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Video Are Booth Babes Going Away? (Video) 334

Michael Steinhart, Editor in Chief of The Enterprise Cloud Site, went to this year's New York Cloud Expo, and saw only one booth with beguiling, scantily-dressed females trying to attract people to their employers' display. But Michael says one booth with babes was one more than last year, when the same show had no booth babes at all. So we wondered: Are booth babes going away? And if they are, is it because of political consciousness or tight budgets? Since Michael has put more time than we have into thinking about these questions, we fired up our webcam and had a little conversation with him about the future of booth babes at IT conferences and trade shows.

Robin: I am Robin Miller and we are here today with Michael Steinhart who recently wrote an article about booth babes, and how in one of the shows he attended last year there were none, and at the same show this year one booth had them. So what is that, Michael, you were even wondering: Is it the economy or is it political consciousness? What do you think?

Michael: Well, that is a fantastic question. I have been trying to approach it from a research-oriented perspective. I reached out to the company that featured the booth babes this year. This was at the Cloud Expo Show at the Javits Center. And they said they are actually I am still waiting for them to get back to me. They had to do a couple of internal meetings, and then they had to talk with their brand strategist and they are going to call me as soon as they get their stories there. But it seems as though they are falling out of favor.

And just in looking around the Internet and actually speaking to event organizers which I tried to do in the 20 minutes since we established that we are going to be talking, it really sounds as though the tide has turned. One of the general managers for a big show told me just a couple of minutes ago, that five to ten years ago, this was okay, but it is not okay anymore. We don’t want to see them, and audience members don’t want to see them, and so it lowers the level of the discourse of the show. So that is the short answer.

And it also seems as though at least on the one hand, they are starting to disappear. I found three shows specifically the Infosecurity Europe Show and then the Associated Press also mentioned the Penny Arcade Expo which takes place in Seattle and Boston – those three have officially outlawed booth babes; they don’t allow them on the show floor.

Robin: Really? Now last year, a fellow journalist someone you probably know named Sharon Fisher and I were at Black Hat in Las Vegas, and there were booth babes whose assets were barely tucked in to the tops of their dresses or the teeny tops – all over the place. And quite frankly I was getting sick, so I didn’t want to go around, so Sharon said,‘Okay I will write that,’ so she went up and she found dozens and dozens of them. Is that Vegas? Is that because it is Vegas?

Michael: I think obviously it is going to depend on the location because I actually mentioned in the article that in Taipei for example, at the Computex Show that wrapped up last week, just one particular website that was dedicated to the booth babes of Computex Taipei.

Robin: I have seen that more than once in Japan and Taipei, China etc.

Michael: Right. So the ethos is not gone. It is definitely not going to disappear overnight. I think it might just be uniquely American thing, it may be a completely uniquely tech thing, whereas in Vegas, that happens in Vegas, if it isn’t Vegas it is hard to say, but I am definitely seeing on the organizers side and also as more women journalists and more women executives take to the technology take to the air waves with their complaints there is definitely less tolerance for it at least in the Western media.

Robin: Now I live in Florida nowadays, being retired and doing stuff like this on the side, so the main show that I am most likely to go to is the annual Gartner thing in Orlando, because it is close – it is an hour-and-a-half drive. And that has never been a booth babe show. It has always been like two guys at a table to answer your technical questions, analysts, it is analysts.

Michael: Collared shirts.

Robin: Yeah. And people go out and when they sit down to talk, they don’t talk, well I might talk with a few friends about the wife and the kids, but mostly we talk about business. And it is not just because I am a reporter but everybody does. But I think that might be it, that might be the economic factors that you mentioned. Do you think, maybe people are more concerned now than they used to be about getting every oomph of intelligence or learning out of the show that they can.

Michael: Well, I think that’s why people are going to go to a Gartner show. I went to the Jefferies Investor Conference a couple of months ago here in New York, and again, yeah, there were no babes, there was no glitz, there was more excitement. We wanted to hear from the executives, we want to hear numbers.

Robin: Do you think that booth babes are about gone or are they something – are they in history books, are they in computer museums now and that’s

Michael: I don’t think they are going to be in computer museums this year, but if we had the same conversation I would love to have the same conversation five years from now I have the feeling that they would be one of those relics of the distant past.

