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.