If you’ve attended any type of trade or business show, you’ve seen the Booth Babes. They’re arrayed like living dolls, propped on, under or beside the exhibitor’s products. Their appearance at trade shows is based on the old saw, “Sex Sells.” Well no, it doesn’t, but that’s another article.
“Booth Babe” is a politically incorrect term for a (debatably) politically incorrect job. Other, more polite terms are promotional model, or spokes model. Booth Babes were originally eye candy, growing popular at shows and exhibits in the late 1950s through the mid 1980s. Women were put in eye-catching clothes – exotic gowns and revealing swimwear – and told either explicitly or implicitly, “Your job is to look good, show off the product, and keep quiet.” They fit loosely into one of two stereotypes: the obedient secretary/wife, or the (sexually) wild, free spirit. Either way, they were supposed to be quiet and appealingly unintelligent.
Nowadays, of course, Booth Babes can be either male or female, although they’re still predominantly female. Because of the sexism aspect, many shows and their organizers have banned Booth Babes, either by rule or custom. As the Seventies rolled into the Eighties, many companies dropped the elegant Babes entirely in favor of the scantily dressed versions. Some shows have now enacted dress codes for booth staff, trying to do an end-run around the situation without banning the practice outright.
It’s only common sense that everyone manning your booth be looking their best – clean, neat and wearing appropriate clothing.
I’m not against Booth Babes. Actually, I think they can be a wonderfully effective trap (in a good sense) for your booth. Rather than having them be silent and ignorant however, these people should be very knowledgeable about your products and services, and act as a first line of attack. They should be schooled in face-to-face sales, and know how to qualify prospects. Having made a determination, they can either hand the prospect off to a salesperson, or gently direct them on their way.
Everyone in an organization should be able to pull their weight, from the mail room person to the president. Every person in a company should know that they are in sales and marketing. While there may be some leeway at the home office, there is no room at a road show for dead weight. Multi-tasking is essential. Booth Babes must be able to actively increase sales, and the president needs to be able to run out for lunch while his staff is engaged in qualifying and selling.
If you are willing to spend additional time, effort and money to train exceptionally good looking men and women to be both bait and hook at the shows where you exhibit, then by all means, hire them and put them in the wildest, sexiest outfits allowed. But if they cannot or will not sell, don’t bother bringing them on the floor – you are wasting money.