Years ago I worked for a large company that hired "booth babes" to "help" us run our booth at LinuxWorld in New York. These hired models sat on stools and gossiped with each other as I and another editor — also a woman — talked to attendees and gave out free copies of our magazine. What a waste of money those models turned out to be. Thankfully, I've never been stuck (wo)manning a booth with one since then. Maybe there's a time and place for models at expo halls, but I assure you that it's not at IT-related events.
If you want more bang for your buck — and why wouldn't you? — take notes from ExtraHop Networks. In his Beyond Booth Babes at Interop article (which includes a great video interview with ExtraHop staff), Matt Heusser gives thumbs down to vendors who go the booth babe route in an effort to attract attendees.
"My objection today is not a PC one," Heusser explains. "My hobby horse is not getting more women in tech (though I think that is noble), but instead that 'because it works' is lazy. Should we do something silly, ridiculous, inappropriate, and insulting just because it works?"
Women are clearly the minority on almost any — perhaps, all — IT event expo floors. Still, those of us who are there won't be drawn to your booth because you hired a model. I'd argue that few (if any) men are drawn to booths because of attractive women on display, either. Ideally, your product or service is sexy enough on its own. If not, maybe you can throw in some food, booze, shiny giveaways, prize drawings, or Guitar Hero.
Don't get me wrong — I like a free beer and pretzel as much as the next lady. But I doubt I'll remember who handed out which snack or hosted the Wii Bowling. Throw in a yo yo champ? I'm not going to forget it.
Brilliant, ExtraHop! Truly brilliant. Working it into your marketing message? Even better: "Because the ExtraHop system will help you spend less time sifting through packet dumps and more time practicing yo-yo tricks like walking the dog!"
"We get tons of crowds for his show, people hang out and get a demo afterwards," says Briana Pettigrew, Marketing Manager at ExtraHop Networks. "It's been really fun." (And no ears were harmed in the yo-yo tricks.)
Heusser agrees and writes, "Way to go, Extrahop. You actually thought about how to deliver something to reach the audience in a way that was professional, meaningful, fun, and I could take pictures and tell my family without feeling … icky."
My hometown has a Busker Fest every August, and we all look forward to it each year. I suspect you'd get some complaints for hiring MamaLou Strongwoman (but they wouldn't come from me). Throw in a clown, on the other hand, and I'll be the first to throw a fit. And don't even talk to me about mimes.
What about a juggler who uses motherboards and tablets? Or a Rubik's cube champ? How about some card tricks? I'd even settle for some decent balloon animals or the gold-painted people who just stand there like statues, for crying out loud. But please, no clowns or mimes.