By now everyone has heard that the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has moved to a digital format for 2021. The announcement came as no surprise after most large expos and conferences have pivoted to virtual experiences. Thus far, the Consumers Technology Association (CTA) has not given us much detail on exactly what the CES experience will look like but has assured us they will continue to present keynote speakers, product showcases, and networking opportunities.
Throughout this pandemic, the globe has relied on technology to stay connected with loved ones, clients and colleagues. Frankly, it continues to bring the world closer and the content shown at CES 2021 will be more important than ever. Whether it’s new robotic technology, products to make our homes even “smarter,” next-level smartphones or a more affordable flying car, consumers will be interested to see the latest and greatest in the technology and electronics industry.
We have put together our perspective on what we expect to see at CES and why we think it will be its best year yet!
Now that professionals will be able to access the entire show online, companies can afford to “send” more of their employees to the event. There is no expense burden associated with flights, hotels, or any other travel-related costs. Due to the savings, this year I am more likely to purchase a higher ticket level than previous years to gain more access to specialized content and speakers. And from the vendor perspective, exhibitor employees will have more flexibility as they will be able to take shorter shifts each day since booth control can be shared with everyone in the company rather than just the few who travel. This will allow them greater opportunity to network and even explore the show in a way they often couldn’t when they had to oversee their exhibit all day, every day.
This year will be less stressful too, there will be no more standing in endless taxi lines or waiting for a crowded bus to get to my meetings or visit all the exhibit halls sprawled along The Strip. In addition, there will most likely be no official closing time for the expo halls. I won’t have to wear out my shoes in my futile attempt to visit each exhibitor on my wish list before 6 p.m. The digital format should also increase viewership of the keynote speakers. The keynotes can be viewed safely from the comfort of my own home without rushing around Vegas to barely make it on time. The downside: How will I ever get all of my steps in this year?
As an event professional who has seen countless delays in client materials and supply chain interruptions due to the pandemic, I can’t help but wonder how companies who plan to exhibit at CES will produce their products under the same timeline as previous years’ shows. So many companies leverage CES as a platform through which to announce their newest products; will this pandemic cause long-awaited announcements to be delayed or canceled entirely?
Perhaps the biggest challenge with an online-only presence will be offering successful networking opportunities and product demos. Traditionally, CES has provided a space for innovative technology companies to come together, share ideas and network with the industry’s best. I always make sure to schedule my meetings weeks in advance to ensure availability and efficiency. Virtually, it should be easy to search who is in attendance and request a video chat, but pre-scheduled networking opportunities will most likely be rarer and the lack of face-to-face contact will make connections much less personal. I also approach part of my time at CES each year with an explorer mindset, not looking for anything in particular, browsing the aisles of the expo halls and pausing to investigate when something grabs my attention. CES 2021 will need to assess how they will draw me in to “explore” the show floor from my 2-D computer screen. And effective product demos will most certainly suffer the most – there is looming danger of the virtual exhibit hall becoming a library of tacky infomercials.
One thing is for certain, the Consumer Technology Association has an opportunity to set a new bar for the future of large-scale virtual events. With our own extensive virtual platform experience, Eventive will certainly be evaluating the show’s innovations and successes. We hope to “see” you at CES 2021 in January!
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