How To Attend CES (With or Without Registering)

The Consumer Electronic Show (aka CES) is the world’s largest trade show. Over 175,000 people flock to Las Vegas each year to attend (to put this in perspective there are only 150,000 hotel rooms in Las Vegas). There is literally every kind of consumer electronic related gadget at this event you can imagine - from the latest 4K TV's to washing machines - it is all at CES. It is where everyone comes to show off their latest technology.

CES is an absolute must see for anyone who considers themselves a tech lover. The problem is it is pretty hard to get into CES. It is not open to the public. You have to be "in" the industry to get an admission pass. Don't worry though! There are multiple pathways into CES.

One way to attend CES not mentioned on this list is to get a job as a booth babe.

#1 Way To Get Into CES: The Legitimate Way

From CES’s website:

CES remains a trade-only event and is not open to the general public. Industry professionals are encouraged to register in advance to ensure quicker review time and processing on-site. For general attendees, registration is $100 through December 20 and will increase to $300 on December 21. Registration for approved and credentialed media is always free.

What is an industry professional? CES doesn't say much only that you must have "affiliation with the consumer electronics industry (pay stub, business card, et cetera)." So if you are already connected to the consumer electronics industry you may be able to get in with your existing credentials. Be warned though that I have heard that it is getting harder and harder to get into CES even for those in a tech related job.

#2 Way To Get Into CES: The Less Than Legitimate Way

Perhaps you are a tech fan but don't have any actual connection to the industry. I’ve read stories online of people creating a fake business or blog related to the consumer electronics industry just so they can get into CES. I've never tried this method, but I would assume if you put the time in to make it look legit it should work well. Over 170,000 people attend CES. It is impractical for the registration staff to spend that much time on any one registration.

Be prepared to walk by literally rows and rows of cell phone case booths.

#3 Way To Get Into CES: The Black Market

This past CES I realized too late that I was going to be in Las Vegas at the same time as the event. Fortunately there are almost always tickets to be found on Craigslist or other sources. With over 170,000 admissions there are always going to be people who don't show up or leave early. CES also gives exhibits guest passes to give out however they see fit.

I ended up buying a pass from a guy I met on Craigslist named Ralph. Ralph was about 50 years old and I don't think he woudl know the difference between an apple and AAPL but he did have six CES passes that he was selling. After a bit of haggling I was able to get a pass for $30. The pass was in someone else's name, but that was never an issue other than when exhibitors would call me by the name on my pass and I would be confused for five seconds until I remembered I was under an alias.

#4 Way To Get Into CES: Just Walk In

I don't recommend this, but it is something that I observed at this year's CES. You can actually go through security and get into the grand lobby of the convention center without needing a pass. The lobby usually at least has a few cool things in it and gives you a feel of what CES is about. This year Samsung had a large VR demo center and Engadget’s stage was there.

However to see anything more you will have to go to one of the convention halls. All the entrances to the halls have two convention staffers that check to confirm you have a pass with you as you walk by. This is literally just you walking by past them and them looking to make sure that you have a pass. There are way to many attendees to anything more. As an experiment I hid my pass underneath my coat and walked past security behind a large group of people and wasn’t stopped but YMMV.

Samsung had their VR demos right in the Grand Lobby - no pass required.

Concluding Tips for CES

  • My favorite part about CES is finding the small, innovative companies. I had the most luck finding unique companies in South Hall.
  • I have found that exhibitors are much more receptive to my questions when I am writing down notes in my notebook. I believe that this is because they assume that I am from the media.
  • GoPro gives out free beers occasionally - if you ask nicely they will give you two beers.
  • I'm no germaphobe, but with 170,000 attendees from all over the world you should make sure that the exhibitors are disinfecting their VR headsets before putting one on.
  • Parking is crazy near the convention center. If you are driving a car I would recommend parking at the lot to the North-West of the convention Center ($10 per day) or just park at the Circus Circus for free and take the 25 minute walk.