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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.

Yes, I still love my DSLR and my MacBook Air--but on a trade show floor, the iPhone 4S isn't too shabby.

You will have no room in your bag to accept anything but thumb drives

After Macworld Expo last year, I made a rule for myself: No paper press kits or review samples. This year--with the exception of a few styluses and iPhone cases--I managed to limit myself to business cards, websites, and thumb drives. This was largely thanks to savvy vendors and product representatives who understand that their products are a lot easier to write about when that information is readily accessible.

As for the three exhibitors who attempted to give me a CD for my 11-inch MacBook Air: You know who you are.

Meet with the vendors you know, but venture off the beaten path to find the diamonds in the rough
There's plenty of pomp and circumstance at CES. In Central Hall alone, I found myself so dazzled by the gigantically colorful HDTVs and plush poppy field-like carpeting that it was hard not to want to curl up in a corner of the booth and stay there all day. But rewards await those who power through, and in my travels, I managed to find and meet with dozens of fascinating vendors with booths one tenth the size of the larger exhibitors.

Part of this was the willingness to walk through sections of the show floor I expected would have nothing to do with Apple. We had a pre-show list of 200 or so vendors we planned to visit, but we still walked the length and breadth of of the floor, and in doing so, met a whole slew of up-and-coming entrepreneurs with products to pay attention to. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have discovered the inductive iPad charger in the middle of the home automation exhibit, or new stylus makers next to robotics.

And, you know what? That was actually the best part of CES. Through all the over-hyped excitement, lavish parties, and free giveaways, my best interactions were with vendors I'd never heard of--companies we now know to keep an eye on. Sure, CES may be bloated and overwrought; the rows and rows of off-brand Chinese tablets can sometimes make you worry about the future of humanity; and attending feels a little bit like running a tech marathon. But those little interactions are worth it. For as wonderful as technology is, some interactions with it are better in person.

Though next time, maybe I'll avoid the hall of giant headache-inducing 3D televisions.

Serenity Caldwell is a staff editor for Macworld. She's now going to go sleep for an entire weekend.


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