You were sent to a conference to learn from the instructors, to network with other attendees, to gather some information on the vendors your organization is considering, to see if any other vendors are worth looking at and to see if anything new should be considered. You will visit the vendors' booths, hear their presentations and view demonstrations. This column suggests optimal approaches to the exhibit hall.

You need a plan to make the best use of your time at the exhibition. You've probably been given marching orders such as, "Look at the ETL [extract, transform and load] tools," or "See what Product X is planning for its next release," or "Bring back all the literature you can find on data quality," or "Get me one of those cool T-shirts from Vendor Y." (A side note on the T-shirts, pens and assorted vendor toys you may be picking up: be sure not to display your plunder on your return; it would diminish the seriousness of your quest for information.)

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