Convention Nation Undercover: Behind the Scenes at CES 2016

Jan 15, 2016 12:28:55 AM

Burke Gibney


There are countless news articles and consumer reviews focused on the latest and greatest tech gadgets unveiled at CES 2016. From drones to self-driving cars, smart watches to smart refrigerators, virtual reality to augmented reality, or anything else showcased by the 3,600+ exhibitor companies.

A quick Google search can tell you plenty about that. What I'm going to tell you about is something not everyone at CES was able to experience. The VIP, behind the scenes action where an army of coordinated and hard working event industry professionals plan and execute CES, the world’s largest trade show.

Kim and Andrea from the Convention Nation team spent three days last week in Vegas getting a behind the scenes look at CES 2016, as part of MPI’s Experiential Event Series. The people that put on CES obviously read our blog post on 10 Tips for Survival at CES, because not only did they survive CES, they flourished as part of the village of people that make CES a huge success.

I interviewed Kim and Andrea to get the inside scoop on what they learned on their VIP behind the scenes tour of CES:


Entrance to CES in Las Vegas

Burke: Why did you decide to participate in this MPI Experiential Event?

Kim: We’re members of MPI and MPI afforded us the opportunity to see how the biggest trade show in America gets put together. When you get an opportunity like that you don’t pass it up!

Andrea: We also knew we would network with other people in the industry and create valuable new professional relationships that will help us better understand what industry professionals need and desire. The more meeting planners and other event industry professionals we meet and network with, the better, as we plan future features of our Convention Nation website.  

CES_2016_Opening_Statement.jpgCES 2016 Opening Statement

Burke: So how was CES? What were the highlights for you?

Kim: It was amazing! The coolest aspect for me was discovering how many people it takes to execute every piece of a mega-event such as CES, and ensure a seamless experience for the trade show and conference attendees.

It was very impressive to see how much passion everyone we met behind the scenes at CES has for their job. Everyone who gave us a tour said there isn’t any job they’d rather do in the world. It was so clear this wasn’t just lip service, they all really meant it. I saw so much genuine passion from each of them; Passion for the job they do, passion for their employees, to their higher-ups, to their company, and to their customers.

Andrea: Highlights...hmm, where to start? Getting picked up at the airport by the MGM limo was really cool! We definitely felt like VIP’s. Learning about the transportation logistics of CES was a real highlight for me. How they coordinate so many private cars, buses, shuttles, taxis, and UBER drivers, which not only involves separate lanes for each of, them but coordinating the Vegas traffic light system as well.

Hanging out with and networking with such a great group of fellow MPI members was wonderful too.


Kim and Andrea hanging out with fellow MPI members at CES.

Burke: What surprised you the most?

Kim: Given the tremendous size of CES, I was surprised to learn that once it ends, the entire show is taken down within three days. For CES, you’re talking about 2.4 million net square feet of exhibit space. All of it dismantled and taken away in three days.

A related surprise was how much waste is generated. We were told that many exhibitors decide to throw away their huge expensive booths because the logistics of reuse them are too complicated - and of course some of the booths are too large to use at any another show. Quite a lot of expensive construction is thrown away or recycled. However, we’re pleased that Freeman, the labor company, is doing all it can to find recycling options.

Andrea: On a similar note, on our Sands Expo and Convention Center kitchen tour we learned that with every event held there, they prepare 30% more food than is ordered and paid for, to make sure they never run out of anything. It’s that important to them that not a single guest is left unsatisfied. The downside to that is the potential for a whole lot of leftover food.

Kim: I was surprised that the head of transportation logistics for all of CES was able to give us two hours of his time, while the show with 170,000+ attendees was going on, without once even looking at his phone. He has a very big job, with many different elements to coordinate, and we had his undivided attention for two hours.

Clearly he has complete faith in the execution of his team. As someone who is building a start up and will be hiring more people as the company scales, this reinforced to me how important it is to hire good people and train them well so everyone knows their role. Then you can empower them to execute and be confident in their capabilities.



Las Vegas Mission Statement

Burke: It sounds like you had a great experience and learned a lot about the planning and execution that goes on behind the scenes with a massive event like CES. Do you have any final thoughts to share?

Kim: I just want to credit the MPI folks who clearly love their job and provided us with a once in a lifetime experience we will never forget. It was an incredibly informative trip with a great group of people.

I’d like to especially thank MPI COO Michael Woody for sharing his time with us, and a huge thanks to our group coordinator, Lynette Smith, who masterfully coordinated our stay, schedule, transportation, and meals. She worked incredibly hard to make sure our experience was a memorable one.

 Andrea: I second everything Kim said. I'd also like to stress that we experienced the trip with very diverse meeting pros. It was a large group of people with different backgrounds and experiences, so everyone had their own perspective on the industry that informed the questions they asked. I enjoyed hearing different views, which added so much to the knowledge we came away with.

Kim: Well-said, Andrea. The best part of any event is the people you meet and the experiences you share with them. We hope to stay in touch with this group of planners and learn more from them to help drive the development of Convention Nation. We love hearing feedback about their jobs and how MPI events add significant value to their professional lives.

Andrea: A big thank you to the MGM too! The accommodations were outstanding! Maggie Jackson was such a wonderful host for our tours of the property. She is part of a great staff at MGM.

Kim: We encourage other MPI members to take advantage of the Experiential Event Series. The cost is very reasonable and the benefits are huge. We had the chance to learn from the pros behind the scenes at CES– a priceless opportunity! We also made new relationships with really cool people in our industry.

Did you attend CES this year? Check out our CES Page to write a review and tell us about your experience!

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