It's 2015, and you know what that means: I'm spending my first days of the new year in Las Vegas, doing decidedly non-Vegas-y things like...working...and sleeping...and not partying. (OK, so I'm still sort of partying. But sort of partying is not the way I party!)
Anyway, I know a ton of my fellow media-ites are hanging out at the show, so I thought I'd do a quick-n-dirty blog post on my favorite topic: Food.
Er, I mean press events. Which typically involve food. And that's why they're my favorite. Because food. Yeah, I'm a simple creature.
There are three main press events during CES week: CES Unveiled (Sunday), Pepcom Digital Experience (Monday), and Showstoppers (Tuesday). By "main press events," I mean big press mixers where hundreds of companies set up mini-booths and present their wares to the (drunk) media masses. These events are sort of like mini CES's, except the booths are fairly pedestrian (no big light displays, not even if you want them), they're only open to the press (CES is open to all industry professionals), and there's alcohol.
If you're media and you're covering CES, you're probably going to hit at least one of these events -- more likely, all three. But how do you prioritize? If you can only hit one, which one should you hit? If you're going to all three, what's your strategy for each one? READ ON.
CES Unveiled is actually supposed to be a mini-CES -- it's the "official" event put on by CES, meant to preview what you'll see on the show floor. But...it's not. At CES Unveiled you'll see a lot of old products that have been out for at least a year, Kickstarter realizations, and a handful of prototypes that aren't coming to market for several years. You won't see a ton of exciting new technology, but you will see lots of the same types of products -- some of which will be better than others. This year, I saw a lot of wireless Bluetooth headphones, a lot of smart home products (especially smart locks and kitchenware), and plenty of fitness wearables.
Food-wise, CES Unveiled is mostly appetizers and mini desserts. The main spreads consist of cheeses, crackers, a handful of fancy-ish hors d'oeuvres (think, I don't know, truffled mac-and-cheese bites), and crudites. There's a dessert table that looks pretty, but the desserts are mediocre at best -- the macarons are consistently overly chewy, and the cute little tarts are too sweet. Food at CES Unveiled runs out *very* quickly, so you'll want to hit the tables before you wander the room. If you work first and eat later (never a good idea, in my opinion), you'll probably find yourself staring down a single platter of raw veggies.
Products: Boring, but plentiful
Food: Appetizers and desserts; runs out quickly
Swag: Mediocre - if your publication has weight, you may walk away with some review products
Pepcom Digital Experience
Pepcom Digital Experience is the "fun, cool" press event. What this means is that there's a theme -- they try really hard to theme it up. One year I went, the theme was "Wild West," and they had a mechanical bull in the middle of the room. Nobody rode it.
Still, Digital Experience is the coolest -- relatively speaking -- of the press events. At this event, you'll see a lot of the "cool" companies on display, exhibiting all sorts of fun things, from computers to Oculus Rift to cars. You'll still see a lot of whatever's trendy (wearables, home automation, etc.), but there will be a much wider variety. If you're looking for swag, this is the place to be, but it'll be low-level swag (pens, notebooks, t-shirts).
Food is...meh. To be honest, I think Pepcom uses the whole "theme" thing to skimp on the food. Food goes with the theme, and the past few themes have been "football" and "Wild West" and "aliens," so the food usually translates to burgers and fries and alien jerky (OK, I saw a sign for alien jerky on the drive to Vegas). Lots of fast food, so if you're a fan of that...you're in luck. They usually have one veggie table, and they usually hide it behind a pillar.
Products: Lots of stuff, lots of variety, and if it's cool...it'll be here
Food: The kind of food you get when you have to feed a bunch of people on the cheap. Burgers, fries, pizza, etc.
Swag: All the pens and notebooks you can carry!
If you're going to skip an event...it'll probably be Showstoppers. Because Showstoppers is boring, and that's mainly because it comes after all the other events -- and the first day of the show -- so you're pretty convinced you've seen it all. And then you get to Showstoppers and you realize...you have seen it all and you may as well go home now.
Seriously, though: Showstoppers has a decent variety of products that are higher end -- think digital pens and fancy tracking technology rather than $99 wearables. Unfortunately, most of these products are not particularly revolutionary or new -- in fact, many of them have been at Showstoppers for the past 28 (I'm estimating) years. Still, there's always a gem or two, and on the plus side most of these products are at least on the market (/have been on the market for the past 28 years) -- not just in prototype form.
Food at Showstoppers is amazing. Showstoppers is held at the Wynn, and instead of trying to theme it up and get all cool, the event planners just hire the Wynn catering team to come in and amaze the socks off your tongue. There's a pasta-on-demand bar, fancy grilled cheese sandwiches (OMG), sexy salads (yes, that's a thing), and a dessert spread that's as tasty as it is pretty (unlike CES Unveiled). Showstoppers' food is definitely dinner food, so don't eat before you come -- this will fill you up and you'll keep going back for more.
Products: Nothing will be new, but all will be shipping.
Food: Awesome. I volunteer to cover Showstoppers for the food alone.
Swag: Little to none. Most of these products have higher price points, so they won't be giving out samples on the floor. And the Wynn is not the place for branded tchotchkes, so none of those, either.