As “the most influential tech event in the world,” CES brings hundreds of exhibitors to Las Vegas every January to showcase the latest and greatest in tech innovation to tens of thousands of global attendees.
Airfoil has created and implemented CES PR strategies for countless clients over the last 20+ years – including last month when I was on-site in Vegas supporting our client Unistellar. After walking the show floor for several days and speaking to countless reporters, I wanted to share some observations to help brands maximize their impact at CES.
Cut through the noise by defining what makes your product stand out
At CES, you’re competing with some of the world’s biggest brands – and you need to find ways to stand out.
This is especially true for visionary mid-market companies hoping to make a splash and secure media coverage around their products.
I asked numerous reporters on the show floor what they were looking to cover, and the response was always the same: “We’re just looking for cool tech.” That gave me a 15-20 second opening to explain why my client’s tech was “cool” and convince them to stop by our booth.
Exhibitors need to understand well before CES what makes their product different or unique, where it beats out the competition, and why people would use or buy it. Get those thoughts down on paper.
Then edit, revise, and make it as concise as possible. Figure out how you can get those messages across as succinctly as possible, and then arm your team with those key messages so they can learn them ahead of the event.
Make the most of your booth space (well, almost the most)
Those picture-perfect booths that stop attendees in their tracks on the CES floor take months to a year to dream up – so plan ahead!
I found the best, most inviting booths were well-lit with open-concept layouts. The least inviting ones had loud visuals (there is such a thing as too much yellow) and boxed-in layouts (hello, claustrophobia).
Make your space easy to spot with highly visible signage. Some CES pros even opt to hang signage from the rafters, making them identifiable even from impressive distances.
Most important is what’s happening within your booth. I noticed several teams failing to do their presence justice because their focus was elsewhere. No one’s going to attempt to engage four people hunched over their phones, so make sure to round up an enthusiastic group of staffers who aren’t afraid to initiate discussions about why your offering is worth attendees’ attention.
As far as demos go, keep user experience top of mind. Creating a great user experience can go a long way to improve brand perception with attendees. And this goes beyond tee shirts and tchotchkes. Think about how you can foster the best user experience possible to highlight all your product has to offer to attendees.
For instance, being indoors can have its limitations, so get creative. Since you can’t drive a car on the showroom floor (for obvious reasons), American Axle created a simulation of its electric drive technology at its booth. The simulator had two experiences: one where attendees could drive a Jaguar I-PACE equipped with the company’s electric drive units to see the efficiency gains, and another performing a towing test with the company’s prototype battery-electric truck.
This type of creative thinking gives attendees a cool and unique experience while also allowing them to see the power and value of the company’s products.
Getting media coverage for your brand at CES
Start drawing up the blueprint for your media strategy about three months ahead of the event, and begin engaging with key media targets around six weeks in advance.
Consider releasing news to key media contacts under embargo. Many journalists are looking to get as many ducks in a row as possible before they’re in the thick of it on the convention floor. Also, think about who will be at the event and available as spokespeople. If C-Suite executives who rarely talk to media will be present, consider how you may be able to leverage their presence for Tier 1 or national media engagement.
Keep in mind reporters may be open to off-site product demos or experiences. In fact, I talked to one reporter who was flown out to the middle of the desert to test a satellite phone during the event! It may sound extreme, but it allowed him to get the full product experience in a real-world setting.
Another vital part of your pre-convention strategy is submitting for awards. CES designates a section of the show floor for award-winning products and highlights them on its website. Earning a spot in either of these prestigious spots helps brands cut through the noise.
Make social media a central component of your CES strategy
In addition to upping your media relations game and establishing a strong presence on the convention floor, documenting your company’s attendance on your social channels will serve to expand your reach further and help your product make an even bigger splash. Consider the following points for maintaining a robust social media presence:
Be active during the event
Don’t neglect your social platforms at the most important hour. While building up and reflecting on the event across platforms is important, it’s crucial you remain an active presence on audience feeds while the show is actively going on.
Features like Instagram stories are easy to update casually and on the move, and remember that candid photos of people do more to stop a scroll than most elaborately planned graphics. Your content from the show floor doesn’t have to be extravagant, it just has to be.
Consistency is key
What’s happening on your social channels should echo what’s happening at your booth. Ensure your branding is consistent across all fronts so that if attendees spot you online first, they’ll know who they’re looking for at the show.
Designate content gathering to a specific team member
Those staffing your booth are going to be too preoccupied with engaging media and other attendees on the floor to remember to whip their phones out and accumulate content for social media.
Instead of setting any unrealistic collective expectations for gathering content, assign one team member the task of capturing content. The quality of the results will reflect your intentionality in this regard, and you can ensure your onsite engagements aren’t sacrificed in the efforts to gain engagement online.
Don’t go it alone
Anyone expecting to automatically generate media attention upon arriving at a tradeshow like CES is in for a rude awakening, no matter how innovative their product is. Don’t let it get that far – prioritize engaging a PR partner who knows and understands the ins and outs of CES and how to navigate the nuances of the show for maximum brand exposure.
If you’re looking for an experienced media relations partner to help your company cut through the noise and take your tradeshow attendance to new heights, Airfoil is here for you – give us a shout today.