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HostingCon (and Booth Babes)

I’m on my way home from HostingCon. I wish I had decided to stay an extra day. I originally expected I’d give my Monday keynote and be free to roam and have various conversations with random people, have plenty of time to wander the show floor, and so on. Instead, my schedule filled up rapidly with clients and friends-of-clients (for instance, folks with relationships with our investment banking clients who tugged some strings), plus other folks who grabbed me on email beforehand.

Great things have happened with the show since iNet Interactive took over running it — the audience has become much more diverse in terms of the types of attendees, and in general, it’s a smoothly-run, very professional show, quite a change from the past. I enjoyed having the chance to deliver the opening keynote, as well as my formal and informal conversations with people.

I wish I’d had more time than the 30 minutes I had to spend on the show floor. But there’s been a very interesting backchannel discussion happening on Twitter #HostingCon) that I want to highlight, and that’s the subject of booth babes.

Much to my surprise, there were several exhibitors who brought booth babes — you know the classic sort, in super-skimpy outfits, arrayed in front of their booths. A number of female attendees have called this out on Twitter, but just as interesting are the retweets and supporting objections that come from male attendees. This was particularly stark because of the near total absence of women from the conference; the attendance is overwhelmingly male, and so there was little female representation in either attendees or exhibitors. This was true to even a far greater extent than I’m accustomed to seeing at IT conferences.

So, vendors, here’s a set of reasons why you should not bring booth babes. (And especially not to something like HostingCon, where much of the audience is C-level executives, and it’s all about the business and networking.)

1. You imply your audience is immature and/or unprofessional. Booth babes imply that you think that your audience’s primary interest is in staring at boobs, as opposed to getting serious business done. Moreover, there’s no way to look professional while ogling, and even those people who would like to ogle don’t want to do so in front of people that they’re doing business with. Unless you’re E3 and your audience is adolescents and overgrown adolescents, this is a bad tactic. (And you can argue that booth babes ended up significantly contributing to the death of E3 as a serious trade show.)

2. You imply that your company’s offerings are less interesting than the flesh on display. Yes, everyone needs to do something to draw in traffic, but booth babes smack of desperation. But you do this by having a compelling display that makes people want to come have conversations, not by having booth babes shoving trinkets at people. People grab the trinkets and then don’t have the conversations.

3. You actually make it harder for people to get to the booth itself. This is especially true on crowded show floors, where the booth babes basically form a wall in front of your booth. This makes it hard to see your display, your collateral, and the nametags of the people you have staffing your booth (important for any attendee who is trying to do some networking). Chances are that a lot of people simply don’t make it through the obstacle, especially if they’re casually perusing the floor, rather than looking for you specifically.

I chose not to talk to any exhibitor with booth babes. It wasn’t really a principle thing; I’m not actually offended, just bemused. It was simply a practical matter.

I don’t think conference organizations necessarily need to have rules against booth babes, per se. I simply think that companies should exercise good sense when thinking about where they’re exhibiting and who they’re exhibiting to.

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The week’s observations

My colleague Tom Bittman has written a great summary of the hot topics from the Gartner data center conference this past week.

Some personal observations as I wrap up the week…

The future of infrastructure is the cloud. I use “cloud” in a broad sense; many larger organizations will be building their own “private clouds” (which technically aren’t actually clouds, but the “private cloud” terminology has sunk in and probably won’t be easily budged). I was surprised by how many people at the conference wanted to talk to me about initial use of public clouds, how to structure cloud services within their own organizations, and what they could learn from public cloud and hosting services.

Cloud demos are extremely compelling. I was using demos of several clouds in order to make my points to people asking about cloud computing: Terremark’s Enterprise Cloud, Rackspace’s Mosso, and Amazon’s EC2 plus RightScale. I showed some screen shots off 3Tera’s website as well. I did not warn the providers that I was going to do this, and none of them were at the conference (a pity, since I suspect this would have been lead-generating). It was interesting to see how utterly fascinated people were — particularly with the Terremark offering, which is essentially a private cloud. (People were stopping me in the hallways to say, “I hear you have a really cool cloud demo.”) I was showing the trivially easy point-and-click process of provisioning a server, which, I think, provided a kind of grounding for “here is how the cloud could apply to your business”.

Colocation is really, really hot. My one-on-one schedule was crammed with colocation questions, though, as were my conversations with attendees in hallways and over meals, yet I was shocked by how many people showed up to my Friday, 8 am talk on colocation — the best-attended talk of the slot, I was told (and one cursed by lots of A/V glitches). Over the last month, we’ve seen demand accelerate and supply projections tighten — neither businesses nor data center providers can build right now.

A crazy conference week, like always, but tremendously interesting.

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At Gartner’s data center conference

I’m at Gartner’s data center conference this week. My presentation (on best practices for colocation) is at Friday at 8 am, and I’m also participating in the panel for the Data Center Facilities “town hall” at 10 am on Thursday.

The rest of the time, I’ll be available for one-on-ones and the like. If you’re at the conference and want to talk about trends in cloud computing adoption, or anything related to Internet data centers, colocation, hosting, or content delivery networks, please schedule something with me — through the one-on-one process if you can, or directly via email if you’re a vendor with a product demo or the like that you want to show.

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