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[35] CES: Same Time Next Year. With a Plan. Or Maybe Not.

by Megan Burns, Director - Catalyst


I was on the fence about attending CES this year and a few days before made a very last minute decision to head to Vegas. My goal was to connect with some interesting tech entrepreneurs and companies, have some meaningful conversations and establish a few strategic relationships. Managing time and being efficient at events is crucial for a good return on time. Especially one the size of CES. Quality vs. Quantity!

Because my decision to attend was last minute I did not invest the time planning, as I usually do, prior to attending events.


First stop: convention center. I’m quickly overwhelmed by the 100’s and 1000’s of booths and exhibitors on display. Here the latest and greatest gadgets, technology, automobiles, robots and everything tech imaginable. If I had the leisurely time to stroll the floor I might have embraced this chaos. I immediately realized randomly walking the exhibit floor will not be productive and allow me to meet my event goals. I needed a quick event strategy and plan. Growing up my Dad used to always say, ”poor planning on your part does not create a crisis on mine”. Time to execute the plan.


I needed to find my tribe to ground me. First stop, Azafran’s portfolio company, Yobe. I was excited to show my support and celebrate their newly announced and exciting partnership with SoundHound and PLNT Burger. Yobe helps brands unlock the value of voice technology in any environment.Co-founder and CEO Ken Sutton. Ken and the team conducted live demonstrations to show the power of their technology and ability to extract linguistic and biological markers from voices. All in the noisiest of CES environments, Eureka Park! Homerun Yobe!!

Next stop a visit to Amsterdam based BrainCreators. There I spent time with Co-founder and CRO Glenn Brouwer. Their booth was bustling with pedestrian traffic interested in learning more about their digital twin product Inspech and Seagull.


Curious to see the new products of Tectonic Audio Labs I next visited the suite of Chief Executive Officer and friend of Azafran Fuat Koro and his team. It was here I was able to hear the most amazing music and sounds from their new speaker technology. Congrats Fuat and Tectonic!


I recently connected with Philadelphia based Stel Life. I joined Stel’s CEO Sid, Sandy, Ivy and team to rave at their impressive booth and applaud their even more impressive patented technology that seamlessly and securely connects health devices to health records without complex setup. Right in line with Azafran’s technology and healthcare focus.

It was through the Stel Life team I learned that Steven Klasko Executive in Residence, General Catalyst & advisor for Stel Life was to be a panelist on the upcoming session, The Future of Care in America: A New Hybrid Model. This enlightening discussion, moderated by Carlos Nunez Chief Medical Officer ResMed and joined by panelists Anne Docimo Chief Medical Officer UnitedHealthcare, Vidya, Raman-Tangella Chief Medical Officer Teladoc Health and Susan Turney CEO Marshfield Clinic Health System. Many, many takeaways from their conversation including reiterating Steven’s mission: match academic health care with the entrepreneurial world of innovation. More progress when we do this together!


As I missed The Female Quotient (FQ) signature Equality Lounge® last year, it was top of mind for me to stop by. Afterall, FQ are connectors for the largest global community of mission-driven business leaders. A Catalyst would be right at home.

To say this was one of my highlights of CES is an understatement. CEO and founder Shelly Zalis, President Talia Bender and the entire team create the most amazing, beautiful networking environment to present incredibly curated content presented by the Who’s Who of executive leaders including brands like Delta Airlines, Microsoft, MITRE Corporation, Daimler Truck North America, TIME, Deloitte, Former U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Yahoo, Capital One, Visa, dentsu Americas and more! Topics ranged from fundraising, sustainability, innovation, future of AR, VR, and Web3 and more. Check out the agenda and speakers here .

Along with this thought provoking content and speakers, the networking environment was so incredibly comfortable and the attendees superb. I thought, I’ve learned more and met more people at the Equality Lounge® in 2 hours than I did walking the CES floor for 4 hours!

As FQ creates platforms for women and provides solutions for organizations committed to closing the gender gap in the workplace, I highly encourage everyone to connect and engage. Maybe similar to Steven Klasko’s shared mission, more progress made when we do it together.


In addition to the many inspirational attendees and speakers I met at Equality Lounge®, I had the privilege of meeting FQ’s Shelly Zalis. I shared with her the brilliance of the Equality Lounge® and in my experience it created a community out of chaos.


Next up for the Equality Lounge®? Additional key industry conferences March SxSW and June Cannes Lions. Join me!


Finally, I couldn’t leave Vegas without visiting my friend Pete Ericksen, founder and CEO of Modev. Pete and his team produce one of Modev’s flagship events, Voice@ CES. As usual it did not disappoint. Keynotes and fireside chats with leading brands at the forefront of conversational AI, synthetic media and shared their insights on the impact of ChatGPT. Speakers included Veritone’s SVP and GM Sean King , Tobias Dengel CEO WillowTree (celebrating in Vegas with the acquisition of WillowTree byTell $1.2B–CONGRATS), James Poulter, CEO of Vixen Labs and Dominique Essig, VP and GM of Conversational Commerce of Walmart. William Harvey Global Digital Innovation Manager, Diageo.


Looking for a resource to understand the trends and future of Conversational Ai? Join me, Pete and the Modev team at their new ESG Summit 5-7 September, 2023 and their annual Voice Summit 4-6 December. Both hosted in Washington, DC.


So in conclusion, for a Catalyst without a formal event strategy, my event goals to meet and engage were not only met but exceeded. In life's hustle and bustle, a reset can help pave the way to a plan to guide the way. Crisis avoided.


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