Surviving CES: Tips and Tricks

Bospar Advice on CESIt’s that time of year again. The holidays are fast approaching, and, with them, techies from around the globe are preparing to attend the mother of all tech conferences: CES.

If you’re one of the lucky thousands planning to attend, please enjoy the following hard-won tips and tricks that helped me survive CES 2016.

Wear your comfiest pair of nice shoes

You will be walking A LOT during the show, so be prepared for that. But also be prepared for an impromptu business lunch or drinks at a swanky restaurant. Remember: you are in Las Vegas. You can never be overdressed.

Carry your business cards

Bring plenty of business cards, and make sure they are easily accessible. Nothing is more embarrassing than scraping the bottom of your purse or tote bag for those last few ragged business cards you know you’ve got in there somewhere. Also, be sure to decide in advance where you will be putting the business cards you collect, and make sure it is somewhere distinctly different from where you are keeping your own cards. Imagine accidentally handing over someone else’s card to a new contact!

Take advantage of your surroundings

CES puts on some great events in the city, and each one is an opportunity to network and unwind. Make a list of all the after-parties, contact promoters and plan your schedule accordingly. You want to attend the best parties and sit at the best tables, because that’s where the best networking occurs.

Download the apps

There are some great CES apps available that help with your registration, car rental, hotel reservations and free transportation to and from CES venues. Some even tell you the times and locations of the after-parties. And don’t forget to use your own social media apps regularly—social media is the best way to find out where you should be at all times and who’s who at the event.

Eat well, rest well, stay hydrated

Have a full and hearty breakfast, and pack plenty of snacks each day. The food on the show floor is limited and just about what you’d expect from a convention center. I brought trail mix, protein bars and a bottle of water, which helped keep me on my feet.

Last but not least, make sure you get enough sleep! The conference is exhausting all by itself, and the setting—Las Vegas—tests many attendees’ self-discipline. Have fun and enjoy Vegas, but also get a full night’s sleep every night—because walking the floor requires a lot more energy than you think it’s going to.

What CMOs Should Know About Speaking at Conferences

Bospar PR advice on Archie and event marketing
Courtesy Archie Comics

This article first appeared in PRNewser.

It’s been over two years since Riverdale’s Archie was killed off while saving his gay best friend.

The timing of the story was odd – July 14, 2014.  Nothing was happening. Germany beat Argentina in the World Cup final. The House judiciary chair said “no” to impeaching President Obama. The only relevant activity at which it would make sense to announce something like this was Comic-Con. But that wouldn’t take place until 10 days later, on July 24.

Which is why breaking the news of a beloved comic book character’s death on a ho-hum news day before a big industry event was so brilliant.

By announcing the week before Comic-Con, Archie Comics ensured that they wouldn’t be overshadowed by DC, Marvel or the movie studios. At Comic-Con several media outlets made the death of Archie a feature story. The decision by Archie Comics to announce early also seemed to force other publishers to act.  In fact, two days later, Marvel announced that Captain America was black, Thor was female and Iron Man had a new suit.

So when it comes to winning conferences, making news early helps you stand out from the crowd – and can even drive the agenda.

However, for some marketers without a storied brand, the challenge is more fundamental. How do you even get a speaking submission green-lit – without pay-to-play?

Jocelyn DeGance Graham, founder of CloudNOW, suggests networking early. “As best you can, figure out the key content decision-makers and network with them directly versus sending a submission in cold. You’ll want to also target events that offer merit-based speaking opportunities and avoid ‘pay-for-play’ spots. To generate excitement before your talk, consider releasing a ‘teaser’ blog about the key issues you’ll be addressing and why they are important. Ask the conference in advance if they will be recording, and get a copy of your talk that you can share post-event. And be sure to have trusted colleagues take pictures of you and tweet during your talk.”

Once your submission is approved, you need to make sure what you’re saying is relevant. Nothing will hurt the credibility of your presentation like people leaving before you finish.

“Start with your audience,” recommends Alexandra Roddy, global head of marketing for Prologis. “Try to learn everything you can about who they are and what brought them into the room. What are their expectations? Aspirations? Then, fine-tune your speaking strategy to ensure that you do everything in your power to meet your audience’s expectations and then some, while balancing an equally important imperative – being your authentic self. The bigger the crowd, the more important it is that with all eyes on you, you do you!”

Evelyn De Souza, data governance leader for Cisco Systems, stresses that the opening must be strong. “Be prepared with a dramatic opening, in the same way you might frame the entrance to your home with something bold and striking.  Avoid hype but be prepared to shed new light on a new reality that the audience will not have heard. Too often a bland opening sets the tone for the rest of the presentation you might be giving.”

CMO Shail Khiyara added, “Stories are data with emotion, so consider combining the two. You want to come across as erudite and knowledgeable, but without arrogance, and succinct, with no ornate metaphors.”

Executive coach Diane Parrish says it’s important to consider the actual venue and style of seating. “For example, if in a ballroom venue with tables in the round, you could walk around the tables, addressing people individually versus standing on a stage or at a podium.  If it’s a smaller audience, get names, bios and photos in advance. Do research on the individuals and address their concerns or topics of interest, if relevant, in your talk. And don’t use a microphone, for example; keep things intimate. Another idea to consider: sit at the same table and address audience members at ‘their’ level, instead of standing.  If it’s a large audience and venue, make sure the message you articulate is presented in a memorable way by asking questions, using current events, addressing a key pain point, telling a human story through video, or inviting a guest speaker to help tell your story on stage with you.”

Once you have your spot secured, the question becomes how to perform without any screw-ups. Ian McShane, director of global product marketing at Symantec, recommends, “Practice early and practice often. Showing up unprepared for a speaking opportunity of any size will, at best, leave you nervous and sloppy and at worst leave you looking incompetent and likely with fewer opportunities in the future. Give the audience the respect they deserve and practice!”

Serenity Thompson, director of the marketing practice of A23 Advisors, recommends at least one week for rehearsal with a video camera to eliminate ums and fix body language concerns. She added, “Presenting live on stage is not the time to try something new and will likely result in you going off on a tangent. Those ‘organic moments’ you think you have seen in other presentations were scripted, believe me. Trust your talking points. If you really feel the need to speak extemporaneously, keep it for the Q&A session.”

When you’re finished, hold off on that celebratory beer or cocktail. Instead, make sure your session was recorded and that the highlights are shared on social media. Whether your talk was about the heroic death of a beloved comic book character or the merits of a new technological platform, it’s worth it to make sure your moment in the sun will shine outside the convention halls.