CES 2024 tips and tricks: A guide to tech’s biggest trade show

CES 2024 is coming back to Las Vegas the week of January 7, and it should be one of the biggest tech events in the world again.

This year, the organizers of CES 2024 expect more than 130,000 attendees through January 12, with hundreds of speakers, 3,500-plus exhibitors and and 2.4 million square feet of exhibit space to. Among this year’s features: The Goodyear blimp will show up.

I attended the Consumer Electronics Show back in the 1990s when then-Microsoft CEO Bill Gates gave the opening keynote speeches every year. Las Vegas has changed a lot since then, but some of my advice about the show goes back to those good old days.

“We’re very excited. All the indicators and signs are pointing in a good direction. We focus CES on innovation, said Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), in an interview with GamesBeat. “The pieces are coming together bigger than they ever have. We have more innovations entries by about 40%. It seems like more excitement. Incredibly strong pre-registration. A lot of numbers are up from last year. We feel great.”

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Gary Shapiro is CEO of the CTA, creator of CES.
Gary Shapiro is CEO of the CTA, creator of CES.

My No. 1 tip is to always wear comfortable shoes. I learned that lesson after some blisters during a CES years ago. As for a mask, I don’t know. I’ll wear one myself. But things have changed since the show was canceled outright in January 2021 and severely restricted in January 2022, with only 45,000 showing up. A year ago, CES 2023 turned out to be a good show with 118,000 attendees.

Much of my advice is not rocket science. But I renew this story every year since there are new people attending the show and many going back for the first time. I take no responsibility for bad advice. I also have new tips, like pointing you to the CES 2024 app on iOS and Android.

Attendance is not quite where it once was. Back in 2019, the show drew 175,212 in 2019 and 171,268 in 2020. CES 2020 had about 4,500 exhibitors across 2.9 million square feet of space. Fortunately, the stars aligned so the event is in the second week of January, rather than the first week. That should improve attendance, said Shapiro at the CTA, which runs the show.

Should you go?

CES 2023 drew 118,000 people.
CES 2023 drew 118,000 people.

It’s a big show, and, unlike the gaming industry’s canceled E3 show, it’s still relevant. Last year, there were 4,800 media attending CES 2023, up from 3,100 media at CES 2022. About 1,600 of the media were from overseas. There were also 14,013 presidents and founders, or 11.8% of all attendees, according to an audited report.

Of the 41,869 international visitors from 151 countries last year, 5,232 were from Canada, 11,314 from Europe, 23,521 from the Middle East/Asia, 1,104 from South America, 508 from Oceania and 190 from Africa. There were 1,472 venture capitalists.

The top areas of interest were AI, IoT/sensors, vehicle technology, AR/VR/XR, smarthomes and appliances, 5G, robotics, startups, energy/power, fitness and wearables and marketing and advertising.

I still view CES as a bellwether for the tech economy, as no other event spans the entire tech world like it does. Companies want to create a buzz at CES, which is designed to signal products coming in the next year. I find the show a useful way to stay up to speed on the latest technology. If you find the health risk acceptable, then it can still be a valuable way to stay in touch.

Apple doesn’t attend the show, but just about every other tech giant does. It’s where the tech industry will be next week, though it’s not so much of a game event these days. Sony, however, will be showing up and you can bet they’ll talk more about their Afeela electric car at the show.

Gary Shapiro wore his mask at CES 2022 during the Omicron wave.
Gary Shapiro wore his mask at CES 2022 during the Omicron wave.

This year, CES advises you to get a flu shot, get vaccinated against COVID or update your booster, and test for COVID (and other infectious diseases specific to your region) and isolate if infected.

The CTA said that since 2020, the venues have been equipped with improved ventilation and fresh air flow.

The Las Vegas Convention Center, Mandalay Bay and the Venetian Expo have been awarded Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR certification by ISSA. This accreditation means the properties are observing cleaning protocols and work practices that minimize risks associated with the spread of infectious diseases. 

This year, CES will work to minimize surface touch points and increase fresh airflow at high-traffic areas.  Hand sanitization stations will be placed throughout CES venues.  Masks are available onsite. If you choose not to wear one, please respect those around you who do, the CTA says.

As of May 12, 2023, noncitizen nonimmigrant visitors to the U.S. arriving by air, or arriving by land or sea, no longer need to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19.  Last year, such proof of vaccination was required for international travelers, and CES provided rapid antigen tests as well.

The CTA said it will continue to monitor health developments across the globe and will follow health safety guidelines from the WHO and CDC, as well as applicable federal, state and local laws.

