Q&A: Karen Chupka, Consumer Electronics Show
Karen Chupka is the senior vice president of events and conferences for the Consumer Electronics Association. She’s the lead event planner for the very popular International Consumer Electronics Show, which takes place every year in Las Vegas.
The International Consumer Electronics Show takes place annually at the beginning of the year in Las Vegas, attracting more than 150,000 tech-savvy professionals including retail buyers, distributors, manufacturers, market analysts and press from 140 countries. The event, which debuts some of the world’s latest and greatest gadgets, attracts international media coverage. That puts a lot of pressure on the show’s planner, Karen Chupka, senior vice president, events and conferences for the Consumer Electronics Association. Chupka spoke with Collaborate’s Social Media Editor Jennifer Garrett about the technological demands of the show, using social media to market the event and the gadgets she thinks need to be on a meeting planner’s radar.
Is there a lot of pressure to incorporate technology into a technology event?
There’s a lot of pressure to be able to stream things live and be able to make things as available on smart devices as possible, but we want to make sure we’re not going to have a room with no one in it because they’re in their hotel rooms watching on their devices.
Have you incorporated any hybrid aspects into the show?
We’re looking at recording our sessions, but making a conscious decision to not make it a live stream, and make it available a couple of hours after the session. What drives people to meetings is still to network and meet other people. Technology can be a great enabler of that but it can also backfire a little. It is important for us to balance that.
What do you mean technology can backfire?
We can have 3,000 to 4,000 people show up for keynote, and we have to be careful to not let wireless [Internet] be available in that room because it can interfere with the speaker’s presentation or live demonstration.
What kind of social media presence does CES have?
We look at how we can communicate with everybody throughout the year from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and other forms of social media. We’ve started Throwback Thursdays on the Facebook page where we put up some kind of post that has happened at past CES [events] to engage members and dialogue about things that are happening today. We’re getting people interested in what’s going on throughout the year and not just the five days when they’re at the event.
Does social media help with the event itself?
Questions about how to get access to certain things come in on social media, and Twitter feeds give us an idea about what questions are out there and what frustrations there are. We can direct those frustrated people into finding solutions. If we find out a certain block of hotels sold out on a Twitter feed, we’re able to give them some other options. What could be a post of “Forget about going to CES because rooms are filled” can immediately be a solution when they see a post from us of other hotel options.
What other technology features have you added?
We’ve had an app for three years, and I haven’t seen the report yet but we had something like 77,000 downloads of it [this year]. We also experimented earlier at our Industry Forum in October with having an app for that event. An app, even at smaller events, can play a useful role for somebody.
How do you market to special interest groups who come to CES?
A separate landing page is on our website when people come from [a certain] community. It mirrors everything that’s on the CES site but from their perspective they’re seeing a little more focused website. [The entertainment community] is an area we’re looking to help grow and bring more members in from. We also host a government contingent that comes to learn more about technology.
How do you manage all the outlets you use to get information out?
We use all of it, so what’s helpful is having some kind of weekly—or whatever is right for your cycle—push out to customers to keep them in the loop of what you’re doing. It’s an integrated effort for us: We’re going to talk about XYZ this week, so we’re going to find these types of images to push out on Facebook; the landing page on the website is going to look like this; and our tweets are going to say this. Whatever the point is we’re trying to get out this week, we use different touchpoints and tools to engage people on the topic.
Do you use any meetings management software?
Our association management software is Personify, but we use something different for invoices and billing.
What technology does your staff use on-site?
It depends on the functions of the staff. For me, it’s a smartphone. For the first time this year, our operations team and conference team tended to be more mobile. They all had tablets and were able to upload BEOs and orders immediately into their tablets. It’s a great tool to help them. What used to be a huge list of radios is down to a few people because most us have smartphones.
What new products or technology will be most beneficial to events in coming years?
A couple companies asked to do some experiments this year being able to do geo-tagging in buildings. So in the middle of a convention center, where now a GPS only allows you to look at outside coordinates, this [new technology] would be able to tell you where you are within a building and how to get somewhere. It will be really cool, especially with something our size. When it gets to a point when mapping systems can literally show you where you’re walking—especially trade shows—[events] will be much easier to navigate.