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HostingCon (and Booth Babes)

by Lydia Leong  |  July 20, 2010  |  13 Comments

I’m on my way home from HostingCon. I wish I had decided to stay an extra day. I originally expected I’d give my Monday keynote and be free to roam and have various conversations with random people, have plenty of time to wander the show floor, and so on. Instead, my schedule filled up rapidly with clients and friends-of-clients (for instance, folks with relationships with our investment banking clients who tugged some strings), plus other folks who grabbed me on email beforehand.

Great things have happened with the show since iNet Interactive took over running it — the audience has become much more diverse in terms of the types of attendees, and in general, it’s a smoothly-run, very professional show, quite a change from the past. I enjoyed having the chance to deliver the opening keynote, as well as my formal and informal conversations with people.

I wish I’d had more time than the 30 minutes I had to spend on the show floor. But there’s been a very interesting backchannel discussion happening on Twitter #HostingCon) that I want to highlight, and that’s the subject of booth babes.

Much to my surprise, there were several exhibitors who brought booth babes — you know the classic sort, in super-skimpy outfits, arrayed in front of their booths. A number of female attendees have called this out on Twitter, but just as interesting are the retweets and supporting objections that come from male attendees. This was particularly stark because of the near total absence of women from the conference; the attendance is overwhelmingly male, and so there was little female representation in either attendees or exhibitors. This was true to even a far greater extent than I’m accustomed to seeing at IT conferences.

So, vendors, here’s a set of reasons why you should not bring booth babes. (And especially not to something like HostingCon, where much of the audience is C-level executives, and it’s all about the business and networking.)

1. You imply your audience is immature and/or unprofessional. Booth babes imply that you think that your audience’s primary interest is in staring at boobs, as opposed to getting serious business done. Moreover, there’s no way to look professional while ogling, and even those people who would like to ogle don’t want to do so in front of people that they’re doing business with. Unless you’re E3 and your audience is adolescents and overgrown adolescents, this is a bad tactic. (And you can argue that booth babes ended up significantly contributing to the death of E3 as a serious trade show.)

2. You imply that your company’s offerings are less interesting than the flesh on display. Yes, everyone needs to do something to draw in traffic, but booth babes smack of desperation. But you do this by having a compelling display that makes people want to come have conversations, not by having booth babes shoving trinkets at people. People grab the trinkets and then don’t have the conversations.

3. You actually make it harder for people to get to the booth itself. This is especially true on crowded show floors, where the booth babes basically form a wall in front of your booth. This makes it hard to see your display, your collateral, and the nametags of the people you have staffing your booth (important for any attendee who is trying to do some networking). Chances are that a lot of people simply don’t make it through the obstacle, especially if they’re casually perusing the floor, rather than looking for you specifically.

I chose not to talk to any exhibitor with booth babes. It wasn’t really a principle thing; I’m not actually offended, just bemused. It was simply a practical matter.

I don’t think conference organizations necessarily need to have rules against booth babes, per se. I simply think that companies should exercise good sense when thinking about where they’re exhibiting and who they’re exhibiting to.


Tags: cloud  conference  hosting  

Lydia Leong
VP Distinguished Analyst
16 years at Gartner
23 years IT industry

Lydia Leong covers cloud computing and infrastructure strategies, along with a broad range of topics related to the transformation of IT organizations, data centers, and technology providers.Read Full Bio

Thoughts on HostingCon (and Booth Babes)

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dave Ballantyne and Tony Rogerson, Gavin Payne. Gavin Payne said: Gartner analyst "a set of reasons why you should not bring booth babes" to hosting conventions […]

  2. Jeffrey Lyon says:

    Excellent observation. I’ve had the same thoughts over the past two years exhibiting at HostingCon and have formally requested that iNet restrict the practice going forward.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. As a consultant for an experienced exhibit design house, it pains me to see my clients make a great investment on a beautiful trade show booth and then distract from it with beautiful women.

    Businesses need to wake up and realize how unprofessional a practice it is.

    Exhibit Consultant at Tradeshowdirect

  4. eli808 says:

    THANK you.

  5. Corey says:

    Immature? Unprofessional? Bad Products? Wait what????

    All advertising is based on people remembering your brand for something. You might have the best product in the world, but unless people know who you are, you are not going to sell anything. This is much more the case at trade shows because normally people are far from home and will not remember the difference between one booth to another unless there was something that sets the others apart. At trade shows like hostingcon everyone is selling products that do the same exact thing as other people on the floor, and most of the time if you are big enough to have a booth at these things your product is already good. The difference between Softlayer and DedicatedNOW or The Planet is really just location and maybe a few bucks here or there. Any advantage in helping people remember the slight difference goes a long way.

    NFL, NBA, Auto companies, underwear companies, shampoo companies, and just about every market everywhere use attractive woman or men to sell or advertise their product. Are they all unprofessional too? Is it ok on screen, in media, or on the streets of major cities but not at a trade show? Where is the logic in that.

    Bad booth design and planning make it harder for people to get to the booth. If you don’t lay things out in advanced, and inform the models on how things work you wont get to greet anyone. “Preparation is everything” may need to be reinforced to some of the people who but there were plenty of booths (DedicatedNOW, Parallels, Hostdime for example) that the models did NOT make it harder for the reps to talk to people if the models were there. The models did a good job at bring the proximity people in, the ones that might not have been heading towards those booths and because they laid things out well the reps were able to meet and greet potential customers…. Don’t blame the for bad planning on the boot layout/design team.

    @Jeffrey Lyon : So the really attractive female in your booth (standing right in front of the entrance) was on staff? That’s good fortune for you (as woman in general in any IT related field are rare) but she wasn’t exactly dressed to make people look away from her…..

  6. Corey says:

    On a side note uses models in the pictures on the website. Why not use ugly people on the home page instead if utilizing attractive people is such a bad thing?

  7. Lydia Leong says:

    It’s a question of appropriateness to the audience. In the examples you cited, the approach is suitable to the audience demographic and the context.

  8. Jeffrey Lyon says:

    @Corey: That could have been either my wife or Gabriela, one of our Service Team members. We have no paid models.

  9. David says:

    I offered to be a booth dude, but the site of me wearing anything less than business casual dress pants would be enough to empty out the entire show floor.

  10. Larry Bloch says:

    Not exactly on topic, but I wanted to say that your keynote address at HostingCon was very interesting and informative – is it possible to get a copy of your presentation slides?

  11. Lydia Leong says:

    Sure. I can email them.

  12. I hear you Lydia – a certain level of gimmick’s are often useful when competing for attention, but I feel that boothbabes might be overdoing it.

    However, if you look at the companies bringing boothbabes they probably were targeting SME/Resellers/etc rather than c-level executives. So, in their segment it might work out just fine.

    ps. please send slides to me as well, would greatly appreciate it, was busy in our booth when you were ‘on’.

  13. Dan says:

    @Corey Thank you for the compliment. But all exhibitors at the hostdime booth were hostdime employees 🙂

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