OK, so it's not exactly hardship duty to attend a cushy investment conference at a Southern California resort. But executives still will face a tough assignment when they present at the

Goldman Sachs Technology Investment Symposium

at the

LaQuinta Resort & Club

in LaQuinta, Calif., this week.

For one thing, in a year when some firms have

shuttered their technology conferences altogether, investors are starving for new nuggets of financial insight. And then there's the tech slowdown in general, around which executives will have to do an artful mambo.

Companies probably will tackle the slowdown topic in at least three ways.

Some companies, such as software makers, will acknowledge that there's a general slowdown, but will say their business hasn't been affected.

Others, like equipment and boxmakers, will bluntly point to slower projections of tech spending, as well as sluggishness at manufacturers. They'll also explain that they have little, if any,

visibility.

Then there will be those that'll use the perception of a slowdown as an excuse for their own internal shortfalls. It happened during Y2K, the conventional wisdom goes, and a lot of institutional investors suspect that it's happening now.

For software mavens, the kickoff of Goldman's conference might be better than a front row ticket to an

*NSync

concert. Just listen to this lineup, in order of their presentations, as listed in a preliminary schedule. There's

Siebel

(SEBL)

,

i2 Technologies

(ITWO)

,

PeopleSoft

(PSFT)

,

Ariba

(ARBA)

,

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

and

VeriSign

(VRSN) - Get Report

.

And all that's before lunch.

Many of these execs will say their sales should hold up well during tougher times because their software helps companies be more efficient. Little by little, though, that argument has been getting a

little tired as some stocks -- think

Oracle -- have seen their shares under pressure over concerns of sales strength.

Another software maker,

PurchasePro.com

(PPRO)

, may feel pressure of a different kind. When it presents Thursday, it will likely be asked about a

lawsuit filed Feb.6 alleging that it was founded with a stolen business plan. The company has denied the allegation.

In software's parallel universe, executives from a number of large computer makers are scheduled to present this week, including PC makers

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

,

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

and

Gateway

(GTW)

. But Gateway will probably be the only one spending much time talking about PCs. The company will treat the conference as an early step in the project of building the credibility of its

new management team ahead of its analyst meeting later this month.

H-P and IBM, on the other hand, are much more concerned with highlighting the parts of their businesses that have nothing to do with PCs. They're counting on things like services, storage, servers and software to bring them high growth and high profit margins, and will focus their presentations accordingly. H-P and Big Blue will thus spend their efforts trying to convince audiences that they can compete effectively with more focused hardware companies like

EMC

(EMC)

,

Sun

(SUNW) - Get Report

and

Network Appliance

(NTAP) - Get Report

-- all of which will be arguing the contrary in their own presentations.

Fortunately for these guys, if the heat indoors gets to be too much, some sunny, temperate links will be just a few feet away.