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Are Booth Babes Going Away? (Video)

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  • by cianduffy ( 742890 ) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @03:12PM (#44124979)
    Based on the IT industry here (Ireland) at least, there's been a huge increase in the number of gay men in IT, or out gay men at least. Not much use in having a booth babe if the guy buying the product doesn't like boobs.
  • by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @03:22PM (#44125131)

    I was at a recent tech conference and the booth babes were not the ones from Comdex of yesteryear in bikinis. They were hired women who were very attractive but were wearing acceptable clothing. Mostly business casual, slacks and a button down blouse.

    IT folks they were not, pretty faces yes. As someone has to scan your badge or hand out a trinket.

  • It's About Time (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 27, 2013 @03:24PM (#44125165)

    The whole presence of scantily-clad women as a way of attracting attention to your booth assumes that the people whose attention you want to attract are heterosexual males who are inclined to pay attention to your exhibit because there's a scantily-clad woman there. It implicitly assumes that you're not trying to get the interest of/don't care about the opinions of, among others: women, homosexual men, the devoutly religious, etc. In the same way that an ad campaign that includes a of, say, racist caricatures of Asians effectively writes off the Asian population as potential customers (at the very least), this sort of thing writes off whole groups of people who are, you know, actually present in the tech industry. Funny how an industry that supposedly prides itself on evaluating results and actual ability so often tacitly assumes that it is the exclusive domain of straight, white males. It's almost as if cluelessly ignoring the reality of privilege, racism, sexism, and heteronormativity leads to cluelessly privileged, racist, sexist, heteronormative behavior.

  • Marketing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @03:26PM (#44125195)

    Booth babes are pretty.

    Pretty is attractive.

    Attractive is good marketing.

    Its not just about sex. Its about hiring some attractive people to represent your company. Because your engineers are probably unshaved smelly cave dwellers that probably don't make a good impression at conventions. So how do you make your engineer or software developer seem credible? Put a 21 year old aspiring model next to him that smiles and makes eyes at everyone that gets near the booth.

    Is it dumb? No more dumb then the people buying your products. Which isn't an insult against them... people are just like that. Get over it. We're not robots. We're semi intelligent social opportunistic primates. And even women like having attractive women around.

    Open a women's magazine. What do you see? Is it lots of half naked men? Nope... half naked women.

    As to getting the attention of gay men... All respect, but they're by definition a minority. Were they not the species itself would be in some trouble. So while it might make some sense to reach out to any demographic, the reality is that its probably a marginal issue at best.

    All of that said, possibly there is something to be said for not having such aggressive marketing at conventions. Rather, put your unshaved cave dweller out there sans smiling boobs... and just see what happens.

    It will either be fine or it won't. And we'll learn something either way.

  • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @03:34PM (#44125289)

    The thing is, booth babes aren't there for geeks, they're there for non-geek distributors who are salesmen that probably had a much better relationship with hot girls in school.

    That point aside, I think you underestimate how male geeks can be, despite the possibly bad experiences they have had with attractive women. Put enough boobs in the room and even the bitterest of male, heterosexual geeks is going to notice a lot more than they might even let on.

    Of course, the world is nothing like it used to be. Geeks used to be outcasts, and now attractive girls whose greatest technological achievement is working their Twitter account and watching Anime regularly call themselves "nerds". You can still be an outcast as a geek, but being a geek no longer makes you an outcast by definition.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @03:41PM (#44125401)

    So, geeks associate hotness with unattainability

    As a geek, I've always associated hotness (which is almost always partly synthetic) with misplaced priorities.

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @04:04PM (#44125685) Homepage Journal

    well the people complaining about them aren't into the tech or what the booths are about anyways - or what the show is about. but with games, if you have babes and hunks _in_ the games why not at the booth. so people who had nothing to say about the shows just degenerated to writing about boobs because boobs sell. I mean, this video. it's a fucking(not literally) expo and what do we get? some analyzing about fucking(again) props - that's actually totally irrelevant because NYC isn't exactly the boob-babe capital of the world - but it gave this guy an excuse for his video. I mean, writing about the boobs if they're at the show and then when there aren't many boobboobbooobs then writing about how there wasn't boobs. I mean, what the fuck, is it the XXX expo or Hooters he went to -what about all the tech?

