The Trade Show of Shows

In the $12 billion business expo industry, Las Vegas Comdex is the premier attraction

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When veteran journalist and foreign correspondent David DeVoss decides to see what makes a trade show tick, he wades into one of the biggest and glossiest in the world: Comdex, the computer industry's Las Vegas extravaganza. Some of his conclusions: a big trade show is a gigantic undertaking—and very big business. Some 220,000 visitors attended the three days of Comdex 2000. To ready the venue for them, workers moved more than 12,000 tons of freight, arranged 7,000 chairs and laid enough carpet to cover 21 football fields. The 250 miles of specially installed electrical cable crackled with ten million watts of power. Ten thousand new products were offered by 2,100 exhibitors.

The cost of exhibiting at Comdex is enormous. At $55 per square foot, space on the convention floor exceeds the rate charged by many Manhattan office towers. When this basic expense is added to all other costs associated with an exhibit, even a modest booth can cost more than $1 million. At Comdex 2000, Microsoft spent around $12 million.

And that's just for stage setting. For the real inside scoop on what transpires at Comdex, follow DeVoss from the hoopla surrounding Bill Gates' opening remarks to day-three panel discussions, as he treks through this "geekfest," listening to a thousand voices of the future.

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