THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

CES 2010: A Taxonomy of the Crowd

A big part of the spectacle of the Consumer Electronics Show are the people. Lots of them. There are some 110,000 attendees according to Consumers Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro--and they come in all shapes and sizes. You'll hear dozens of languages on the floor all day long.

I've attended more than one political convention, inaugural and sports championship. The density of people here at CES is somewhere lower than a political convention, higher than a football game--more like attending a championship sports game. The political analogy doesn't fit because the local police are way more focused on traffic--no X-Ray machines and sniffing dogs.

But what is striking about the crowd is the diversity of "types" at the show.
I hate stereotypes because, well, I fit into more of one of them probably and they don't represent who I am. But here are some "types" in the aggregate in no particular order.

PITCHMAN--To cut to the chase, these are the carnival barkers of the CES. They stand in front of their product and tell you what every knob, switch and plug will do. I feel for them since they repeat the same pitch about every 20 seconds.

GADGET NUT--Typified by their fast-walking, talking and photographing these people LOVE their technology. I asked one Gadget Nut at a reception what CES meant to him, his response says it all. "CES is like pornography to me. I get off on it."

ASSOCIATION TYPE--The Association types are the politicians of CES. Often the Washington representative of a particular company or group of companies, they know the major players, the media covering CES, the Feds attending and the people who sign their pay stubs. I can't tell if there is a lot of "Association business" going on or if a lot of this is showing the flag and learning.

BUYERS--These are the real celebrities of CES because for the people doing business this is an important opportunity they have to make or start a deal. All the super exclusive events are for the biggest Buyers. Most of the Buyers I met are well-dressed, tanned and wearing jewelry--including the guys. Other than showgirls and PR, this was the most heavily female group of attendees.

ENGINEERS--I always assumed that there would be a lot of engineers. What I didn't assume is that they'd be off in their own meetings discussing big issues facing the future of the Internet like IPv6. The engineers spend a lot of time talking with other engineers--it's a way engineers from different industries catch up.

TRAINER--A trainer is like a pitchman except they can often be a little more technical or more hands-on. If you want to demo 3D the trainer will pick up and hand you the glasses and then explain how it works. I get the impression this is a promotion from the job of traveling salesman--who are also ubiquitous.

SHOWGIRLS--I don't attend a lot of trade shows so the whole phenomena of women in tight clothing posing in front of stereo speakers or wiring is a little new to me. Needless to say, they're here.

TOWNIE--The Townies are my favorite people at CES. These are the people who live and work in Las Vegas. They're working the show as part of their jobs. I love them for a very utilitarian reason--they're the only people who know how to get around the giant Las Vegas Convention Center. When I'm lost, they help me. Thank you, Townies!

PR FLAK--In my day job I partly do PR so I actually sympathize with this group a lot. Their job is to talk to the press here at CES who number in the thousands. But this is also a big opportunity to shine because there is so much coverage going on. I've found them more engaging to talk with than the Pitchmen and Trainers who are more hurried.

JAPANESE--I hate ethnic stereotypes, so this isn't one. There are just a lot of Japanese here at CES. Some of them are buyers, others manufacturers, others engineers--all different types. But this is the most noticeable non-white group of people at the Show.

HUSTLERS--I run around the convention floor in sneakers, jeans with a fleece jacket over my shirt. So when a guy pitched me consulting services in an elevator 15 seconds after meeting me, I knew I'd met a type. I feel for the hustlers--they're just trying to make a living in a tough economy. But I really don't need semi-conductor marketing plans (thanks for asking though). And you're right, I probably couldn't afford your services anyways.

WAVE-RIDERS--There are whole sections of the convention dedicated to accessories for some larger product. If you like cameras, there are whole sections focused on camera bags. If you like a portable mp3 or audio player, there are whole sections that sell colored cases. These people race to market with accessories for the latest hot gadget. I admire their spunk.

BLOGGERS--This is THE big event for gadget bloggers. Personally I can't tell the difference between one thin laptop and another or one e-reader and another. But they can if you ask them. Kudos to the show for having a specific Blogger Lounge set up for filing, battery charging and social space for the bloggers.

OTHER--In a blog post about types of people it doesn't make a lot of sense to have an "Other" category. But there are so many different people out here that I know I failed to cover them all. So there it is.

That's just a quick rundown of some of the people who make CES so interesting. What is most fascinating to me about this large gathering is that it pulls the curtain back on a whole culture and community in America and the world. It reminds me a lot of the car culture that rose up around the automobile. Its more proof that technology has already changed the world.