SAN FRANCISCO — By the time the afternoon at Oracle OpenWorld rolled around, I had learned to either look down or lapse into a dead stare when walking through the halls of the Moscone Center here.

That’s because every time you turned a corner there was another smiling vendor trying to hand you a trinket, raffle ticket or an invite to the next product pitch.

Some went to strange extremes to garner attention: 

AppsForte rolled out a putting green (that's me in the photo, golfing badly). 

Tech Data threw down a basketball court. 

And Cognizant had quite the line for would-be gamers ready to hop into a racing simulation game.

The Art of the Pitch

The primary goal of the clever and wacky floor games was to get you to spend time at the their booth, of course. The big score was allowing the vendor to scan your attendee badge.

With each scan, the company captures all your registration details, so it’s easier to follow up with you about their product. It’s a clever system, and makes sense given the thousands who descended into San Francisco for the five-day event.

Dell Origami

That means being willing to listen to a pitch from Dell for a shot at winning their XPS 13 laptop. Such exchanges aren’t unusual. 

What was strange: the artist on-hand to whip up an origami figure, complete with the Dell logo.

By the end of each day, I had a sizable haul of swag. My winnings included a squeezable stress ball, flash drive, computer screen cleaner and more pens than I’ll ever need.

Lenovo tap and brew
The ultimate prize was the Tap and Brew lounge sponsored by Lenovo. You guessed it: free beer. 

Once you scanned in you were entitled to either a free Anchor Steam draft or Starbucks beverage.

You can guess which most picked. The room had a couple of pool tables and a display to show off Lenovo’s newest Yoga laptops.

Oracle Gets In On The Act

Some of the most far-out ideas and concepts came directly from Oracle.

The company commissioned Snarkitecture to build a giant space filled with 125,000 white plastic balls. The ball pit was surrounded by mirrors — to give you the illusion that you were “in the cloud.”

So of course I dove in to check it out. I declined, however, to use my Oracle-issued selfie stick for a picture. The experience in this cloud is what it must be like for a lot of data — once you’re in, it’s hard to get out. In my case, that’s because the pool of plastic balls came up to my neck.

Oracle cloud aka ball pit

Voice of Data bracelets
The other peculiarity was called the Voice of Data. Software powered by Oracle’s Java took a ten-second transcription of your voice and turned it into a unique pattern zapped onto a leather bracelet. A sizable laser machine was on-hand to do the work, which started on the job once it had your voice.

While both seemed rather gimmicky, they were a nice distraction from the seemingly nonstop deluge of information from the vendors and keynotes. It could leave one feeling a little, well, clouded.

Photos by Derek Walter