CES represents a great opportunity for brands, but for startups, it can also be overwhelming. Here’s how to make the most of your CES attendance.
1. Know Your Reasons for Going
Simply hoping your engagement at CES will be productive and worthwhile isn’t enough. Identify and communicate to your team why your startup will have a presence at CES. If you’re going to drum up new business, identify the types of opportunities and people you will want to meet. If you’re going to brush shoulders with reporters, know which ones will be the most likely to cover you and where they’re going to be. If you’re looking for new business partners, know what kind of criteria they have to meet and identify some of them.
2. Perfect Your “General Audience” Messaging and Your "Advanced Messaging"
Casual booth visitors don’t want a deep-dive into your company, and potential business partners, investors, and large clients want more than the “public” version of your pitch. You need two different messaging paths in order to get what you want out of CES. There will be some overlap and one conversation can quickly turn into the other.
Your “general audience” pitch is a one or two sentence answer to the, “what’s your company about,” question. Follow this question up with a general inquiry into who the other person is and who they’re with. The messaging you give to general audience attendees is the kind of information you would generally tell customers.
Your “advanced messaging” can be more specifically geared to the industry you’re in and your stated company goals. These conversations can lead to potential customers, business partners, and investors. Find out who you’re speaking to and what their interests are. Have additional handouts and information ready for these kinds of opportunities.
3. Send The Right People
Only send people to CES who need to go. Unless your startup has a massive budget and a good reason for having more than 5 people at CES, don’t do it. CES is expensive and it’s better to send a small, strategic team than to send a lot of people who may or may not be properly prepared. Make sure the people you send are able to talk with the right people and represent your brand in a professional way.
4. Know Who You Want to Meet
Meeting the right people at CES requires planning. Research the kinds of companies and people attending CES and identify who you and your startup should meet with. From reporters to CEOs to potential investors, and more, there are a lot of people at CES that you can meet and make connections with. Use your time their wisely. If you book a time to meet with someone, make sure they have your phone number and you have theirs, so you can coordinate if plans change.
5. Reach Out To People Now & Tell Them Where You’ll Be
Once you’ve identified who you’d like to meet, send them a casual email indicating that you’d like to meet with them at CES. Send them an invitation to connect on LinkedIn as well. Keep these emails short and be sure to include your contact information in your signature and a well-written “about” paragraph for your company after your signature. If your startup has a booth, or is sharing a booth, let people you’re reaching out to know.
6. Communicate to Your Customers, Social, and Beyond
Write a short newsletter, blog article, and social media post that invites customers and fans to visit you at CES. Even if they aren’t attending CES, knowing you’re going to CES helps them take your brand more seriously. During and after CES, connect with people you meet on social and especially LinkedIn. Send a followup email a few days after CES.
7. Take Care of and Be Your Best Self
For entrepreneurs working from home, it can be jarring to go from seeing a few people a day to a few thousand. Put your best self forward. Make sure you’re caught up on sleep, staying hydrated, and eating. Don’t do 24 hour CES days if you aren’t used to 24 hour days. Take breaks when you can and don’t burn out. Wear comfortable shoes. Don’t have one too many drinks at the party and do something you later regret. You want people to remember you as a professional who knows what they’re doing, not as the “exhausted entrepreneur” or “life of the party” with questionable self-control.
About the Author: Jennifer L. Jacobson
Jennifer L. Jacobson replaces global PR firms for her clients and gets better results. She has spent twenty-plus years designing successful campaigns for startups, nonprofits, and growing brands, winning her clients hundreds of thousands of media stories that reach billions of people. Jennifer has worked on campaigns for hundreds of startups and brands as well as Sony, Lady Gaga, Coheed and Cambria, Volkswagen Group of America, Paulo Coelho, Chelsea Clinton, Freedom to Marry, and Seattle Counseling Service.
Jennifer is the inventor of the Gadget Census, a study that investigated tech ownership trends in the United States and received national press. She was the first to popularize the term “social media addiction,” predicting many of the modern issues that have arisen from the mass consumption of social media. She is also the founder of Nimbus Haus, a volunteer youth art program focused on elevating youth voices and building stronger communities to support LGBTQ youth and youth in foster care. Jennifer is the founder of Jacobson Communication, a Seattle-based boutique PR firm and the author of 42 Rules of Social Media for Small Business, as well as Snow Tires for Startups: How to Get PR Traction.
Jennifer L. Jacobson is a creator and communications strategist who helps brands advance in growing industries. Her clients have been on The View, The Today Show, in TIME Magazine’s best site of the year, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Popular Science, Scientific American, USA Today, and thousands more.