Getting your badge and getting into the show

Sign at CES 2019.
Sign at CES 2019.

You have to work in the tech industry to get into the show. It’s a place for professionals, not tourists, and registration is designed to screen the tourists out.

With 130,000 people at the show, you don’t want to get stuck in long lines. You can avoid the first big line by picking up your badge by showing your ID and show registration early — as early as January 5. You can get your CES badge at the baggage claim areas of the airport and most of the venues.

The CTA said its security measures mean attendees will face a bag search at the entrance to all show venues. All bags are subject to search and metal wand screening. In addition, attendees may carry two small bags, each smaller than 12”x17”x6” into show venues.

Attendees are encouraged to consider their bag type and use clear bags (mesh, plastic, vinyl, etc.) to expedite entry. Rolling bags of any size are prohibited including luggage, carry-ons, laptop and computer bags, and rolling luggage carts.

Media with an official media badge are permitted to hand-carry equipment onto show premises in excess of our two-bag restriction. This equipment is subject to search and tagged as approved for entry.

If you do have heavier bags, you can check them at places like the Las Vegas Convention Center Central Plaza and West Hall exterior areas.

Peak times for CES crowds

The crowd at CES 2013.

The press events start late on January 7 and continue all day on January 8.

Siemens CEO Roland Busch will kick off the show at 6:30 p.m. Pacific time at the Venetian Palazzo Ballroom on Monday January 8. The big keynotes are usually attended by crowds of thousands.

Nicolas Hieronimus, CEO of L’Oréal, will give a keynote on January 9 at 8:30 a.m. Pacific the next morning, followed by the CTA’s opening words from Shapiro. Such a non-traditional, non-tech company giving a keynote fits with a trend at CES, where technology is fading into the woodwork.

Other big speakers include Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snap; Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart; Pat Gelsinger, CEO of Intel; Gail Boudreaux, CEO of Elevance Health; Kisun Chang, CEO of HD Hyundai; Cristiano Amon, CEO of Qualcomm; Adena Friedman, CEO of Nasdaq; and Corie Barry, CEO of Best Buy.

Press days

The start of the first press event for CES 2023.
The start of the first press event for CES 2023.

As I mentioned, the press day will start on Sunday January 7 with a talk (only press allowed) by Steve Koenig, vice president of research at the CTA, on tech trends to watch. That will lead to the press-only event, CES Unveiled, at 5 p.m. at the Mandalay Bay. That’s where we get a first look at the award winners for the CTA innovation contest.

Then comes (for the media) a baptism of fire starting on Monday at 8 a.m. Pacific with LG’s press conference. It peaks with Samsung’s press event at 2 p.m. and continues on to Sony’s 5 p.m. press event at the Las Vegas Convention Center. These press events happen in rapid fire and it’s a real challenge to keep up with the news. Fortunately, many of the events are livestreamed for non-press to watch.

This is the day when I need the laptop with the longest battery life. (Yes, that’s still an issue). If you’re into entertainment and tech issues, you may want to get to the Aria. Over at the Aria, there is a a panel on the AI threat with SAG-AFTRA’s Danielle Van Lier at 2 p.m., the same time as Samsung’s press event.

There is also a big press-only party at Pepcom’s Digital Experience at the Mirage (RSVPs required) on January 8, and the rival Showstoppers press-only party takes place at the Bellagio on the evening of January 9.

This year, Tuesday is when the real crowds show up, and you’ll notice it in restaurants, transportation lines, convention halls, casino floors, and at the airport. Let’s hope the weather will be good, in contrast to the torrential rains we saw in 2018, when blackouts took out the main show floor.

If you’re leaving the convention center around 6 p.m., you can catch a bus to most of the major hotels. That’s a great way to get off your feet and the lines can move fast. But that’s also the busiest traffic time. You’ll have to walk (perhaps a long way) to designated areas for Uber/Lyft ride-sharing pickup zones. And there’s the monorail to consider as well for some hotels.

Getting lost in the maze

Gary Shapiro of the CTA is here, perhaps with a French politician.
Gary Shapiro of the CTA is here, perhaps with a French politician.

The 2.4 million-plus square feet of exhibition space will open at 10 a.m. on Tuesday January 9.

The venues include Tech East, which includes the Las Vegas Convention and World Trade Center (LVCC), Westgate Las Vegas, and Renaissance Las Vegas.

Tech West includes the Venetian Expo, The Venetian, The Palazzo, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore at Wynn.

Tech South includes the Aria, Cosmopolitan, Park MGM and Vdara.

