What They Dont Teach You At Stanford Business School

Stuff you can't learn in B-school: LARRY CHIANG

The Art of Being a Booth Babe

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Larry Chiang finds comedy in how business really works. He identifies rising talent by character compassing and he has identified a ton of rising stars. His latest discovery is the strikingly beautiful and talented, Ms. Krystel Ariel. If you liked “The Art of Changing the Deal“, “10 Things They Don’t Teach You at Business School ” and “Working a Twitter Party, Take 2”, you’ll love this guest post: “The Art of Being a Booth Babe”.

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Larry’s book releases 09-09-09 and includes good stuff like Ms. Ariel’s sales mentorship

She has a Masters degree from P.A.C.C (Palo Alto’s Community College) also known as ‘Stanford’ and is a rising sales executive at a Silicon Valley start-up.

Edited by Larry Chiang

By Krystel Ariel

Palo Alto, CA — March 9th —

Who says a booth babe’s only purpose is to flash a bit of decolletage? You’ve seen us at your trade shows, conferences, and meet-ups, don’t deny it. You know who I’m talking about. Those girls, rocking the booths, made up within an inch of their lives, wearing the flashiest outfits, are an institution at these industry events. Every company uses them, but sometimes not to their fullest potential.

Since the age of sixteen, I’ve been the booth babe at a variety of events across many different industries. Nowadays, every decently, attractive female employee at a trade show gets labeled a booth babe, correctly or incorrectly. Instead of taking offense, here are a few pointers I have gathered.  After digesting this post, you will differentiate yourself from the also-rans and actually leverage the misperception of “booth babe”.

1) Do not dress like a common prostitute. Yes, your company may have brought you to the show because, let’s face it, you’re hot, but don’t go too far. No boobs on display, no bare midriffs, and you must be covered to the knee. Also, hooker heels are stupid since you will be on your feet for three days straight and most men don’t appreciate being made to look like midgets. My outfits at tradeshows have run the gamut from suits to amorphic lesbian bowling shirts, but I’ve always fallen back on two standards: loose slacks and the knee length skirt, always worn with flats.

2) Do apply makeup VERY liberally. If you’re going to be up at 5 am for three days straight and expected to look perfect all day and night, you better spackle it on. Honey, I’m sorry. Obviously, this doesn’t mean blood-red lips or looking like an oompa loompa, but your face is going to be the focus of attention, so you better make it look inviting. Moisturizer is highly recommended, as well as lip balm. Those harsh lights tend to make the ladies look twenty years older and drier than a prune.



3) Now that you look the part, you’ve got to act the part. Smile at everyone, greet everyone who walks by your booth with a sentence that requires a response: “how are you doing?” or “where are you from?” It might feel cheesy, but you’ve got to put on an air of friendliness and try to catch your moving target. This is where you, as a woman, have an advantage over your male colleagues. All the men will be willing to approach you, because you seem friendly and non-threatening. They might even fancy that you’re simply bored and looking for some witty companionship. Encourage that delusion. When your target is a woman, act like a man, go right up to her, and say what you need to say. All over the floor, men are flirting to get at these female decison-makers and they’ll respect your no bull-shit approach.

4) Once you’ve got their attention, do not imagine that you will achieve anything by trying to sell them on the spot. Explain what it is that your company does, but in a way that a kindergartener can understand. Once they’ve digested and come back at you with a question, feel free to dig a little deeper. You’re objective is simple. Get your company’s name branded into their brain and collect that business card to bring home.

Occassionally, you may be asked for a demonstration. I would always suggest to involve the most senior person from your company, because they will likely be your best salesman. It is impressive when the CEO of a company takes a prospect aside and even more so when that executive is a speaker or presenter at the conference. Of course, you can always do the demo yourself, but in my experience, you achieve a lot more by delegating it to the expert. See booth diagrams I and II here. This also leaves you free to bring in more prospects. Remember, yours is a numbers game: the more cards, the better.

5) These shows often have events like cocktail receptions and networking drink breaks. This is your time to shine. Do not get obliterated, but a healthy buzz is encouraged. Most of the men attending these shows are so excited to be attending a social event away from their demanding wives and they don’t really know how to handle themselves. In a way, the best strategy is to pretend you have turretts. Don’t be afraid to walk right up to someone and start a conversation. Even mundane conversation starters such as ” I’m so thirsty, what are you drinking?” or “Hi, weren’t you in that session?” can lead to a valuable connection. My favorite thing to do is to stake out a prospect, walk right up to them, and just focus on making them my new best friend. Talking to older prospects about how you twittered their keynote speech can be very attractive, especially since social media know-how is very envied amongst the older guy set.

6) Inevitably, prospects get too drunk or too close. At one show, I had a Joe Pesci look-alike grab my arm, yank me across a room, and then proceed to cry about how his wife makes him put the toilet seat down at home. This is when I learned the importance of personal space. It is your job to show your prospects a good time, but no one is asking you to sleep with them. I like to establish my unavailability upfront. I will find  a way to slip into the conversation that my fiancee or boyfriend (even if I don’t have one) did so and so or thinks so and so. It can actually bring you closer to your prospect, because they start to see you as a real person as opposed to a conniving hot sales chick. That said, make sure they have a good time and keep it clean.

7) Don’t talk too much business off floor. The worst thing you can do is invite a bunch of prospects to a nice dinner and spend the next two hours hard-selling them. They expect this and are going to be turned off by the sales personality before they finish their aperitif. You’ve got to let them get to know you as a person. Be witty, talk about your personal life (make things up), talk about their kids, talk about everything, besides what you are trying to sell. One of my best tradeshow conversation topics is the horrible JDates I went on when my mom created a profile for me. I still receive emails from my prospects thanking me for making them laugh instead of shoving collateral down their throats.

In the end, it’s all about getting those cards and making sure that all of your prospects know who you are. If at the end of a show, prospects stop by your booth to bid you farewell, then you’ve done your job. Being a booth babe isn’t about flashing a breast everytime a man walks by. It’s about taking advantage of the attention you’re already likely to receive and channeling it to stand out from your colleagues when it comes to making that lasting impression.

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Larry Chiang is the founder of Duck9, which educates college students on how to establish and maintain a FICO score over 750. He has testified before Congress and World Bank on credit.


He is a frequent contributor to Business Week’s blog on “What They Don’t Teach You at Business School“. For fun, Larry blogs, cut and pastes bestsellers from the 80s and hoops it up at Arrillaga Center for Sports and Recreation. Text or call him during office hours 11:11am or 11:11pm PST +/-11 minutes at 650-283-8008.

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Written by Larry Chiang

December 13, 2009 at 9:49 am

Posted in business School

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