The International Consumer Electronics Show (“CES”) is coming soon to Las Vegas. The show stands alone in its celebration of innovation, entrepreneurship, and capitalism. The event is also well-known for giving entrepreneurs extra access to the media and venture capital community.
Even if you are not a show exhibitor, you can enjoy the excitement of the show plus promote your business to journalists and venture capitalists in a cost-effective way.
Here are some easy action steps to help maximize your CES show visit:
- Develop a strategy. What do you want to accomplish at the trade
show? The show is so vast and dynamic
that if you don’t establish specific networking goals, you might get swept up
in the excitement of some other entrepreneur’s story.
Chris Roslan, President of New York City-based Roslan & Campion Public Relations, LLC recommends that entrepreneurs try to connect to targeted media producers and bloggers before the show. “Take some time to learn about the journalist’s editorial priorities and then try to connect on social media. Send a brief note that explains why your product is relevant to their audience.”
- Say it fast. It is said that the attention span of most individuals is less than 30 seconds; on the hyper-charged CES floor, assume it is much less. The best approach to CES is to talk to as many target contacts as you can, tell your story quickly and agree on a follow-up. Practice saying what your company does and why it is worthy of attention. If you can’t deliver a neat media-friendly sound bite, assume that you will be edited out of story.
- Switch gears. While the media is attracted to highlighting cool gadgets and technologies, VCs troll for high profit potential businesses that happen to sell cool products.
When talking to investors, emphasize features about your products that can contribute to the potential growth in value of your company. These factors can include difficult-to-replicate advantages over competitors, patent filings, market size, production scalability or high gross profit margins. Don’t just talk about the cool features of your product without putting the information in a business context.
- Present your best information. PR expert Roslan warns, “Image is everything at CES. Poorly written press releases and amateurish video can do more harm than good.” Roslan also advises entrepreneurs to tailor presentation materials to specific media outlets. “Television is a visual medium and needs to be approached in a way that will be visually-appealing to audiences. You might have a great story, but if there’s nothing to look at then it will fall flat,” says Roslan.
For discussions with potential investors, prepare a one page executive summary that includes guidance on funding amount and purpose. Too often I receive executive summaries that describe a company’s products but say nothing about the purpose. Investors want to know if their funds will be applied to product development, initial commercialization or expansion.
- Be honest. Even though it might be tempting to talk big on the show floor, don’t overstate your company’s status to the media or prospective investors. If you are a company of one, say so. If your product is not yet available for purchase, say so. If a media source posts an online report that your product is “selling really well,” future investment partners may wonder about your credibility as they review a funding request to complete product development.
- Work the show. Roslan encourages entrepreneurs to seek out impromptu press opportunities and be prepared to act on them. “During the show monitor social media closely to pick up on developing opportunities,” says Roslan. Visit the press area every day to meet new people and attend events that are related to your product category.
- Make the most out of rejection. The media doesn’t stop looking for interesting stories after the end of CES. Ask show producers, writers and other support staff you meet at the show for information about their ongoing content priorities and how they like to receive story ideas.
Visit the CES trade show website for a list of exhibitors, events and press information. Review some short videos that have been posted by other entrepreneurs to learn how you can present your company with distinction.
Susan Schreter is a Seattle-based veteran of the venture finance community, entrepreneurship educator and small business policy advocate. She is the founder of Start on Purpose, which offers the largest free directory of startup and small business funding sources in the U.S.