CONVENTION SURVIVAL GUIDE

Also read: SHOW SURVIVOR

IT'S A CIRCUS OUT THERE
AS CRAZY AS CONVENTIONS CAN BE, THEY'RE A NECESSITY IN BUSINESS. SO TO HELP YOU NAVIGATE THEM SUCCESSFULLY, WE'VE PUT TOGETHER A HANDY GUIDE TO TELL YOU WHAT GOES ON BEHIND THE SCENES, WHAT GEAR YOU SHOULDN'T BE WITHOUT, AND WHAT TO DO ONCE YOU ARRIVE.
What does it take to put on the country's largest trade show?

More than a million square feet of floor space, 1,500 cabs, a handful of Cirque du Soleil acrobats, and much, much more.


Even if you've never attended it, chances are good you've heard of the International Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, held in Las Vegas each year.

The single biggest trade show held annually in the U.S., CES is truly a sight to behold in both scale and content, full of the high-tech wonders that make us want to max out our credit cards or add a wing to the house. In fact, so much is going on at this massive show, even the backstage view will knock your socks off. So let's pull back the curtains and take a peek.

XXL MARKS THE SPOT
For four days this month, more than 2,200 exhibits will sprawl out over the nearly three million square feet of space at the Las Vegas Convention Center and adjacent Hilton exhibit hall. High-end audio exhibitors camp out at the Alexis Park Hotel, a five-minute cab ride away.

Even in these recessionary times, CES 2004 will attract more than 110,000 industry-associated guests, including exhibitors, "big box" chain buyers, small store owners, sales reps, industry analysts, government bureaucrats and congressmen, would-be inventors, and a global media posse in excess of 4,000. All are there to take the pulse of this fast-paced, entertainment-minded industry, to network, and to see what their rivals are doing.

DUE DILIGENCE
The Las Vegas Convention Center estimates that each registrant spends about 17 hours "working" the show - checking out the exhibits, taking meetings, and sitting in on some of CES' 100-plus sessions and panel discussions (for tips on the best plan of attack, read our story on page 80). Last year, Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the sponsoring Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), averaged eight miles of aisle walking each day. But in truth, many of the higher-powered attendees are far less visible, conducting most of their business in private conference rooms off the floor or in nearby hotel suites.