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Art of making business at CeBIT

By Richard Quest, CNN Business International presenter

HANNOVER, Germany (CNN) -- There's no business like showbusiness.

What a way to earn a living -- standing in a huge arena dressed like a mobile phone.

Or, worse still, shouting out the virtues of a new electronic gizzmo while wearing a purple wig.

Carnegie Hall this is not! But these are some of the sights you see as you wander around CeBIT 2001.

If the stands are big, it is the performers that bring them to life.

They are employed to demonstrate the technology, either one-on-one or shout out their wares like a fish wife.

The same show every hour for eight hours. It never seems to end. The cacophony of noise is everywhere.

A mobile phone here; a new laptop there. To say nothing of the huge displays of printers!

The exhibitors all try to outdo each other for the biggest and brassiest. This year Siemens seems to have outshone the others.

Several dancers wearing some extraordinary silver space outfits gyrated their way through a tuneful ditty -- "Siemens Be Inspired" -- that sounded like a refugee from the Eurovision Song Contest.

This might not be the Royal Ballet either, but the choreographer "Felix" makes no apology for giving up finer dance for commerce. "We have to live. If we live on just art we will not be living. We will be surviving," he said.

Actors too, are everywhere. They lecture, point at diagrams, give demonstrations. All designed to make you believe their product is best.

The lady with the purple hair at Motorola's stand bristled when I suggested that this might not be the peak of her career.

"Any stage, any performance. We performed for Michael Jackson in India. I'll perform anywhere, any shop, any toilet," she said.

The bulk of the demonstrators are young and healthy looking. Not surprisingly they are students who, for lodging and $140 a day, will stand next to computers and answer questions.

Nine hours on, and it is not surprising they have had enough. " Always these silly questions," one told me. "It is always boring."

In the world of the arts, working at trade shows is the bread-and-butter that pays the bills until something better comes along.

Sing a song; do a jig -- and just be very grateful that you are not the poor man who spent his day dressed as an emu!!




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