The best way to describe working CES is like watching the Super Bowl as a referee. You’re way too close and too focused on one specific aspect to fully enjoy the event. Also, there’s a lot of running. That said, attending the world’s largest collection of gizmos and gadgets was a literal dream come true, but as with any new experience, it was an education. If CES 2016 is a possible first time destination for you, here a few tips.

  • Have a specific plan. When I say there’s too much to see in 4 days, I mean there’s just way too much. I entered the Tech West hall at the Sands/Venetian on Tuesday the way a five-year-old enters Disneyland. I was sucked through the door with the rest of the crowd and immediately overwhelmed. Because of the height of all the displays, you can only see a few booths away. It’s like walking into a forest of flashy billboards. I had a general plan of what areas and topics I wanted to see and capture, but I would have benefited from a specific booth by booth plan. It’s easy to overlook travel time in your schedule. While taxis were available and the shuttles were on-time and easy to find, the simple volume of people slows everything down. Plan ahead and expect to get distracted and delayed.  
  • Hydration – carry water. Las Vegas is a dry desert, even in winter. (Insert sarcasm). As a Midwesterner, I was not prepared for the thirst that began in my water-deprived flight (Thanks, Spirit Airlines!) and continued for the entire week. Luckily, my hotel supplied me a daily ration of water bottles to take on the floor. I would recommend having Amazon ship a case of water to your hotel. It’s not that you can’t get water (there are vendors in the halls), or even that you’ll pay movie theater prices. It’s the lines. You’ll waste an hour just getting something to drink. Consider bringing a backpack with a hydration reservoir. If you’re like me and acclimate to the cold in the winter, the relative heat and arid air are like a hair dryer to the throat. Keep water handy to stay energized as your traverse the miles of attractions.
  • ABC- Always Be Capturing. This tip is for those attending to capture video or pictures. The sheer volume of gadgets combined with the ebb and flow of the crowds result in endless subjects for video or photos and endless interruptions. To say that the show floor is a rough place to shoot is an understatement. Someone will always walk into your shot. I felt like Frogger with a camera trying to get four seconds of a subject without someone walking into frame. I also found that once back in my hotel, there were things I was sure I saw but failed to capture. It’s easy to see something and forget to stop and take a picture. Bring more SD cards and batteries and record it all! Also, a monopod will not do. A tripod is worth the weight.

I have been following coverage of CES for the last 10 years and have always said it’s my equivalent of the Super Bowl. Like any large scale sporting event, attending in person is a world away from watching from home. When the fatigue and soreness fade, I’ll be left with a mental slideshow of all the stuff I love to learn about. CES was more work than I anticipated, but also more fun. If CES is your Super Bowl, follow these tips and be your own MVP.