Comdex Bans Computer Bags, Plans Increased Security

Security concerns will likely make this year's Comdex show in Las Vegas even more chaotic than it normally is, due to new restrictions placed on attendees.

Security concerns will likely make this years Comdex show in Las Vegas even more chaotic than it normally is, due to new restrictions placed on attendees.

Gone will be the omnipresent computer bags, full of business cards, daytimers, product literature—and computers. Dont expect to take a snapshot of Bill Gates, either. Cameras wont be allowed into the keynote addresses, due to security concerns.

The new restrictions are an indication of how seriously major event organizers are taking the attacks of Sept. 11. However, the added complications that security will attach to Comdex will almost certainly make Comdex more of a hassle than it already is. Comdex officials already expect attendance to be down about 30 percent, although between 120,000 and 130,000 people will still try to jam in to the trade show floor, the Sands Convention Center, and assorted hotel conference rooms.

Key3Media Group Inc., which manages the Comdex trade show, has posted a list of security restrictions on the Comdex Web page. A company representative said an updated list would be posted later this week, with additional clarifications.

"In the wake of the tragic events that have been affecting our country since September 11, Key3Media Events is taking requisite security precautions with respect to its events," a statement reads. "For Comdex Fall 2001, Key3Media is working with the City of Las Vegas, applicable event venues, local authorities and a private security firm to ensure that appropriate safety measures are taken for the event."

Upon arrival at Comdex, attendees will be required to present a photo ID to pick up their badge holder. Each attendee will only be able to pick up their own badge, with no exceptions, according to a list of printed security guidelines Key3Media is circulating. Some badges will be mailed out before the show, as the show organizers have traditionally done.

The most significant change, however, will be the security checkpoints that will likely turn Comdex into a tech version of an international airport. Key3Media has hired a private security firm, and officials may ask attendees to present photo identification at random intervals.

"You will be allowed to bring computers in, but expect to have to turn them on and demonstrate that theyre actually working," a Key3Media spokeswoman said.

No bags of any kind will be allowed on the show floor, which will mean attendees will have to cut back on the high-tech gadgets. A spokeswoman for Key3Media said the show will allow computers in, but likely only in the sort of flimsy plastic bags normally distributed on the show floor.

Under the best of conditions, Comdex has historically proven to be slightly organized chaos, something akin to a technology carnival held in the middle of Times Square. Attendees said they welcomed the extra security, but still regretted the need for any extra headaches.

"I wasnt aware they were planning to do that, but its probably a good idea," said Martin Booth, a product marketing manager at Advanced Micro Devices, Sunnyvale, Calif., of the extra precautions. "I heard that the attendance was supposed to be down somewhat, so maybe it will all even out… the real question is if theyll have enough people checking attendees, like at the airport. Thats whatll slow the process down."

Instead of purchasing floor space at Comdex, many companies have begun renting suites at nearby hotels, a cheaper and more private way to demonstrate their wares. However, the offsite meetings have also meant that attendees have had to take cabs throughout the city of Las Vegas. For some companies, who have booked hotels as well as floor space, the number of meetings may have to be cut down even further.

"I think its going to be really difficult," said Brandy Baxter, an employee at public-relations firm Weber-Shandwick Worldwide in San Mateo. "Youre going to have to allow extra time."

"For some of our (clients) executives, its not going to be easy getting in and out of the show to somewhere else," Baxter added. "A lot of people could end up running late…Im even thinking now that its going to be difficult to get all those people in and out. Weve scheduled a couple of luncheons off-site."

For some, however, business will take a back seat to safety. "I am completely fine with it," said Karen Cryderman, a spokeswoman for tape subsystem manufacturer Spectra Logic Corp., Boulder, Colo. "Its better to be safe than sorry.

"Well be flexible. If we have to give someone a presentation after the show, no problem."