If you’re really ambitious, you could be walking 30,000 steps a day, about three to six times as much as usual. For me, exhaustion sets in around 20,000 steps. If you can cut some unnecessary walking from your day, that would be wise to do.

You can start by getting to know the locations. The LVCC Central Hall is where a lot of the big companies are, such as LG, Panasonic, Canon, Samsung, Sony, Razer, Nikon, TCL, Hisense, Sharp, RCA, and one of my favorites, Stern Pinball.

The North Hall has a lot of auto tech, health demos and government agencies. They include the likes of Withings, Abbot Labs, Amazon, NSA, TSA, Honda, EssilorLuxottiaca, which has the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses.

The West Hall includes a lot of vehicle technology. You’ll see flying cars, levitating boats, all-electric cars, autonomous vehicles and John Deere tractors. The hall includes the likes of Hyundai, Brunswick, Mobileye, Qualcomm, Garmin and Bridgestone.

Over at the Venetian, there are more than 1,000 startups that will be at Eureka Park. Tech West is a bunch of pavilions at the Venetian. There are tons of startups on Level 1. You can find regional booths such as those from France, India, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands and more. On Level 2, you can find AARP AgeTech, Kohler, Hyundai, Narwal, and more.

One of the most frequently visited halls at LVCC was the South Hall, but this year the multi-level hall is closed.

In Tech South, at Aria Hotel, you can find C Space, which is where there are a lot of talks about Hollywood and technology. The Cosmopolitan has Cosmo exhibitors that include Nvidia, Disney, Paramount, NBC Universal, Netflix, Reddit, Roku, Samsung, T-Mobile, and Snap.

Electric vehicles at CES 2023.
Electric vehicles at CES 2023.

While blockchain and the metaverse were big themes the year before, they’re not as fashionable today. This time, AI is going to command a lot of attention.

“[AI is] the top of the list in terms of discussion,” said Shapiro in our interview. “How companies will exhibit that, we’ll discover when we get there. But it’s definitely playing a major role. It’s a key ingredient in just about everything from health care to mobility. That’s important.”

Shapiro also highlighted the presence of the United Nations, which was also at the show a year ago with a focus on seven human securities or human rights. That includes things like the right to health care, to food, to clean air and water, to community. The UN also added the right to technology.

Asked about AI’s impact on society, Shapiro said, ” A little over a year ago OpenAI was introduced to the public. But since then, obviously, Google and others have come forward. Microsoft just announced that they’re going to be working with AFL-CIO, I believe, on AI and its effect on jobs. There are a lot of issues to unravel. One is the impact on jobs. Another is how it can be used ethically and safely. Another is how we could benefit as a society. We’ll talk about a lot of these issues at CES.”

Beyond AI, transportation is big and it accounts for more than 500,000 square feet of the show, up from 300,000 in 2020. There is a 61% increase in vehicle tech exhibits since 2020, with most of it in a packed West Hall. There are also electric scooters and drones that carry people.

Innovation is naturally a big theme, with a 40% increase in entrants for the innovation contest. Another big themes is sustainability. And there are more technologies aimed at older people and people with disabilities. The head of AARP will speak. And accessibility of technology to all people will be popular as a topic, Shapiro said.

Regulators will be present and Shapiro said he is concerned that the U.S. has become too aggressive in blocking mergers for antitrust reasons. He worries that the Biden administration is anti-innovation. Among the policy discussions, Shapiro expects the rise of geopolitics will be a topic of conversation, as wars and other obstacles are halting commerce in more parts of the world. Shapiro remains concerned about global conflicts and the potential to disrupt the world economy.

Will cryptocurrency and blockchain be on the show floor? Or the metaverse. These concepts will no doubt be present, but they may not be as hot as they were in years past, given growing skepticism about the categories.

I asked the CTA if the metaverse and blockchain were overhyped, and if they’re still hot trends on the show floor.

Brian Comiskey, CTA director of thematic programs (and one of the two CTA staff who will be presenting Tech Trends at the upcoming CES 2024) weighed in on the answer.

“A good way to think of tech advancement for later stage hype-cycle technologies like metaverse and blockchain is as a balancing act between consumers and enterprise. Those groups often have different sets of expectations around technology,” Comiskey said in an emai to GamesBeat. “While metaverse and blockchain may have fallen out of news headlines after huge initial consumer hype, we’re seeing innovation in both from enterprises, and you’ll see those innovations driving a range of sectors forward at CES 2024.”

