I just returned from my annual trek to CES and like any other year I am exhausted from the logistics (getting from point A to point B is not trivial in Vegas during CES), the parties and most importantly from the nearly 30+ meetings I was able to schedule and pull off in less than 96 hours. I am also energized for the year ahead because I saw the hope in the eyes of the many vendors that I met that this will be the year that their new product hits a home run in the channel and a healthy CES is just the beginning to this annual dream.
There has been a lot of discussion this week by blogs, analysts and friends about the validity of CES in the internet era and if it is truly important now that a continuous flow of technical and product information is found daily on tech sites such as Gizmodo and Engadget. My belief is that there is significant risk of CES going away over time, the way of other industry shows, but there is part of me that believes that this would be a shame.
I still think there is great value in getting 140K people together from 35+ countries that care about the same thing – the ability to make human connections with many folks in the same industry ecosystem that may have an impact on your business success this year. The need for a human element in business is as strong as ever and is one of the reasons that the face to face meeting has not been taken over by the promise of video-conferencing – you get a better feel about a person when you are in the same room and that is important when your business is on the line. For the amount I pay for my short flight to CES, for the meal, hotel and party expenses and my CES badge (free if I get it early), I estimate that I save myself over 25 annual air flights to varying parts of the world by being able to have lots of meetings in one place. I am also a hardware guy, so seeing, touching and feeling products is meaningful and if I pay attention, it is possible to weed through the overly general trends broadcast by the media and focus in on those that will be impactful to my specific business segment. Case in point, nowhere did I see anyone in the media discussing that there were greater than one thousand self-proclaimed audio companies at the show this year – a significant change from last year. An important thing to know for my business.
I, for one, hope that CES manages to stay significant for some time to come. How else could I see all the latest gadgets, close business deals, throw a party overlooking the Las Vegas strip, ride in an elevator with Robert Horry (7 NBA Championship rings), lose $100 in a Ghostbusters slot machine and hang with 50 Cent? Viva, Las Vegas and Viva CES!
Let me finish this blog with a bit of the human element at CES – the sights and experiences at this year’s CES that made the annual pilgrimage a significantly interesting experience.