(Hartford Courant; 10/09/98)

With their laptops, cell phones and personal digital assistants, today's hot-
 wired executives pride themselves on being able to do business with anyone from 

    But those same business people still felt the need to leave home and office 
 behind this week  to gather at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center for the 
 Fall Internet World trade show.

    Forget the buzzwords about "virtual meetings" and "on-line commerce." When 
 it comes to doing serious business, even the digital elite turn to the time-
 honored traditions of handshakes,  eye contact and schmoozing.

    All of which is why Internet World, the industry's largest trade show, 
 continues to thrive despite the encroachments of the Information Age on other 
 forms of commerce.

    By the time the weeklong event closes late this afternoon, Westport-based 
 Mecklermedia, which organizes the show, expects that 50,000  people will have 
 passed through the Javits center in search of the latest Internet and World 
 Wide Web technologies.

    "It's human interaction, and human interaction will never be replaced," 
 explains Alan M. Meckler, the company's chairman and chief executive.

    For exhibitors, Internet World offers a chance to reach out to customers and 
 prospects in ways that cyberspace, for all its vaunted interactivity, has not 
 come close to matching.

    "Companies are nothing but people. And at a trade show,  you've got a shot 
 at talking to those people," said Doug Drose,  marketing communications 
 director for Inverse Network Technology Inc., of Sunnyvale, Calif.

    Drose, standing at the company's booth on the show floor,  said that despite 
 technology's march, face-to-face discussions remain the most effective way for 
 people to communicate. "I don't think the Web will ever be good for that," he 

    His opinion was seconded by Thomas Malleis, an executive for Health 
 Solutions Inc. who traveled from Detroit to attend Internet World.

    "The technicians are here -- the people that really know the product," said 
 Malleis, who was comparing Web-based data-gathering software. "By coming here, 
 I get a chance to look at the product and make a decision."

    Bjorn Jonsson traveled from Iceland to attend Internet World with a similar 
 quest: to help his employer, the Iceland postal service, learn about 
 technologies that could help it ship the mail more efficiently.

    "We are experts in transportation, but not technology," Jonsson said. "Here 
 you have a comprehensive overview of the state of the art."

    Exhibitors and attendees alike touted the convenience of being able to see a 
 wide variety of technologies at a single time and place, all while being freed 
 from the interruptions and pressures of a normal workday.

    "It's hard to find as many things in such a short period of time," said 
 Robert Travinsky, of Castrol North America in Wayne, N.J. "In a couple of 
 hours, you can see a lot."

    Alexander Richardson, president of Branford-based Lexitech,  which makes 
 computerized kiosk displays, said attendees aren't the only ones gathering 
 valuable information at trade shows.  Exhibitors can also learn a lot about 
 their prospective customers if they plan properly, he said.

    "The trade shows are hopefully going to separate out all the serious buyers 
 from the people who are just kicking the tires," Richardson said. "It's a very 
 efficient way to do business."

    In a fast-moving industry such as the Internet, trade shows and the 
 professional conferences that typically accompany them provide a handy way for 
 executives to stay current with the latest technological developments.

    Keeping tabs on the competition is a side benefit. "It's the perfect 
 opportunity to see who's doing what with who," said Michele Dotterer, an 
 account executive with Detroit-based Intelisys.

    Yet another advantage of trade shows is their habit of offering actual 
 product demonstrations.  Although it's one thing to hear a product described, 
 it's often quite another to actually see the product in action.

    To be sure, software-makers will often ship demonstration versions of their 
 products to prospective business clients. But that requires the recipients to 
 install the software and figure out how to operate it on their own.

    Then, too, there's the serendipity of stumbling across something interesting 
 at a trade show that you might not otherwise have found.

    "There's no question that you could get a lot of the same information by 
 going on the Web," said John Pallatto, a senior editor at Internet Business 
 magazine. "But here, you get to see the whole landscape all at once."

    But there is a price to be paid -- usually in the form of sore feet, aching 
 backs, stiff shoulders and bleary eyes.

    A weary Sigi Hoehle, an editor from Germany, seemed to embody that 
 exhaustion as she rested on a stool near the close of Wednesday's exhibition. 
 Had she done a lot of walking that day?

    "Yes," she said conspiratorially, "but actually it was in SoHo shopping."

Thanks Kinetic!

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