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[ The PC Guide | Articles and Editorials | There's No Business, Like Show Business... ]

Do Your Homework

Of all the steps you can take to get the most out of a computer show and protect yourself from gotchas, the most important should be taken before you even set foot in the front door: do your homework up front. Just reading this article puts you ahead of 95% of those who walk into a show for the first time. As a prepared and educated shopper, you are much more likely to get what you are looking for with a minimum of hassle, and have fun at the same time.

Here are a few things you should determine before you go to the show:

  • Why Am I Going? Decide what it is you are trying to accomplish at the show. Are you going primarily to browse, to see what is for sale and at what prices? Are you looking to make a purchase of a system, or perhaps a needed component? If you are looking to buy, what are your priorities in making the purchase?
  • What Do I Need? If you are looking to buy systems or components at the show, look into what you need or want before you go. Otherwise, you will quickly find yourself distracted by an amazing array of different types of hardware, and vendors who often know less about their products than you do.
  • What's A Good Deal? Research current component prices on the Internet, or by shopping at a local computer store (if you have one that you trust and that has competitive prices.) This is the only way to know how good the prices are at the show.
  • What's My Time Worth? Decide in advance how long you want to spend going from table to table. Time is money, and it's easy to lose track of time at a show. If you are shopping for a $45 component it doesn't make much sense to spend 4 hours going to every table in the place to try to save a dollar or two.

Be prepared for "bewilderment" the first time you walk into a computer show. The first time I went to a show, I had decided to buy a number of components there, but I really had no idea what to expect. I walked in, and ended up wandering in circles for two full hours trying to figure out what to do--there was so much for sale, and so many decisions to make, that it was actually paralyzing! For some, deciding that the first visit will be for browsing only can take some of the pressure off.

Next: Late Shows And Matinees

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