By Mark Richardson. Making the most of a trade show should be a priority if you're planning to invest anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 to get there, not to mention your time. Here's how to make the most of it:

* Ask yourself why you're going. What areas of your business could be improved as a result? Who (manufacturers, speakers) should you seek out at the show? Who else in your organization would benefit from attending? Write down the answers.

* Research the show, using the Web site and literature, to find out what particular aspects interest you. Call experienced show-goers for insights and networking opportunities

* Create a written, hour-by-hour game plan for your trip. Make appointments in advance. Include all your logistics so you don't waste time getting the lay of the land after you're there.

Planning is key. Approach this trip as you would a remodeling project and you'll see a much greater return on your investment. --Mark Richardson is president of Case Design/Remodeling, Bethesda, Md. (301) 229-4600;