as a draw to your booth.
- Video footage – If you decide to have a video display at your booth, you’ll need something that captures people’s attention and isn’t reliant on audio (since it's likely going to be very loud in the hall). Your video should be able to stand alone via visuals and text. Here’s where you shouldn’t be afraid to get creative – it’s all about finding fresh ways to attract attention to strike up conversations.
- Attire – At a minimum, aim to look professional and stylish. If you can spring for matching, branded tshirts or polo shirts for your booth staff, do so. It will only make the experience with your brand more dialed-in and memorable.
- Digital Media Kit – Put together your digital media kit. You want it to be ready for journalists so they don't have to wait and you don't miss any opportunities. It should include company information, your business card, product specs and information, logos, images, contact information, and anything else you think a journalist might want. It's a smart idea to have all of this available online and to include the link for this press kit on your business card.
- Business Cards – We know, we know… it’s 2017 and we’re still talking about business cards. But at events like CES, this seemingly archaic token from a bygone era can still be the best way to remind new contacts to connect after the event (and then promptly toss your business card in the recycling bin). With this in mind, consider revamping yours before the show, and make sure everyone attending on your company’s behalf has plenty to hand out. Be sure to leave some white space on the card for the recipient to write themselves a note after your meeting – along the lines of “don’t forget to email this person!”
Tying It All Together
CES is a golden opportunity for just about any consumer technology brand, because so many brands in this category have a strong presence there. Make the most of that opportunity by really being prepared for the event. You'll not only get more out of CES, you'll also enjoy the conference that much more.