CES 2013: What You Need to Know

Have you done any consumer electronics shopping recently? If so, then you know how hard it is to sift through the countless options for everything from televisions to cameras, from the latest smart phones to high-performance home audio... and everything in between. Even auto manufacturers are pushing "cars as mobile computers." Confused? You're not alone.

Despite a plethora of reviews from magazines, online outlets, social media and peer recommendations, the process is daunting. A common complaint you hear from people is that there are probably too many options.

Now, imagine that you are an innovative startup with a totally new kind of product, or an established and trusted brand with decades of experience in developing new product lines and bringing them to market. What do you do? If you can only do one thing to create the right buzz, what is that?

Whichever group you belong to, the most common solution is the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which will be held January 8-11, 2013, in Las Vegas (its annual home -- only Vegas has the hotel room capacity to stage an event of this magnitude). This year, organizers expect thousands of sponsors and exhibitors, and more than 150,000 attendees.

With those kinds of numbers, and especially with the vast press corps in attendance, CES makes a significant splash in consumers' minds and represents a major opportunity to hear about new products. Brands get to hit the ground running in the new year. It is the "home base" for the consumer electronics universe.

With all that in mind, here are three aspects of CES 2013 to watch out for, regardless of whether you're in the market for a must-have device or eager to launch a new brand or technology to the global marketplace.

1. Navigate the Noise

This event is big. Really big. Tens of thousands of attendees are on the show floor and in nearby hotels at any one time, creating a chaotic atmosphere that can be hard to navigate. For people in the trade and press in attendance, this means creating a CES game plan to ensure they are in the right place at the right time.

For exhibitors and sponsors, CES really is about quality, not quantity. It's all about creating interactions and environments that create space and time to truly engage visitors and all of their senses. The goal should be to reach people 'where they live' with familiar hands-on experiences. Many times, simply getting their hands on a product in an inviting way is far preferable to a no-touch large-screen or theater presentation. Standout experiences and sophisticated-yet-simple visual statements are important to getting the attention of millions beyond the confines of Las Vegas and the exhibit halls.

For consumers following online and reading the press, your best bet for sifting through it all is to follow the trade press in media such as CNN, CNET, Wired and similar publications.

2. Be Selective

The pace of press events, announcements and demos at CES is mind-boggling, and it's easy for attendees to get sidetracked or delayed -- which throws their game plan out of the window. It's important for exhibitors and sponsors to create brand experiences understanding that dynamic. I've seen brands do incredibly well not by spending more money on spectacle, but by choosing instead to thoughtfully integrate their products into the CES experience in ways that stress hands-on interaction and thoughtful use -- rather than blasting them with an audio-visual storm.

Most people I know who look to CES as a source for industry trends and new product launches check in halfway through the event and then at the end, when the press has done a good job of summarizing what's new and compelling.

3. Watch Who's Not There

Interestingly, several prominent brands have announced their intention to reduce or eliminate their presence at CES, for a variety of reasons. Long-time industry experts will watch what Microsoft, for instance, will do in 2013, in place of a big push at CES. (The company has already established high-visibility retail locations to complement its massive Windows 8 media blitz -- looking to control messages and impressions in different ways.)

My experience has been that every brand has its own goals and yardsticks with which they measure success, and these are subject to change. Only time will tell if Microsoft and others will come back to CES. For the brands and attendees who remain involved, the goal is the same: to promote new products for an insatiable media base and to do face-to-face deals with potential partners.

For consumers, CES represents an opportunity to hear about what's new and great from some of the world's most interesting and innovative companies. The antenna is up, and these important early adopters are ready for the message. The trick, as always, is to separate the truth from the hyperbole and replace confusion in the face of so much choice with the certainty that comes with experiencing products first-hand.

Kurt Miller is Vice President, Strategy + Planning at George P. Johnson, the #1 ranked global event marketing agency and part of the Project: WorldWide family of agencies. When not unraveling the mysteries of marketing alongside some of the world's most well respected technology brands, he is working hard to redeem travel reward points for the latest tech gadgetry.

This blog is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post on the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2013), the behemoth consumer-electronics trade show held annually in Las Vegas. To read other pieces in the series, click here. What are your thoughts on CES? We invite you to submit pieces of 500-850 words -- for possible publication in The Huffington Post -- to ces2013@huffingtonpost.com.