Navigating CES in Las Vegas is challenging enough, but how do you decide what to attend when it’s all virtual and you’re not limited by the logistics of hoofing it from session to session? CES 2021 will feature over 180 sessions with industry and thought leaders covering a diverse range of topics relevant to tech and marketing leaders. For our readers who are planning to join CES virtually, Signal360 co-editor in chief Stan Joosten has handpicked a few sessions worth your time.
Most sessions require a CES registration. If you want to follow along from a distance, many media sources such as CNET, Engadget, Wired, and Adweek will provide highlights and inside stories during the week. CNET even has several CES sessions that are open to everyone. P&G will be hosting several free sessions in the LifeLab experience, which is open to everyone.
Here’s Stan’s take on seven sessions to put on your list:
1. The Future of 5G (Monday, Jan. 11 – 6.30-7.30pm ET)
CES opens Monday with a keynote presentation by Hans Vestberg, Verizon Chairman and CEO. Telecom companies and phone manufacturers are racing to drive 5G adoption. All new flagship phones, including Apple’s iPhone 12 and Samsung’s upcoming S21 (to be announced this week) tout 5G as a game changing feature. It is not yet clear how exactly 5G will change the world beyond faster download speeds, but maybe this year it will become clear why 5G might be the big deal the telecom industry says it is. Vestberg’s presentation should give us a glimpse of what’s to come and why it matters.
2. The Next Big Thing: Will Our Homes Remain Our Headquarters? (Tuesday, Jan. 12 – 4pm)
CNET’s Editor-at-Large Brian Cooley is a CES veteran, known to provide a realistic perspective for all the shiny objects on display at this tech nirvana. As he writes in his Signal360 contribution this month, the big question is how people will behave after the pandemic. Brian’s insightful panel will help us see the reality of how consumers will continue what tech driven behaviors will stick or not. Note: this session is open to everyone through CNET.
3. Walmart’s Dough McMillon on Creating Meaningful Value for All (Wed, Jan. 13, 9-9.30am ET)
For retail, the future arrived a few years earlier than planned, due to the Covid-19 crisis. With US ecommerce up over 30% in 2020, Walmart was ready. Walmart is also a recognized leader on topics such as diversity and inclusion, as well as climate change. This is in no small part due to its forward-looking vision under the leadership of its CEO, Doug McMilllon.
4. Technological Megashifts Impacting Our World (Wednesday, Jan. 14, 9.45-10.15am ET)
With his books The Lexus and the Olive Tree and The World Is Flat, author and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has shown a penchant for connecting how social, technical, economic and political forces interact to create the world we live in. This year like no other we need a perspective on how emerging technology is shaping social, political, and economic transformations around the globe.
5. Stepping Up to Lead (Tuesday, Jan. 12, 10-15-10.45am ET)
P&G’s Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard has been outspoken about the social responsibility and leadership of business. The recent Lead with Love campaign is a clear illustration, not only as a great ad but also supported by actions. P&G wants to demonstrate and lead how companies are not just a force for business growth but also a force for good in society — now more than ever.
6. Mary Barra (Chairman & CEO, GM) on Mobility for Communities (Tuesday, Jan. 12, 9-10am ET)
One of the big tech stories in the last few years has been how Tesla is disrupting the automotive industry. While many have predicted the imminent demise of established car companies, GM declared a bold, all-electric re-invention in an attempt to overtake Tesla. CES may have become as important to GM and the car industry as the Detroit Automotive Show for key announcements, such as the new GM logo.
7. A Biden Administration Approach to Technology and Innovation (Tue., Jan. 12, 10.15-10.45am ET)
With a changing of the guard in Washington, there are many questions around what’s ahead for tech companies, especially Big Tech. Brian Deese, incoming leader of the National Economic Council and previously global head of sustainable investing at BlackRock, will provide a first public indication of priorities for the Biden Administration. Deese’s appointment may be an early sign that sustainability innovation will be big at future CES events.
If you want to explore other sessions the CES website provides a complete overview.