Workin’ The Show

Tech trade shows are a great way to learn what the pros know

Ever been to a technology trade show? If you haven’t, you’ve missed out on a chance to connect with tech professionals and learn about the latest in hardware, software, and the Internet, to say the least of getting the same information the tech pros get. So, whether you’re the decision maker in your company or a consumer who wants to know more about the latest gadgets, a tech trade show is the ideal place for you.

If you haven’t been to a technology trade show, you might be overwhelmed at first. These events typically last two to three days and feature thousands of examples of the latest in hardware, software, Web applications, and sites4as well as gadgets and gimmicks. Decide what you want to see before you begin wandering from booth to booth. "Know your goals," says Steve Schuldenfrei, president of the Signature Trade Shows Inc., which runs the Exposition Operations Society. You should know exactly what you’re looking for and get as much education about the products you’re interested in as possible. Remember, companies are there to market and sell products to you.

Schuldenfrei suggests that you take the time to talk to each vendor exhibiting the product you’re interested in. Ask them to demonstrate how the product works, and be sure to test it yourself. If you spot a journalist at the booth (usually wearing a badge marked "press"), ask their opinion of the product. They often have insight about the product, because they’ve tested previous versions or early releases. Adds Schuldenfrei, go with an open mind and lots of business cards. Trade shows that admit the general public are usually free, but some may charge a nominal entrance fee.

How do you find trade shows? Go online. Comdex.com, for example, is the largest information technology trade show in the country, and the show’s Website contains information about all of its upcoming events. TSCentral (www.tscentral.com) is the place to go if you’re looking for a trade show. It has listings, by category, of thousands of trade shows, with information about where and when they are being held. PCExpo (www.pcexpo.com) is another technology show that entrepreneurs and consumers should not miss. And if you’re a globetrotter, visit the CeBIT Website (www.cebit.de) for information on the world’s largest tech show, which is held every year in Hannover, Germany.

Trade shows are an important way for vendors to bring the latest information to professionals and consumers worldwide. According to www.exhibitions work.co.uk, a research firm on exhibitions, "73% of visitors are personally involved in selecting, recommending, or buying products and services. Exhibitions are rated above catalogs, publications, the Internet, sales reps, and direct mail as a means of assisting purchasing decisions among exhibition visitors." For small businesspeople and entrepreneurs, it makes sense, then, to meet vendors and get product news straight from the source.

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