I survived another Consumer Electronics Show. I believe this is my 20th time at the biggest tech trade show in North America. After five days in Las Vegas, I’m tired but not sick. I’m still writing stories from all of the events and booths I saw at the event, which drew more than 170,000 people to view 3,800 exhibitors across more than 2.47 million square feet of space.
But I’d like to take a moment in this post to explain the small arsenal of gear that I used to survive the show. I’m also open to ideas on how I can do it better in the future. So please supply me with your feedback.
I’ve written 69 stories about CES, during the event and in a period leading up to it. But sometimes there’s a story behind the stories. Did you ever wonder what it takes to bring readers the best coverage possible at a massive event full of 6,000 other tech writers? That’s what I’m here to tell.
Parachuting into Vegas
Our team (four writers, a freelancer, and a surprise guest writer) prepared early. So early, in fact, that I booked my arrival for Sunday instead of Monday. The show was pushed back a day this year, and I decided to come in early. That was a lucky decision, as storms and fog hit Las Vegas on Monday, resulting in a lot of canceled flights.
I brought two bags with me, a backpack and a shoulder bag. I also brought my roller cart, but those were banned this year. I kept the shoulder bag as light as possible, and left the backpack and roller cart in the trunk of my car. I finished off some stories on Monday morning and made my way to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. I drove to self-parking with my colleague, Stephen Kleckner, who was at his first CES. I logged exactly where I parked by dropping a pin on my Apple Maps location. I also wrote it down in my notes. I’ve had to search for rental cars in multi-story garages before, and that’s not fun.
We walked a quarter-mile to the convention center and got our badges. Mine wasn’t actually ready. But I was verified soon enough, and they stuck a green “security approved” sticker on my bag. That was the first time since 9/11 that I had my bag searched at CES.
I went to the press room, huddled with my colleagues, and then went on to three events. The first two were talks about CES trends and global tech forecasts. The third was the annual CES Unveiled party, where the press could gorge on food and ogle tables of new tech products. My Dell XPS 13-inch laptop survived that challenge easily, as I never had to break out the spare Toshiba Satellite laptop. I rolled my roller bag around at that event and eventually just hid it under a table. I took pictures with my Nikon Coolpix p610 point-and-shoot camera, and I took occasional pictures with my iPhone 6 and shared them to Facebook and Twitter. I went on to Nvidia’s press conference.
That’s where I had my first trouble, as I couldn’t get on the Internet on the hotel Wi-Fi or on my T-Mobile Mi-Fi modem. T-Mobile, by the way, has pretty bad reception just about anywhere I go, at least compared to Verizon. I’m thinking about switching back if Verizon ever gets its data plan together. Our content management system was slow, and it took forever to post. I had to write offline in Notepad and then post when I could. I was only able to post by moving to the back of the room, where the Wi-Fi worked. Overall, the first day was a breeze.
The second day was the Day of Days for a tech writer. (Yes, that’s my reference to the D-Day episode in Band of Brothers). It’s the press conference day when 6,000 journalists descend upon CES. I had to get up at 5:45 a.m. and head over to the Mandalay Bay for a 7:30 a.m. press conference by Ford. My colleagues went to the FitBit press event at the same time. That was the beginning of a nonstop day that would last until 10:30 p.m.
The Ford event lasted for a half hour. I wrote two posts during the middle of it and moved on to the 8 a.m. LG press event. It was crowded, so I didn’t get a great seat. But I was able to knock out a few stories, even while my colleagues watched on livestreams. During the day, my off-site colleagues helped by capturing screen shots during the livestreams, so I wouldn’t have to post images at times when the Wi-Fi was bogged down.
I made my way to the Panasonic event, the Qualcomm press conference, and a Ford interview. During all of these events, I had my trusty Sony IC Recorder, the ICD-UX533, a voice recorder that captures sound with pretty good quality. As a backup, I had my old Olympus WS-311M recorder. I didn’t have to change batteries for the Sony recorder during the entire length of CES. At lunch, I went to Johnny Rockets to fuel up, but they lost my order. They eventually gave me my food for free, but it made me late for the Qualcomm press event.
In between events, my colleague Harrison Weber and I listened to a Google Hangouts staff meeting call on his Mac, as I couldn’t get it to work on my machines. Then all five of us went into the Samsung press event. Surprisingly, we had good Internet connections with the Mandalay Bay conference center’s Wi-Fi. So we wrote our hearts out. If you notice that we did more stories on Samsung that day than at other press events, it is because we had good Internet access, not because we were all Samsung fanboys and fangirls.
As soon as Samsung was over, I had to rush to the Sony event at the Las Vegas convention center. During that ride, my colleagues noticed their phones were getting low on battery. Mine was fine, as I had a Mophie case that charged my iPhone 6. The Mophie case, as well as a separate Zendure charging battery pack, turned out to be lifesavers during CES. Not once did I run out of phone juice.