The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) spans four days, 11 venues and more than 30 product categories this month in Las Vegas. CES veterans and first-timers shared their tips on what to watch in health tech and how to get the most out of the conference.

Innovation to watch

Wearables have always been the mainstay of CES health. Devices that track sleep, movement, heart rate, blood sugar levels and more have made appearances at the annual trade show. As they get even more sophisticated, health leaders will continue to watch for new devices that pop up at the show.

“The wearable piece of health is really taking center stage,” said Lisa Bookwalter, director of client solutions, health at Twitter. “In general, the personalization of health is so fascinating and, when they look back 20 years from now, that’s going to be what the game changer was in healthcare. I’m interested in seeing the different technologies that are there that are going to move that forward. Twenty years from now, there will be a Lisa Bookwalter personalized health plan and a Lisa Bookwalter personalized drug. The possibilities with that technology, you can’t even imagine.”

With personalized health comes a greater focus on data, an area that Jeff Erb, president of McCann Health Engagement, is looking forward to seeing more of at the show. Panels focusing on personalized health data, voice technology for doctors and chronic conditions are high on his list for this year’s conference.

Aaron Strout, chief marketing officer at W2O, says panels that cover the intersection of health with other emerging tech such as voice assistants, hearing technology, 5G, blockchain, augmented reality or 3-D printing are the talks he’s looking forward to.

He also takes note to attend panels with influential speakers. In the health world that often means health leaders from tech companies such as Alphabet’s Verily or Microsoft’s health division.

Evolution of health and wellness at CES

That focus on data and personalized health is part of a larger shift by health and wellness companies attending CES.

Health gadgets remain a huge part of the conference, while other areas have started growing, including healthcare data companies and continuing medical education (CME) for doctors.

“Having CME credits at the conference itself encourages clinicians to get involved and understand how technology is changing and impacting the way they can connect both from an educational perspective and how they interact with their patients,” Erb says.

Because CES started as a place to show off new TVs, cars and smartphones, its importance for the healthcare industry is still building.

“As digital health has started to become more of a trend and has moved from just Fitbits and apps on your phone to wearables, ingestibles, hearables and things like that, [CES] is starting to have more teeth,” Erb explains. “It’s starting to matter more. But it’s still a little tricky because the broader healthcare industry hasn’t discovered it as the go-to place to find out about digital health.”

Getting the most out of the show

Plan, plan, plan. Make a list, spreadsheet or calendar of all the events, panels and booths you want to see, then strategize. Pick events that are close to each other, map out your travel ahead of time and don’t get lost on the show floor, Erb says.

Don’t try to do everything. There are dozens of panels every day and hundreds of booths to visit. Strout suggests choosing only a few talks per day. 

“It’s better to figure out four or five each day that you really want to focus on and go in and do some deep listening and note-taking,” he says. “Don’t go in feeling like you have to do every single piece of it.”

Clients at CES

If your client or company is part of the conference, make sure they have something people want to hear. There’s so much noise at CES that breaking through is the hardest part.

“You have to have something to say that people want to hear and you have to be true to your brand superpower,” Bookwalter explains. “People are so busy that if you don’t have something to say that’s going to make a difference in their business, their time is better spent elsewhere. The challenge on us as partners is to maximize the time of our clients.” 

Strout’s advice is similar: planning ahead is everything. He also suggests using social and paid social to get client news trending at CES.

“Don’t assume that you’re going to go there and be able to show up and meet with people,” he says. “Knowing who it is that you want to meet in advance, knowing what it is you’re trying to accomplish goes a long way. Know that it’s hard to get news through [at CES], unless you’re one of the big tech companies.”

Surviving Las Vegas

CES is a whirlwind of meetings, panels and parties with miles of walking in between. Here are some veteran attendees’ tips to survive the week:

  • Bring pain relievers.
  • Stay hydrated; all that walking can tire you out.
  • Don’t overplan. Vegas is bigger than you think and getting across town can take longer than expected.
  • Use hotel taxis instead of Uber, it’s faster to jump in a taxi right outside your hotel than to wait for an Uber.
  • Leave time for the fun things such as fawning over new tech gadgets.
  • Carry battery packs to charge on the go.
  • Throw some energy bars in your bag; there isn’t always time for a full meal.