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Babes in Boothland

Posted on September 12, 2012 at 2:50 PM

There was a bit of a hubbub at CEDIA this year when a major, well-respected trade journal decided to run a “fun” (their words), “Hottest CEDIA EXPO Booth Babes” contest during the show. (I’m not gonna say who it was. Except it wasn’t Residential Systems or Sound + Vision, whom I write for. You can Google “Hottest CEDIA booth babe” if you want to know...)


Amidst the Twitter pushback, they (smartly) decided to pull the story down. When I asked them about it, the response was, “Funny that we've run it in the past with minor complaints. Too much political correctness in this world.”


"Political correctness" aside, the fact is, many of the women that have worked very hard to develop a legitimate role in this industry felt really insulted by this. With groups like Women in AV and Women in CE working to carve out genuine careers for women in the tech industry – where you’ve got to imagine garnering respect is difficult enough in a field this is probably 90%-plus male dominated --  you can see how highlighting the exact stereotype they fight against would be off-putting.


As the father of a tech-savvy daughter, I’d like to think that she has a future – should she want it – at CEDIA EXPO or any other tech event where “hottest” and “babe” aren’t the labels that she’s likely to be tagged with. (She does like “cute” and “princess” though.)


Granted, having attractive women/models in your booth to garner attention is certainly nothing new. And if you’ve ever been to CES – especially the car-stereo-filled North Hall – then you’ve doubtless seen plenty of “booth babes.” (There was quite a bit of stir at this year's CES over the subject. An interesting BBC video clip here...) Often these women stand out because they are the ones that are dressed more for, say, serving wings at Hooter’s or perhaps lying out by a pool or asking if a sailor is looking for a good time. (I will say, I only noticed a couple of booths that were employing “babes” at CEDIA. Maybe it was just that the manufacturers I focused on visiting/covering didn’t feel the need, or that after 14 shows, I’ve grown accustomed to looking past them.)


For the record, booth babes do nothing for me. (If you take a look at the women that I DO like, you’ll see that they have far more going on above the neck than below.) In fact, I actually find it a bit awkward. I hate the idea that people think I’m walking up to these women because of the way they look. Hate it.


Also, these “babes” are frequently positioned front-and-center in a booth, and I don’t really have any interest in approaching a scantily clad, double-D figured woman to ask her a product question. And usually something like, “Can you tell me who the PR contact is?” is met with, “Umm, I, uh, don’t actually work for this company. I was just hired for the show.” (Really? Wow. Cause I was thinking you were in charge of R&D or long-term strategic development dressed in that leather mini. And, no, I don’t want an autographed poster.)


Fact is, I’m sure that booth babes garner attention. The propagation of the species is pretty much set up around boys liking to look at girls, and technology tradeshows are *filled* with boys. But is it the right kind of attention?


When I see a manufacturer relying on booth babes, it tells me that they don’t really feel that they have a product that stands entirely on its own merit.


(Full disclosure: If you DO have Keira Knightley, Zooey Deschanel or Winona Ryder in your booth, I’d prefer them to be casually attired. But I’ll definitely stop by for a visit and would love to come to your press dinner.)


I mean, I’m WAY more likely to wander over to your booth because you have a giant video display, or high-end  surround demo, or are blowing something up (thanks, SurgeX and ioSafe!) or have a Lamborghini sitting in your booth. (Seriously, you put an Aventador in your booth, just try and stop me from visiting!)


To me, the “hottest booth babes” are the ones that are really dialed in and really know their product. They’re passionate about what they do. They are evangelists for their companies and – often – the industry as a whole. And I can guarantee you’ll never see them at a booth wearing a belly shirt.


Under that definition, here’s 10 “hot babes” in the industry you actually should get to know for all the right reasons:


Melissa Andresko, Senior Public Relations Manager, Lutron Electronics


Betsey Banker, Marketing and Communications Manager, Ergotron


Jennifer Davis, Vice President of Marketing, Runco


Olivia Dumanovsky, Marketing Specialist, Pakedge


Veronica Esbona, President, InGear PR


Sarah Fleishman, Marketing Manager, AccessNetworks


Kimberly Lancaster, Principal, Caster Communications


Erin Phillips, Marketing & Social Media Specialist, Paradigm, Anthem and Martin Logan


Victoria Pires, Product Manager, Kaleidescape


Katherine Spiller, Director Sales and Marketing, Steinway Lyngdorf


What do you think? Booth babes...for 'em or against 'em?

Categories: September 2012, CES/CEDIA

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9 Comments

Reply Lindsey
3:32 PM on September 12, 2012 
Love the "10 Hot Babes" in the industry, but can't help notice that 9 out of 10 are in marketing/PR. Can we dig a little deeper to find a some industry babes in engineering, product development, programming, etc.??
Reply John Sciacca
3:36 PM on September 12, 2012 
Lindsey says...
Love the "10 Hot Babes" in the industry, but can't help notice that 9 out of 10 are in marketing/PR. Can we dig a little deeper to find a some industry babes in engineering, product development, programming, etc.??

