Forget Google. Next month, you have the chance to be your own search engine, a live person walking among hundreds of displays of woodworking machines, materials and services, and among thousands of your woodworking colleagues.

Here’s how: Make a list of which woodworking products you want to see or which problems you wish to address. This should be your first task, before leaving home.

Then, go to Las Vegas, Nevada. You Californians can drive, but most of the rest of us will have to fly. Amtrak? It’s possible. From Chicago, the “shortest trip” takes more than two days and includes a bus ride from Salt Lake City.

Proceed to 1350 Paradise Road, which is the address of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Take a cab or rent a car. Go retro. Use a printed map.

Go to the entrance of the AWFS Fair, the largest woodworking exhibition in North America this year, which will be held July 20-23. Pick up your ID badge which confirms that you are a qualified “search engine.” (You registered before, right?)

Study your list and the show guide, and move through the aisles. You want to see, learn, and touch as much as you can. And buy. Stop and approach one of the live people in the booth. Say hello to them. They will almost always respond. Ask them about their product or service. Tell them about a problem that you’re having. Listen.

Cover the companies that are most important to you, taking notes as you go. Once you’ve moved through the companies on your list, you can walk up and down the aisles (for Pete’s sake wear comfortable shoes) and stop wherever you see a display that interests you. Experienced attendees often tell us of the useful tool or accessory they saw at the show but did not know about previously.

Your search at AWFS Fair 2011 should include the College of Woodworking Knowledge education program, innovation showcases, SmartShop demonstrations, Green Desk inquiry center, Sequoia new product competition, and the student Fresh Wood Competition. Again, plan ahead.

Make the most of your search engine time. Hum the Searchers’ “When You Walk in the Room.” Consult our show coverage in this issue, go to cabinetmakerfdm.com for more updates, or direct to awfsfair.org.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.