    This one time.. and I've been to trade shows just handful of times.. there were body painted topless women at the industry show. with tickets at 1000+ euros a pop to the show, that's one expensive body paint show.

    nobody ever mentioned them in any press(that I saw) and it was the biggest tradeshow of mobile industry that year. no scandal, no nothing.

    plenty of stories about the tech that was on display though, and there were some techies at a few booths relevant to what was my niche field in mobile during that time too. however usually the point with companies doing these dance shows with babes etc at these things is just to show that they have money. when the money is down the showing off goes down - and the booth babes are just a tiny portion of the budget these companies have for these things, the floorspace itself can be extremely expensive and the parties they throw even more so - so if they're using the floorspace strictly for advertisement type pr then sure, they're going to hire boothbabes - it's either that or hire booth-dimwits. the babes win every time, at least they don't try to talk to you about shit they don't know anything about in a fashion like they knew, they don't try to bullshit you by a script.

    because the techies and execs usually have better things to do at the industry gathering if their business is going good enough for them to be able to afford the floorspace and booth babes. if you were filming an advertisement, would you hire ugly dimwits? fuck no. now smaller, newer, companies usually don't have boothbabes because they can't afford them and might even have relevant techies at the booth - now that's much better. but hired pr guys who clearly no have no idea at all and have been hired only for the show are the worst, you could just as well pick up the brochure and walk away.

    but at the usual pricing to these events, if you go there for boobs and not to reno(or whatever, reperbahn what have you) you're a fucking dimwit. you could hire your own nude model for the evening for the usual pricing.

    (boobs were covered a little bit on the second day though so I guess it was actually going too far even by spanish standards)

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 27, 2013 @04:23PM (#44125893)

    well the people complaining about them aren't into the tech or what the booths are about anyways

    Bullshit. I complain about them. You can't really be more into tech than I am -- it's my career. I, for one, am disgusted by the sexism prevalent in my field. And I can only imagine how much worse it'd be if I was female.

    - or what the show is about. but with games, if you have babes and hunks _in_ the games why not at the booth.

    Why not remove the grotesque sexist pandering from both the games and the booths?

    so people who had nothing to say about the shows just degenerated to writing about boobs because boobs sell.


    (snip of giant rant about how it's only logical to hire boothbabes if you're hiring anybody at all)

    You are really terrible.

  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @04:41PM (#44126163) Journal

    Not sure I agree. There's always room for booth babes.

    ...ok did I say that out loud? Anyway, the market will decide. If booths with a couple of local models on deck do better business than booths without, they'd be crazy not to do it. On the other hand, if booth babes are neutral or a liability, they'll (eventually) disappear.

    The last trade show I worked, (which was some time ago) the large company with whom I was employed at the time hired two local talent (show was in las vegas) to accompany us during the show. They didn't dress overly provocatively (safari getup, in keeping with the booth theme, no excessive cleavage or leg showing) and they did a good job managing the crowd, making sure we weren't overwhelmed, and taking prospective customer information. Don't get me wrong, they were drop dead gorgeous, but they also knew what they were doing and helped out a lot. "Booth Babe" is a somewhat disparaging term for what can be a difficult job. It's not all about standing in the aisle and doing the "vanna wave" towards the booth.

    During a rare slow moment I got to talk to one of the girls, and asked her if she was an employee of our company. (There being a group in the company tasked with handling logistics for these shows, and I at first thought she might be with that group.) She looked shocked, and said no, she was from a local agency, and makes most of her living working booths at trade shows. (Which explains why she was good at it.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 27, 2013 @07:07PM (#44127675)

    I had to work at some conferences years ago. When it wasn't busy those girls took care of us, getting us hydrated and something to eat. This is rather important since you will be standing for 10-14 hours on such a day, and talking will also get you dehydrated rather quickly, and you forget to drink and eat.

    Even more important one of the girls thought me how to stand up, so that your legs and feet tolerate standing for such a long time. Most people have their weight back, straight above their heels and balance on them, while you should have your weight distributed equally over your whole foot.

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