My first CES: virtual meetings, e-friends and working in sweatpants

CES 2021 My First time
(Image credit: Future)

Ever since I first started writing as freelancer for Laptop Mag, our illustrious Editor-in-Chief, Sherri L Smith, has regaled me with tales of how amazing an event CES is, and that she couldn’t wait for me to experience it for myself. To say I was excited is an understatement; I had packed my bag for Vegas back in February 2020.

CES 2021 goes all virtual

Sadly, soon after my first article dropped, Covid-19 arrived on our shores to change our collective realities, and my trip to Vegas for CES never materialized. I was initially saddened, as I am a long-time techie who loves to play with, investigate, and get hands-on with new gadgets. Ever seen a kid with their first set of Legos? Now imagine that child is 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, it’s like a baby gorilla with a new toy — that’s me in a nutshell. 

Virtual CES has been a learning experience, to say the least. I’m a people person and losing the ability to meet people face-to-face has been challenging. Making introductions via email seems a little odd, sort of like techie Tinder. 

CES 2021: The emails

When all the emails started coming I thought to myself, 'I’m not this popular.' I started getting emails two weeks before CES and I never felt so pretty; this is what it must feel like to be cute. There were so many emails from people trying to get their wonderful products in front of me or get me to their virtual booths. It was a bit overwhelming. 

CES is international so I have gotten emails from hard-working people from every corner of the world, and I want to say thank you and I am sorry if I missed your email, or didn’t respond. I tried my best to visit as many portals as I possibly could. The tech community has been very gracious to me, even though it could smell my rookie meat from miles away.

In all actuality, CES started a week before the advertised date as I attended virtual meetings with manufacturers that gave just a sneak peek at what was to come.  You know, just to get us all worked up, so we couldn’t sleep because we were pondering the possibilities. 

The warm-up meetings made me even more curious about in-person CES. To really be in Vegas, meeting everyone, sharing laughs, food, food, and more food. I may mention food again later because everyone talks about it almost as much as they talk about their tech hopes, dreams, and expectations. 

CES 2021: The virtual experience

Even though we weren't face-to-face, the sense of community is really strong. It's something I haven’t felt in a while. It gave me hope for the future and I guess that is what technology and CES is truly about: bringing complete strangers together from all over the world, from all walks of life, a sea of international diversity with the people as diverse as the products they’re sharing with you. 

On my first day of virtual CES, I spent two hours learning about the GrandPad and if my Pop-pop and Abuela were still with us, I would’ve been purchasing them a couple of units. 

Next, I had a virtual meeting with the CEO of a major chair manufacturer and we bonded over their product and our families. I then met an executive from a major peripheral brand that made me laugh so hard it was like reconnecting with a long-lost friend from high school. Virtual or not, the bond-building was palpable. Tech folks are hilarious, warm, intelligent, and yes, everyone missed the food.

CES 2021

(Image credit: Future)

The CTA and major brands did their best to make virtual CES a winning event. However, having only met with a few people virtually, I have to say I cannot wait to meet everyone in person and create lasting bonds with people in the industry. Virtual CES may not be the same as a week in Vegas but it was a nice, gentle, PG introduction to what I have been told can be an overwhelmingly chaotic, yet amazing experience. 

I don’t feel short-changed at all, although If I hear how I missed out on the food one more time, I am going to scream. However, I shan’t be bitter, nor salty about it, as virtual CES has whetted my appetite and left me wanting more. Hopefully, next year I'll be booking my ticket to Vegas. 

CES 2021 My First Time

(Image credit: Future)

CES 2021: I'm sad it's over

In the end, I know it’s not the same experience, it lacks the same energy and excitement. At times it felt like that scene in A Clockwork Orange when they have Alex strapped down in the chair with his eyes held open. Except, in the case of CES 2021, the images were all half-hour-long commercials for new products. 

But there are some advantages to a virtual CES. I couldn’t imagine touring the show floor in my pajama pants, which I freely admit to doing working from home. Plus, I didn't have to brave the long taxi lines as I frantically try to make my next meeting on time.  

In closing, my final thoughts are these: I better lose this pandemic weight before next year so I can actually walk around and meet everyone. Until next year folks, thanks for being so welcoming. And to all the new associates and friends I’ve made virtually, I look forward to meeting in person, shaking hands, sharing food, and building bonds. Overall, CES 2021 just primed me for the real thing this time next year, and I promise no pajama pants on the convention floor (well, maybe). 

Mark Anthony Ramirez

Mark has spent 20 years headlining comedy shows around the country and made appearances on ABC, MTV, Comedy Central, Howard Stern, Food Network, and Sirius XM Radio. He has written about every topic imaginable, from dating, family, politics, social issues, and tech. He wrote his first tech articles for the now-defunct Dads On Tech 10 years ago, and his passion for combining humor and tech has grown under the tutelage of the Laptop Mag team. His penchant for tearing things down and rebuilding them did not make Mark popular at home, however, when he got his hands on the legendary Commodore 64, his passion for all things tech deepened. These days, when he is not filming, editing footage, tinkering with cameras and laptops, or on stage, he can be found at his desk snacking, writing about everything tech, new jokes, or scripts he dreams of filming.