Comiskey added, “For blockchain, great examples at CES 2024 include a secure voting system from Zkrypto, Lordystem’s Trip.PASS mobile passport and tech from Galeon designed to help hospitals and caregivers securely share medical data. For metaverse, expect innovations like Dassault Systemes’ Living Heart, which opens new doors to R&D focused on the human heart, innovations from Siemens my in the industrial metaverse and a range of auxiliary hardware designed to support a more immersive metaverse experience. ”

Your CES survival tips

Just Dean Takahashi and a few of his journalist friends.
Just Dean Takahashi and a few of his journalist friends.

Many of these tips are recycled from past years, but I’ve gone through and renewed them with my latest info. As I mentioned, it’s hard to get around at CES. You should keep appointments to a half hour, but note that it takes time to walk between venues. You may encounter delays because other people are behind schedule. And you may even have trouble finding people at large booths. So it’s good to pad your schedule to account for possible delays and isolate the really important appointments.

The CES badges now have photos on them, streamlining identification and making it harder for people to share badges. Since they are paper badges (plastic eliminated in the name of sustainability), you have to be careful not to lose them.

On your crowded flights, try to travel light. For Southwest, I always check in ahead of boarding, setting an alarm for exactly 24 hours before my flight. Check your baggage if you don’t have to get anywhere quickly. Be prepared for long cab lines and rental car check-in lines. (Services like Uber and Lyft were very useful at CES, particularly as parking is not plentiful enough and the big casinos/hotels now charge a fee per visit at their self-parking garages). I don’t rent a car anymore.

I recommend sleep. If the parties are what you care about, there are often party lists that circulate. Here’s one that I’ve seen. Those parties often require unique invitations and RSVPs.  Amazon is hosting its After Dark CES ’24 party with Ludacris on January 9 at 8 p.m. Pacific. At 10 p.m., Steve Aoki will perform at Caesars Omnia Nightclub, which will likely have an insane wall of wall-to-wall people. There are always plentiful celebrity sightings at CES.

Remember to swap phone numbers with the people you are meeting so you can coordinate, particularly as someone is usually held up by the crowds. Incorporate driving and eating times into your calendar, or use a calendar that does that automatically for you.

Smartphone reception is better than it used to be, but it’s still probably prone to interference. Text message is usually a decent way to communicate with coworkers. We always seek out the Wi-Fi/5G havens in the press rooms or wherever we can find them.

But carry a MiFi or activate a personal hotspot if you can; even hotel internet connections are likely to be stressed to the limit during the show. If you’re responsible for uploading video, thank you for clogging the network for the rest of us. By CES 2023, I hopefully won’t have to complain about this, as 5G networks should theoretically enable faster connection speeds on cellular data.

Glüxkind Technologies showed off its AI-based smart stroller Ella at CES 2023.
Glüxkind Technologies showed off its AI-based smart stroller Ella at CES 2023.

If you collect a lot of swag, you can send it home via shipping services instead of carting it on the plane. You should print a map of the exhibit floor or rip one out of the show guide. You should also print your tickets, schedule, and RSVPs for events — or make them easily accessible on your phone. (If someone steals your primary bag, you should have backups in a second bag).

You need battery backup for your laptop or smartphone, hand sanitizer, a good camera, ibuprofen, and vitamins. I’ve got a Dynabook laptop this year, and possibly a Macbook if I decide to lug it along as a backup. Bring a backup for everything, even if you have to leave it in your hotel room this year.

I used to recommend taking business cards. But those can carry germs and who wants that now? Now you can swap your LinkedIn credentials with people via your smartphone. If you’re exhibiting, wear your company brand on your shirt. Try very hard to avoid losing your phone. I wear a jacket with zippered pockets so I can put my phone and wallet inside.

Make some time to walk the show floor. If the cab/rideshare lines have you frustrated, don’t think about walking to a nearby hotel. Chances are the cab line there is also bad, and the hotels are so huge that a mirage effect makes them look deceptively close. If you have a rental car, try not to get stuck in a traffic jam in a 10-story parking garage. And always mark down where you parked your car on your phone map or paper.

Uber and Lyft cars are really the way to travel now. But in past years I found that the pickup at the LVCC (near the Renaissance Hotel) was a traffic logjam. So it can be tough no matter what you do.

Schedule your appointments in locations that are near each other, and check exhibitor locations on a CES map. Arrive early for keynotes because the lines are long. I don’t often stray beyond LVCC/WestHall/TechWest/Venetian due to the time it takes to get other places.

Drink lots of water. Get some sleep — you really don’t have to party every night. Don’t miss your flight on the way out. Pack up a bunch of snacks early on to avoid getting stuck in breakfast or lunch lines. Take a smartphone with a good camera because what happens in Vegas … gets shared on the internet.

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