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
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
- 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.
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,”
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.
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.