LVCC Power Outage Mars Day 2 of CES 2018
Day 2 of CES 2018 was off to a great start in Las Vegas. A day after torrential downpours left many exhibitors and attendees soaking wet, the sun was out, the sky was blue, and the air was warm. Then, around 11:15 a.m. local time, the entire Central Hall and South Hall bridge meeting rooms went dark. CES 2018 lost power, and the #CESBlackout hashtag was born.
For two hours there was a lot of confusion as people wandered through the dark halls, using their cellphone flashlights to navigate the crowded corridors, attempting to avoid running into other people and the maze of booth structures.
It’s an ironic event for sure, considering this is not only the largest North American trade show, but one—obviously—focused on the consumer electronics industry. The thought of companies like Sony, Samsung, and LG losing power is laughable. But the situation itself was an incredibly dangerous one.
The Consumer Technology Association, the Las Vegas Visitor and Convention Authority, and NV Energy released a joint statement on the incident:
Today at approximately 11:15 AM, the Central Hall and South Hall bridge meeting rooms at the Las Vegas Convention Center lost power. Power in the South Hall was restored within minutes, and power has now been fully restored to all areas. A preliminary assessment indicates that condensation from heavy rainfall caused a flashover on one of the facility's transformers. We are grateful to NV Energy for their swift assistance, to our customers and their clients for their patience and to the staff for ensuring the safety and security of all attendees and exhibitors.
Swift, from the perspective of someone what was in the Central Hall during the outage, might be a bit of an overstatement. The CES 2018 app didn’t alert attendees to the matter until power had already been out for at least 20 minutes. Social media lit up immediately, so those in the area and following online likely heard about it through those channels before anything was said by the association. Announcements were made over the LVCC intercom system, but they were essentially “reassuring” sentiments to let attendees know that they were working on finding a solution to the outage as quickly as possible.
From an exhibitor standpoint, the outage could have rolling implications throughout the rest of the show. At the time, of course, demos that were underway, meetings that had been scheduled, and business that might otherwise have been conducted was all put on hold—and stayed on hold for two hours. That’s an eternity when talking about trade show time. Those meetings could take place eventually if companies have the flexibility to reschedule, but the outage will likely impact exhibitors’ schedules for the duration of CES.
In the moment, the power outage was truly a surreal event and unlike anything I’ve experienced at a trade show, let alone one of this size. Now a few hours removed from the event, I still feel that way. Even if they can explain the technological reasons behind the event, how does something like this happen, and at CES of all shows? The buzz created by a loss of power has the potential to overshadow one of the most important trade shows in the consumer tech industry.