While thinking about these two conferences this month, I realized that I haven't looked in-depth on what the difference is between the two. I hear less about the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) because I am farther away from it. It occurs annually in Las Vegas while South by South West (SXSW) Interactive occurs in Austin, Texas, where I am located. So let's take a closer look.
What are the main differences between the two shows? CES is mainly a trade show, and was recognized as the Best Show of 2010 in the Trade Show Exhibitors Association's Exhibitors' Choice Awards. Many new consumer products premier at the CES show. There are keynote presentations and many informative sessions, but the focus is the trade show itself. The SXSW Interactive festival centers more on presentations, panel sessions, workshops, and book readings rather than its trade show component. The message that SXSW Interactive communicates is that this festival doesn't just focus on technology, but creativity as well.
The main difference I found is the type of people that go to each show. CES is not open to the public, so all attendees must represent the consumer electronic industry. CES is more about clout, acknowledging that many C-level executives attend, with several representing companies with more than $500 million in total annual sales. These are the big dogs of the industry at this trade show. The Leaders in Technology (LIT) Dinner is by invitation only, with Netflicks and The Huffington Post executives serving as the keynote speakers for this year's dinner.
If you don't qualify for CES, SXSW Interactive may be perfect for you. The walk-up rate for a SXSW Interactive badge is just $750 (and you can definitely get a cheaper price the earlier you register). The trade show is not as big, but there are more events to attend. There are large and small speeches going on throughout the day, and SXSW Interactive works diligently to connect people, arranging Meet Ups for people to network with each other. The festival is aware of attendee demographics, offering discounted prices to students and posting a job board at their trade show.
Which one do you prefer?