Preview of 2008 International Pool Spa Patio Expo

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Vegasskyline OpenThe pool and spa industry's largest trade show - a combination of the old IPSE show, the old AQUA Show and the Backyard Living Expo - convenes on Nov. 15 in Las Vegas, and builders, retailers and exhibitors and presenters are finalizing their plans.

The where and when as well as details on hotel registration for the International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo can be found in Barrett Kilmer's excellent pre-show primer in last month's issue.

As you make your plans, bear in mind that, in terms of show attendance, the Super Pass works from Tuesday through Thursday and gets you into seminars, the show hall, the Welcome Party and Bill Walton's anticipated speech, "Nothing but Net," while the Day Pass is just that. It works for a single day.

Travel Tips

While most of the attendees to this year's Int'l Pool | Spa | Patio Expo will be seasoned veterans of the convention hall, the Strip and McCarran International Airport, the fundamentals of travel and conventioneering apply as firmly as they do for any business trip.

Hopefully, most people headed to the show will have made arrangements by now, but there are sure to be plenty of last-minute planners, for whom the two pressing questions are, "How will I get there?" and "Where should I stay?"

Of course you'll fly unless you drive, and even tiny little airlines nobody's ever heard of like Belair and BMI fly to Vegas. The list of regular carriers, along with the schedule of arrival times, is comprehensive.

As for the accommodation question, the obvious answer is at the convention hotel, Mandalay Bay, for the simple convenience of the thing, or at the Excalibur or Luxor, which are linked to Mandalay Bay by a short, swift ride on a monorail. But if you're tired of that scene, or just want to expand your horizons a bit, the Las Vegas Strip offers a number of hostelries in which, with some effort, you can pretend to be somewhere else - Paris, Venice, New York, the Caribbean - just to name a few.

Of course, there's a downside to staying in the middle of all the action. The Strip is crowded, noisy and designed to discourage pedestrians. Optical illusions based on the sheer scale of the place convince many visitors that the gargantuan hotel next door is an easy walk, leaving them on a bench halfway there with their shoes off, massaging their feet.

For those who want to step back from the action periodically, downtown Vegas or "off the Strip" hotels offer an alternative. There are options grand and humble off the Strip. Fremont Street, the heart of downtown Vegas, has been revitalized and is now a pleasant place to visit.

A couple of great travel sites that can often deliver good rates on short notice are, and Or you can stick with good old Expedia and Travelocity.

What To Do

As the exhibit hall begins to empty, and you contemplate a night out in Vegas (as you surely will) the possibilities can be overwhelming. There is entertainment everywhere you look.

Some of the popular shows running during the Expo include Blue Man Group, Penn & Teller, Jubilee!, Zumanity, Mamma Mia!, and V-Ultimate Variety Show.

In the marquee lights alongside these are the standard Vegas-style headliners Barry Manilow, Howie Mandel, Donny & Marie, Bette Midler, and of course, the ageless Wayne Newton.

Tickets to these performances are rather pricey, however, especially in the context of a tough year for many builders and retailers. If the entertainment budget is a little thinner this time around, consider some of the free or relatively cheap alternatives.


It's right there in the show hotel, but according to an informal survey taken at last year's show, a surprising number of IPSPE show attendees have never slipped away from the booths and backslapping to visit The Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay.

It's a stunning 95,000-square-foot aquarium that brings you nose to glass with sharks of every description, along with sawfish, giant rays, moon jellies and pin-toothed piranha. In all, there are over 2,000 animals in 1.6 million gallons of seawater.

This is no lame sideshow; the exhibit includes an Asian water monitor, green sea turtles and golden crocodiles, all of which are endangered species. Plus, there's a touch pool where you can pet a few bamboo sharks and horseshoe crabs as they swim (or scuttle) by. All this for only $16.95.

Dancing Water And Light

Head up the street to the Bellagio for another low-cost convention getaway.

