Booth Babes are Sooooo Last Century!

While there are a lot of things worth copying about the success of the Consumer Electronics Show, there’s one area where they lag far behind other expos.

It seems that among the hundreds of media mentions at last week’s event, there were several (including Inc. Magazine and the Huffington Post) who zeroed in on the fact that a number of CES exhibits still feature what’s commonly known as “booth babes.” This antiquated practice started decades ago in male-dominated industries as a way to draw men into the exhibit. But there are a number of problems with this strategy today, as pointed out in a video by the BBC.

My analysis:

  1. As with any gimmick or eye candy, these kinds of exhibits may draw crowds, but it’s probably not the type of crowd that will become serious buyers. These days, there are a number of women in the tech field (contrary to what the booth babe at the end of the video seems to think). Featuring inappropriately-dressed airheads isn’t going to draw them into the exhibit, nor will it appeal to the type of men who are serious customers.
  2. Because it’s unprofessional, this tactic reflects poorly on the company who uses it. I love how the guy from Eagle Eye (about 3/4 of the way through the video) says that he wouldn’t choose to do business with a company who uses booth babes.
  3. Shouldn’t a company’s products be the focus? (Oh, wait! Maybe there’s nothing appealing about the product, which is why they have to resort to this …)
  4. If you’re going to hire staffers for the show, find some who can actually answer questions. (And yes, there are agencies that can help with this.)

And in case you think booth babes are always women, I remember one show where an exhibitor chose to have a “pretty boy” as their booth attraction. Not only was it poorly received that year, but the following year people were still laughing at what a bad decision that was.

Perhaps the saddest segment in the video is when Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro tries to defend the practice because “people are drawn to pretty” — Really?

It’s 2012 … and it’s about time that this practice was outlawed at shows in ANY industry!

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Marlys Arnold

With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community.

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