CES 2024 Attracts Record International and Startup Participation, Shares Strategic Growth Strategies
Displaying everything from flying cars and transparent TVs to ice cream robots and artificial intelligence-enhanced products, CES 2024 was a triumph. Spanning over 2.5 million square feet (pending an audit) — an estimated 15% increase from last year’s 2.2 million net square feet — the 57th annual CES was the largest such show since COVID-19 decimated live events.
The number of exhibitors jumped to more than 4,300, up from 3,200 in 2023, while more than 135,000 attendees gathered at a dozen venues, including the Las Vegas Convention Center, for the Jan. 9-12 show, compared to 115,000 attendees last year. A record of more than 40% of attendees came from overseas, hailing from 150 countries, regions and territories.
The success of this year’s CES underscores the importance of in-person meetings following the shift to virtual events during the pandemic, said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, which owns and produces the show. The association celebrated its 100th anniversary this year.
“Face to face meetings are back—fully,” he declared. “COVID taught CEOs that they value in-person events,” he said. “On average, attendees have 29 meetings onsite and they told us, ‘You just saved me traveling around the world for four months.’ So it has tremendous value.”
CTA grew its show this year through strategies that, even without CES’ size, other show organizers could emulate, Shapiro added.
First and foremost, Shapiro suggested that organizers think beyond usual customers. “Go outside your traditional areas; it expands your reach. We had a lot of non-traditional [companies] serve as keynote speakers, such as L’Oréal. A small percentage of our attendees go to those sessions, but they’re key for generating press. Someone from outside your industry often provides a different perspective.”
Giving exhibitors and potential speakers honest information, with audited numbers, and listening to their needs is key, Shapiro said. “You have to show them who your audience really is and understand what the companies want to do. You’re not just selling to them.”
At least some of CES’ growth strategies may derive from CTA’s philosophy that “good ideas [can] come from anywhere,” including non-trade show employees, he explained.
But some of CTA’s success came from looking ahead. More than 1,400 start-up companies exhibited, a record showing for CES. “COVID forced companies to go in new directions and technology like artificial intelligence (AI) lets them move faster,” Shapiro said. “That quicker innovation cycle creates news and brings attendees.”
On the Show Floor
A big star of the show this year was AI. “While we don’t have exact numbers, relative to last year, far more companies presented their tech as ‘AI-powered’ or ‘AI-driven,’” Shapiro said. “With a sophisticated business-to-business audience, companies want to show that they’re on the cutting edge of this technology.”
The debut of a flying car from Chinese automaker Xpeng caused a stir on X [formerly Twitter], while Hyundai reportedly also debuted a flying vehicle suited to future air taxis. An app that allows businesses to make their bathrooms available to the public, a smart mirror that reportedly can tell if its user is depressed and more were on display, online newspaper TechCrunch reported. Meanwhile, electronics maker LG debuted a see-through television that seems to disappear when not in use, according to Wirecutter, the product recommendation service of The New York Times. The next-gen TV could hit stores later this year.
A host of other sectors showed up, including digital health, sustainability and gaming, with technology as the common thread.
Engineering and technology firm Bosch, a long-time exhibitor, debuted two products this year at its 9,000-sq.-ft. booth: a specialized electric car charging system, and a heat pump that works in very cold climates, according to Alissa Cleland, vice president of communications and governmental affairs for the Americas, a global co-lead for CES at the company.
The company secured numerous leads not only at its booth but also during its press conference, speaking engagements and other moments, she said.
“CES 2024 was a very successful show for Bosch, with strong engagement with customers and partners in our booth, as well as widespread global media coverage from topics we presented at the show,” Cleland said. “CES continues to be a unique opportunity to bring together the Bosch portfolio on a global stage focused on technology innovation.”
Of course, every show has room for improvement, and one bonus that came up this year — mainly through serendipity — will be repeated, if Shapiro can pull it off.
“We have struggled for 25 years to try to get the dates of our show away from the weekend and from New Year’s Eve, and we did that this year,” he asserted. When the show is close to the holiday, he explained, exhibitors wind up working over the holiday period to prepare, while a closer proximity to the holiday season—and to a weekend—also spikes attendees’ hotel bills.
He continued, “We’d rather be there during the week and have more reasonable hotel rates. Being there on weekdays allows us to reach a business audience all day, every day of the show, which is increasingly important in the era of instant media. We’re going to continue to schedule this way as much as possible going forward.”
CES will return Jan. 7-10, 2025, (Tuesday-Friday) to Las Vegas.