5 things startups should know before exhibiting at CES

CES, the conference formerly known as “the Consumer Electronics Show”, has been the playground of technology enthusiasts for 50+ years. Calling it a “really big show” is an understatement. It is the BIGGEST consumer electronics show in the world, attracting thousands of international companies to launch their newest and coolest products– attracting ~180,000 people to Las Vegas, all within a four-day period.pvtplusces

Our experience at CES was extremely positive. We’ve scribed a few things that went very well for us and hope that other startups will benefit from our knowledge.

#1: Preparation is key.

EyeQue began planning our participation at CES 2017 about 8 months prior. After receiving the innovations award, we were more motivated than ever to make our debut a remarkable experience, for both visitors and staff. From booth design to free goodies, we had many ideas, big and small: How big should our booth be? What giveaways will be more meaningful to our visitors? What should our backdrop look like and what messages should we convey? One giant flat screen or two? The possibilities were endless. Stick with your budget! We even built a cardboard mock up of the booth to scale to better visualize the décor and experience.

#2: Think from a visitor’s perspective.

We decided early on to create a relaxing experience for visitors who walk long miles and are probably tired of seeing rows upon rows of ultra-modern shiny gadgets. After months of discussion and plenty of imagination, we were extremely pleased to see our completed booth–  a beautiful outdoor theme with blue sky, sunshine and a field of poppies, the opposite of what visitors were experiencing. We invested in triple-padded cushy Astroturf flooring, and pure white furniture, all cues pointing to a Zen-like experience in a hall of chaos.

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The goodies we handed out were hand-picked for their association to our brand and what we do, but also kept in mind what a visitor would enjoy. Eye candy, aka mints with our EyeQue logo printed on the wrapper, were a big hit.

CES-giveaways.jpgPeople wanted to grab them by the handful to get them through the day. Our eyeglass lens clothes, (cleans your lenses, for those who do not wear glasses), was another very popular item at the show. Visitors were absolutely delighted, noting that they “could always use one” on hand. As we try to standout in a sea of free giveaways, the most expensive ones may not alway
s be the one people appreciate the most and keep the longest.

#3: Show and tell is better than a thousand words.

In the middle of our 10×20 exhibit space was a large demo table, adorned with shiny Android, iPhones, and EyeQue miniscopes. Armed with smiles and enthusiasm, our staff at the event greeted each visitor and assisted as they took demo vision tests, right in our booth. Each demo took about 5 minutes to administer and each visitor had the VIP treatment, with a personal EyeQue staff instructor to answer questions. With clear and straightforward directions, nearly everyone received estimates of their eyesight, despite the hustling bustling show floor environment. People were audibly impressed by the accuracy and left in awe with how far technology has come.


#4: Take care of your staff.

This one is a no-brainer, but probably the most important thing to keep in mind. Since the hours are long and exhausting, minding the details will help keep your booth staff in their best shape possible. We made sure that we had ample bottles of water at the booth and frequently reminded each other to stay hydrated. We brought lunch to the booth so no one had to wait in line while they took their break. We had early dinners to make sure the team had enough time to enjoy themselves and get enough sleep. This all comes down to better booth performance and more engaged people. When your staff is happy and rested, they are smiling, talkative, and will make the best connections with those visitors and potential business partners.

Bonus: We splurged for the CTA membership and were pleased to find this perk. CTA hosted a a private members-only lounge close to our booth that was stocked with coffee, snacks, and fruit. It provided a perfect morning meeting spot and quiet break area. There were also private meeting rooms for important on-the-spot conversations, which we took advantage of for some pre-scheduled meetings that outgrew our booth space.

#5: CES is not a four day event.

We began planning nearly a year in advance and the holidays were merely blips between the accelerated CES pre-show prep schedule. We attended the CES Unveiled event two days prior to the official show opening to pre-view our product and celebrate our Best of Innovations award among the press and media. We set up our booth and gathered supplies for the week and then headed into the whirlwind of show floor hours and pre-scheduled and ad-hoc business meetings. We packed up, shipped out and flew home, but CES did not end there.

We have hundreds of leads to follow up on. From press and media, buyers and distributors, manufacturing reps, investors and fellow innovators, we’ve had to quickly shift into card sorting and follow up strategy, while nursing the eminent CES colds. The flow of traffic to our website and post-CES media coverage has been steady and reminds us, for anyone justifying their tradeshow budget, CES is an investment that stretches far beyond the tradeshow floor.