I spent a few days at CES, the biggest trade show in tech - here's what it's like to attend the 53-year-old show for the first time
Connie Chen/Business Insider
- CES, now in its 53rd year, took place this year from January 7 through January 10, 2020 in Las Vegas, NV.
- I was just one of more than 170,000 people, including industry attendees, exhibitors, and media, on the ground at the most famous global conference for tech.
- Unlike many of my colleagues and fellow attendees who have been braving the show floors for years, I was a CES first-timer.
- It was as high-energy, fast-paced, and interesting as I expected from an industry event of its size and caliber. This is what I saw, learned, and wrote about during my week at CES.
Every industry has its can't-miss trade show. Health and wellness professionals have the Natural Products Expo. Outdoorspeople have Outdoor Retailer. But the undisputed king of trade shows - in tech and beyond - is CES.CES stands for Consumer Electronics Show and the Consumer Technology Association puts it on every year. First held in 1967 with 250 exhibitors and 17,500 attendees, the show now draws more than 4,500 exhibitors and 170,000 attendees from more than 160 countries.
This year, I attended CES for the first time ever, and after hearing from past attendees about the overwhelming size and pace of the show, I got on a flight from New York to Las Vegas with equal parts trepidation and excitement.Tens of thousands of steps, a full stack of press materials and business cards stuffed in my bag, and a few empty packs of Emergen-C later, I've emerged from my first CES with a better understanding of the tech products to look forward to in 2020 - and why people come in from all over the world to get a first glimpse of them at CES.
Here's what it's like to go to CES, from a first-timer's perspective:
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One of the first things I did after stepping off my flight was pick up my badge.
CES doesn't only take place at one location. It's actually split up into three areas: Tech East, Tech West, and Tech South.Advertisement
Once inside each venue, I faced the crowds. I stuck to the two main exhibit spaces, the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) and Sands Expo.
In total, there's more than 2.9 million net square feet of exhibit space to explore, and floor maps like these attempted to help me find the exact companies and booths I wanted to see.Advertisement
On the floor, I felt like I was being tugged left and right by all the companies competing for my attention. Many used large and visually stunning displays to lure attendees in.
LG's OLED Wave, made up of 200 55-inch screens, was a mesmerizing welcome to LG's booth. Nearly every person walking by stopped to take a photo or video and enjoy the vibrant videos of our planet's natural wonders.Advertisement
While I could read press materials and watch videos all day long about the innovative tech being featured at CES, at the end of the day the best way to understand it was to see it in action.
Other cool product demos I saw and participated in included this Samsung smart fridge that can play music, show security camera footage, and help you re-order grocery essentials...Advertisement
...and a home gym and personal training system from a new startup called Tonal.
There was never a dull moment on the floor because of the pure diversity of products at the show. Being at CES underscored for me that "tech" is truly an umbrella term that can touch everything from kids' toys...Advertisement
...to recreational water sports...
...to BAC-estimating devices.Advertisement
As an Insider Picks product journalist, I was specifically tasked with checking out the coolest tech to hit the home and kitchen space.
Smart toothbrushes were another big theme.Advertisement
Outside of the show floors, keynote presentations placed products in larger contexts. They were largely infused with hope and excitement about the potential for tech to improve lives and bring people together.
Another presentation I attended was given by NBCUniversal. It brought together a star-studded panel to discuss how streaming technologies have changed the way content is produced and consumed.Advertisement
All in all, CES was a huge learning moment and an exciting opportunity to preview cool products and connect with tech companies small and large.
Check out everything you need to know and all the best products we saw at CES 2020 here:Advertisement
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