Here’s the headline: It wasn’t as bad as I feared.
The CES show wrapped last Friday, shutting down a day early for safety reasons. The show was obviously a lot quieter this year than it was in ’20, but at least there was a show. Judging by our folks at the show, it seems like maybe 15,000 -20,000 people actually attended. For many trade shows that would be a runaway hit. For CES that’s about a 90% dropoff from their peak.
Major exhibitors bailed at the last minute, others scrambled to move virtual. LG tried to straddle the line with a big empty space full of QR codes. So what can we say about this year’s CES?
It was as good as it could be, and it’s going to get better
Last year was rock bottom for North America’s biggest tech show. You can say that about virtually anything in the winter of 2020-2021, but the hospitality industry took it on the chin more than most. Because the ’21 show was 100% virtual and only about 20% as good as it should have been, there was room for improvement.
This year’s show organizers deserve a massive amount of credit. Yes, I think it probably would have been better to cancel the in-person show. But no one really realized that until it was much too late. The CES people did the best possible job they could in creating a safe show floor experience. They required vaccinations. They gave out tons of free tests and free masks. They made every keynote available online. Social distancing sure wasn’t a problem, based on the photos.
I’d say lessons have been learned. I expect there to be even better virtual show floor experiences next year. Some exhibitors and some attendees may never return. But, as strange as it sounds, this is the first time in a long time that I’m feeling good about the future of CES.
My hopes for ’23
There’s a year left before CES 2023. That means an opportunity to plan and create an even better show. Here are some things I hope for:
Under one roof
The good part of losing exhibitors (which they will, no doubt) is that maybe for the first time in over a decade the show could be under one roof. The newly expanded Las Vegas Convention Center could hold every in-person experience you need. That means less traffic, less time wasted, and fewer blisters on your feet. All those are good things.
Rethinking the big booths
Let’s all be honest and agree that some of the big exhibitors had gotten lazy. Samsung, LG, Intel, and others spent millions every year for booths that looked remarkably similar year after year. Now’s the time to think about what a next-generation booth experience could look like.
More focus on deliverable products
It seems like every year since the mid-2000s, CES has delivered fewer real new products. Concepts and vaporware are great, but CES could be an opportunity to really showcase new stuff. It hasn’t been that, not for a long time. Wouldn’t it be great to see totally new stuff at CES that you could then buy within a month or two? The South Hall folks tend to bring new products, but the big boys in North and Central haven’t done their part.
Hugs, handshakes, and Heinekins
Of course this is what we all hope for in the coming months— a return to close contact without fear of infection. I don’t think masks or hand sanitizer are going to completely go away for a long time, but the idea that you could walk up to a stranger and greet them, 2019-style sounds pretty good right now. Let’s take the health lessons we’ve learned and figure out how to use them so we can all return to our old lives.
That’s a wrap
Well folks, CES coverage was a little light this year, but we still managed to bring you a decent amount. You can view all of our CES 2022 articles here if you’re interested in re-reading. See you in ’23!