The usual view of a conference is to hear about the latest in product development or the road map of the next technology strategy. So if that’s what you are looking for, it’s not here.

The story that gets missed is what happens on the exhibit hall floor and the latest in vendor booth tactics, which I cover in this article. Competition for which booth seems the busiest is fierce as the tactics to attract attendees range from old fashioned in- your-face intrusion to gimmicks that don’t necessarily attract qualified buyers.

Take Your Photo with Darth Vader

At this year’s SharePoint Conference in Anaheim, there was a plethora of exhibitors to visit. What do the marketing people think when they put together a booth? Well, there was a 6-foot-tall wizard, fake white beard, and all that represented Magic Software. He was something to remember, even though I didn’t really know what Magic Software does. Then there was a remote-controlled flying round UFO, which was a foot in diameter, that hovered over random attendees and was truly unidentified because unless you knew where it started, you didn’t what booth it came from.

There was a booth that had the photo shoot where you could get a picture of yourself as if you were on the beach or surfing in the ocean; and on Wednesday, you could even get a snapshot of you and Darth Vader. I asked the folks on both duty what the tie-in to their offering was, and we both came to the conclusion there wasn’t really any connection.

Taking booth envy to a new level, Fpweb.net of course had to have the secret second-floor room where you saw people coming and going up there -- not sure if they were just checking it out to say they did it or if they really had private business to attend to. Do tell what was up there; I’m dying to know.

Me, we were in the back row and the biggest action we saw was the long line to get an autographed book by Dux Raymond on SharePoint for Project Management at the Project Server 2010 booth manned by Kevin Custer. There were long lines to open up some kind of treasure chest at another booth that sure didn’t seem like the people in line had any interest in what the company did, but who knows. Maybe they just need one person to buy, and all treasures are paid for.

Say Hi to the Booth Person

There is a whole subculture of what I’ll call booth people that the real attendees probably don’t even think about. Like do we get to eat? Where does that happen? What do booth people do when the exhibit hall security let them in when the floor isn’t open to the full-pass people? Well just in case you now are wondering, we did get fed, really well I must appreciate, although one fellow booth person equated our food section like being on the bottom level of the Titanic separated from the first-class passengers in the corner in the back and hidden by black curtains.

And during off hours, we booth people tidy up our booths when the exhibit hall is closed so that we can attract full-pass people into our booth. Booth people are grateful when the full-pass people stop by. It is so rewarding to have someone stop by that really cares about what you do. We appreciate you.

So when you attend the SharePoint Conference next year in Las Vegas, stop by and say hello to a booth person. It keeps us coming back, booth and all.

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