Can "we" dig as in me? Typically the women at booths are not in engineering and development. Though I can attest that Victoria (Kaleidescape) has personally walked me through several tech issues. Feel free to post up any tech-babes that you are aware of! :-)
Reply Lindsey
3:50 PM on September 12, 2012 
John Sciacca says...
Can "we" dig as in me? Typically the women at booths are not in engineering and development. Though I can attest that Veronica (Kaleidescape) has personally walked me through several tech issues. Feel free to post up any tech-babes that you are aware of! :-)


It was definitely the collective "we." How about the Tech_chi, Heather? I think she qualifies. Then scrolling through the biz cards I collected at the show there, I got a very well-informed booth tour at Yamaha from Erika Manzanilla, sales training developer; and also Bambi Christie, executive vice president of Artison.
Reply Olivia
4:36 PM on September 12, 2012 
This is great John! Thanks for the shout out. I can't speak for everyone, but although I am in marketing I take the industry and it's technology very seriously. I understand the technology behind all of the products I promote, and constantly seek new education on networking, system design, configuration etc. I may be in charge of marketing but there is so much more to it I am involved in product development, market research, technical training, etc. It's an exciting industry...always more to learn. I think women will greatly succeed..all they need is a hunger for knowledge! :)
Reply Kimberly Lancaster
5:27 PM on September 12, 2012 
This was a great article John. And it's endearing that you're not in the large % of men who don't enjoy ogling. I think booth babes are pretty '90s myself and generally isolated to specific industries like automotive. But that said, it is an industry in and of itself. These are young women trying to make it as models, but ended up at trade show booths -- they know what they are getting in to. I hardly think it's their dream but it is their choice.

I'm simply against judging them, and I hardly begrudge CE Pro for having a little fun.

Thanks for including me in your list, honored to be included!

Kim
Reply Victoria Pires
1:29 AM on September 13, 2012 
I'm honored to be mentioned in your top 10 list, John! Thank you, and I couldn't agree more with your thoughts on this topic.

Another to add to your list in a very 'engineering' role is Lisa White, Software Engineering Manager, here at Kaleidescape!
Reply Jennifer Davis
11:43 AM on September 13, 2012 
Thanks, John. It is an honor to be included on your short list. I remember years ago, I had a sales person tell me that "I knew more about video than any girl he had ever met." I took it as a compliment and know now that I am in good company. Although there is never a line at the women's restroom at any AV or technology trade show, I am proud of my colleagues across the industry that are helping to connect cutting-edge technology to client needs and a new set of buyers and decision makers that are increasingly women. I know here at Planar (the parent company of our Runco brand), we have women in key roles across marketing and sales, as well as product management, engineering and IT. I join you in encouraging and challenging the CEDIA industry to train up their daughters (and nieces and grand-daughters) in this industry, as they have always done their sons.
Reply John Sciacca
11:47 AM on September 13, 2012 
Jennifer Davis says...
Thanks, John. It is an honor to be included on your short list. I remember years ago, I had a sales person tell me that "I knew more about video than any girl he had ever met." I took it as a compliment and know now that I am in good company. Although there is never a line at the women's restroom at any AV or technology trade show, I am proud of my colleagues across the industry that are helping to connect cutting-edge technology to client needs and a new set of buyers and decision makers that are increasingly women. I know here at Planar (the parent company of our Runco brand), we have women in key roles across marketing and sales, as well as product management, engineering and IT. I join you in encouraging and challenging the CEDIA industry to train up their daughters (and nieces and grand-daughters) in this industry, as they have always done their sons.

Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, Jennifer! I can attest to the tech-ladies at your company. I've worked with Dani a few times on tech support issues and even sat through your multi-day Runco University training with her!
Reply Melanie
3:34 PM on December 7, 2012 
I agree! It's so disappointing that our industry purpose is to lead the way for the future and technology, but chooses to remain in the dark ages when it comes to equal rights.

I am proud to be lead with my husband as owners of a custom install company. As a person, it is not in my nature to be too out spoken on these kinds of issues, but.... the level of sexism at my first CES show back in 2006 or so was kind of a shocker. I've never seen a business conference looks so unprofessional as that. We're not just talking pretty girls. These were Vegas strippers in spandex.

In retrospect, it really hurts the manufacturers, because I distinctly remember which booths were the worst. It makes me have little respect for the brand. It just looks cheap and gimmicky. I don't tend to buy from brands I don't trust or respect.

Bottom line: the number of women in CE is only going to increase. So if manufacturers want to make money, they better get smart and lose the cheap gimmicks.