You've made it back to the office alive. Now it's time to follow up on ideas and people.

Respond, Respond, Respond. "Okay, they came by the booth. But that's just the intro," says Kevin Donnellan. "What's the next step? E-mails to everyone you met? Phone calls? Direct mail? You want something to land on their desk the following week, if possible."

"We rank our leads from hot to cool," says Rodrigues. "Then they all get culled and sent to sales reps or the inside sales team. We want to take some action on every lead within 7 to 10 days. If we have a super-hot lead, like a surgeon who wants to use the device in a procedure next week, he gets a call fast."

File 'Em, Don't Forget 'Em. As for that hefty bundle of newly gathered business cards, TI's John Daniels uses a card scanner to capture all the data on his desktop and laptop. A few months ago, Daniels really needed a certain contact at Sony - and thanks to a card he'd collected at CES two years ago, he had it.

The bottom line: Trade shows can be a bonanza if you know what you're doing, a black hole of fatigue and frustration if you don't. Plan your work, work your plan, and be ready to reap the fruit when you get home. Then take time to soak your tired feet and think about next year's show. Or next week's.

Dallas writer CHRIS TUCKER, who has been lost at Comdex, InfoComm, CES, TechXNY, and other shows, writes the Business Trends for American Way each month.

MARCOS CHIN is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto. His work has appeared in publications such as Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and Esquire.

Gear up for your most successful convention or trade show experience.

It's convention and trade show time. You rushed to get out of the office, you're not sure if you've brought all your important files, and you're cramming to get organized.

I know, because I have been to more trade shows than can be computed, including double-digit forays to one of the big daddies of all trade shows: The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held each year in early January in Las Vegas. This show attracts people from around the world and features thousands of exhibitors in countless halls and hotel rooms from one end of the Strip to the other. There is virtually no way one person can see this entire show. What you need for this, or any other convention, in lieu of a staff of executive assistants, is a game plan - and a slew of ultratech tools to make your busy trip a success.