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CES: Your giant tech show orgy survival guide

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

CES 2014

CES gesture controls at PrimeSense What will be hot in consumer electronics and computing in 2014? Read our full coverage of International CES 2014 to find out.

The orgy of technology known as the 2014 International CES is about to get under way. As a veteran of many trade events in Las Vegas, I’ve picked up a lot of tips for getting by at one of the world’s largest tech tradeshows. I’ve also asked around for pointers and assembled them all here for you.

It’s going to be overcrowded, with 150,000 or so attendees checking out 3,300 booths across 1.9 million square feet of exhibit space. The press days take place on Sunday and Monday, but by Monday evening, the show attendees arrive in force, and everything becomes crowded. (The CES show floor officially opens at 10 a.m. Pacific time Tuesday). When that many people get together, Murphy’s Law rules. First-time Vegas goers should watch The Hangover for a hint of the things that can and will go wrong in Sin City.

VentureBeat Devindra Hardawar, Jolie O’Dell, and Tom Cheredar join me in reporting live from the event. On top of that, we’ll have a crew of offsite writers looking for goodies to write about, too. For the sake of comparison, here’s my tips from last year.

The crowd at CES 2013.

Above: The crowd at CES 2013.

Image Credit: Devindra Hardawar

1. Take comfortable shoes. My twist on this is to take old shoes. Given a choice between looking good or feeling comfortable or trying to break in new shoes that are supposed to be comfortable, I’ll take the comfort. It’s not unusual to walk something like 5 to 8 miles a day across the vast convention floor. Last year, I clocked about 31 miles on my step counter over five days. That’s something like 14 hours a day on my feet. I’m glad I didn’t get a blister from bad shoes.

2. Bring your meds. Ibuprofen is a must for the bone-aching sores you get at the end of the day. The air is dry in the desert, too, so try to get nab a humidifier from the hotel for your room. Take lip balm, hand sanitizer, and vitamins. If you run into Jolie O’Dell, she will gladly supply you with some of this from her emergency kit.

3. Love your batteries. My iPhone always dies on me, so I’ve got a Lenmar battery-charging case. Even then, I’ll try to kill as many apps as I can and turn it off for a fair amount of the time just to be able to make it through the day. Bring a surge protector with multiple outlets so you can use it in the one room where everyone has taken the outlets already. It will make you friends.

My old backpack.

Above: My old backpack.

Image Credit: Tyler Osburn, CJR

4. Have a backup for everything. I carry multiple laptops, batteries, audio recorders, cameras, and just about anything else I can. During all of the shows I’ve been to, I’ve lost something really important or lost power when I really need it. Don’t expect to be able to get on Wi-Fi, or even a Mi-Fi, during a big event like a keynote speech. I don’t pack as crazy as I used to, as there’s a trade-off if you have too much to carry.

5. Stop at a grocery store. Buy some water, fruit, and snacks. Use these for energy restoration when you’re on the run.

6. Get some sleep. Vegas will always be there.

7. Have some fun. Check the Karennet CES Party List for things to do, or just to find out the parties you can’t get into. I suggest first-time press to attend the Showstoppers, Pepcom, and CES Unveiled parties just to see a lot of things at once. But you have to have an invitation.

8. Be prepared to miss appointments. Count on delays in getting to places on the convention floor. Sometimes you’re late. Sometimes your counterpart is late. It pays to have the person’s cellphone number, since you can arrive at a big booth and not know where to find your appointment within it. Build in walking time and delays when you’re changing venues.

9. Focus on what’s important to you, and then do about half of it. Think about what you’ve seen and figure out the trends. When you run into other people, ask them what they’ve seen that was really cool.

10. Escaping the convention center can be tough. Catch a bus if you can. Ride the monorail if it’s near your hotel. But the cab line at the end of the day is usually horrible, whether you’re at the convention center or the LVH hotel nearby. Putting a car into valet parking can also put you in jeopardy for a long line on the way out.

Read on for tips 11 through 28, including Dean Takahashi’s secret weapon.

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