Danny Ocean's 11 vault raiders didn't have to pay for that inspiring display of hydrotechnics outside the Bellagio (although after just heisting $160 million, they might have tipped somebody). This well-known but still spectacular performance is the best free show in Las Vegas. Every 15 minutes watch the water get up and dance to an upbeat concert of opera, classical and Broadway tunes. And while it's unlikely you'll be replicating this elaborate feature in anybody's backyard, there are always ideas to be gleaned from an aquatic accomplishment of this magnitude. Remember, fountains are definitely in this year.

Step inside the hotel, cross the lobby from the front desk and stroll right into a lush green paradise that will make you forget you are in Las Vegas. The 13,500-square-foot Conservatory and Botanical Gardens at the Bellagio feature a 50-foot-high glass roof, which bathes the seasonal displays in perfect natural light. It's a wonderful, peaceful break from the show floor and the casino.

A respite in a peaceful, natural place often makes people contemplative. Before the feeling leaves you, step over to the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art.

It's not a big gallery, only 1,600 square feet, but you're probably not looking for the Louvre. There's just enough art there to give your mind somewhere else to wander before you head back to the show floor. Checking your wallet on the way back to Mandalay Bay, you discover the whole Bellagio excursion has cost you $15.

Oh Yes, The Show

That's why we're here, right?

Excellent educational opportunities abound at this show, from Genesis 3's programs to the APSP Builders, Retail and Technical Service Institutes. A listing of topics is available at

Immerse yourself in the exhibits, the New Product, Backyard Living and Genesis 3 Pavilions, and check out the live workshops for some hands-on, interactive education.

As for surviving the entire three to six days of walking the aisles and making conversation about pools and spas, keep in mind a few sensible ideas:

1. Comfort is a must in your footwear. I once brought a brand-spanking-new pair of leather shoes to a convention, figuring I'd break them in on the show floor. I'll never do that again. Ouch.

If you plan no other part of your wardrobe, plan your shoes. Some people use insoles or footpads. Whatever works.

2. Pace yourself. The Expo is a middle-distance event, not a sprint. And middle-distance runners take care to preserve their energies for the last few laps. So take breaks in the morning, even though you still feel good. Eat light for breakfast and lunch. And if you've only got one good night on the town in you, it might be best to make it your last night in Vegas.

3. Get some sleep. Don't pretend that just because you're in Vegas you don't need it, or that you'll "sleep when you get home." Trade shows are high-energy events, and your body needs a chance to recuperate. Formalize in your mind a time in which you will be in your bed, book in hand, preferably after a nice relaxing bath or soak in a spa.

4. Say everybody's name. People love to hear their own names, so make a real effort to remember and use them. After learning someone's name for the first time, say it to yourself three times while you think of something distinctive about them. It works like a charm.

5. Try to keep your legs moving. It's harder to stand still than it is to move around, as it puts a great strain on your entire lower body. If you are going to have a long conversation, it's best to go sit down.

6. Be courteous with your phone. Do not wander aimlessly the aisles of the show staring blankly at erstwhile friends and industry colleagues while you pursue an engrossing conversation on your cell phone. If you need to have a chat, go sit down.

7. Easy on the freebies. Just because it's free doesn't mean you want it. Booths giving away novelties are a draw, but remember, everything that is thrust into your bag will have to be carried, sorted, and eventually dispositioned. If you're bald and there's a free comb, leave it in the bowl.

8. As you pack, do not forget:

  • Breath mints. Please. Nobody wants to offend. After that morning or mid-afternoon latte at Starbucks, you'll need them.
  • Your date book or pocket calendar, or the electronic device that serves as such. People will try to make future arrangements with you. Be ready.
  • Business cards. Do not get stuck patting down your person and stammering about your lack of business cards. Bring twice as many as you think you'll need and plant them in multiple locations, from your wallet or purse to your breast pocket.
  • A few office items like tape, paper clips, pens or pencils, for obvious reasons. One of those tiny staplers is the best office supply to bring.
  • Bandages, pain reliever, antacids, and if appropriate, your favorite hangover remedy, also for obvious reasons.
With these precautions in mind, you're on your way to a happier, more energetic and productive show. Make it an unshakeable conviction to learn something new and important about your job and to shake hands with everyone you haven't seen since last year.

Oh, and one more thing to remember: Have fun. It's Vegas.

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