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BLOG: Lessons learned at my first CES

Serenity Caldwell | Jan. 16, 2012
Whatever you imagine, it will probably be bigger and more absurd than you think it is.

Like a particularly hectic tornado, the International Consumer Electronics Show has come and gone, leaving a trail of prototypes, press kits, and tired bloggers in its wake--including yours truly. Yes, despite impossible odds, both staff editor Alexandra Chang and I managed to leave Las Vegas with (most of) our wits about us. And while I won't regale you about the magic of yet another iPhone accessory, it felt only appropriate to drum up some thoughts about my virgin tour of the trade show.

Whatever you imagine, it will probably be bigger and more absurd than you think it is

This year was my first covering CES, and though many colleagues chimed in with warnings, provisos, and suggestions, there is really nothing quite like experiencing the madness of the 1.861 million square feet of show floor for yourself. And though I managed to walk down pretty much every aisle of North, Central, and South Hall during my three days there, I missed out on the outdoor pavilions, random hotel meeting rooms, and several floors of the Venetian Hotel, which featured even more CES exhibtors.

Without question, CES is incomprehensibly immense. We were lucky in that we were mainly looking for Apple-related accessories and gadgets: We navigated the show floor somewhat like a Florida retiree, scanning for gold--one hall a day, one row at a time, keeping an eye out for anything interesting. (Our colleagues from PCWorld, who cover most every type of gadget the show purports to show off, were less fortunate.) I'm very thankful, in any case, to have stuck to one hall a day: The travel time from hall to hall alone is much like attempting to go on foot from one end of a city to another.

Parties are nice, but a full night's rest is essential
Sure, a business trip to Las Vegas may sound swank, but after a full day wandering the show floor--and hurriedly writing up interesting gizmos--there's really no shame in room service and an early bedtime. (Well, unless you mention it on Twitter.) You may miss spotting Snookie at a party, but at least you won't yawn embarrassingly when vendors attempt to explain the intricacies of their patented technology.

You don't need nearly as many gadgets on the floor as you think you do (but battery packs--and Verizon hotspots--are life-savers)

When Alexandra and I got in on Monday, we trekked around the press events and Tuesday's show floor excursion with laptops, iPhones, and DSLRs. Not only did this both make us feel like pack mules and destroy our shoulders, but we weren't using 90 percent of what we'd brought. On Wednesday, I ditched everything but my iPhone and two tiny battery extenders, and managed to file stories, snap hands-on photos, and edit video all day--no shoulder pain required.


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