Infosecurity Europe 2014, took place from 29 April – 01 May this year, and continues to benefit from officially banning ‘booth babes‘ (provocatively and sparsely dressed models attractive in physical appearance) from the show. In 2013, Reed Exhibitions announced changes to their Terms and Conditions prohibiting exhibitors form using so called booth babes to attract foot traffic to their exhibition stands. (Read more in a blog by Eleanor Dallaway, Editor of Infosecurity Magazine: The Low-down on the Booth Babe Crack-down).
The decision that exhibitors and their representatives shall wear appropriate business wear in order to participate at the conference and exhibition was driven by Claire Sellick, Infosecurity Group Director:
“During and after the 2012 event, we experienced an unprecedented volume of negative feedback relating to the apparel (or lack of) worn by some staff on stands and in the aisles. The feedback came from all angles including visitors, exhibitors and the press.
I am sure you will agree that for such a professional industry this ‘focus’ is an unnecessary distraction. In direct response to this we have taken the decision to amend our exhibition participation terms stating that all stand staff must be dressed in appropriate attire. Inappropriate, revealing and/or offensive apparel will not be permitted.”
Mixed reviews followed this bold announcement, but closely followed the information security community started applauding and congratulating Infosecurity Europe for taking this step towards a more professional approach to business events and information security as a whole.
More females at Infosecurity Europe in comparison with the UK industry average
Infosecurity Europe 2014 was the second year of implementing these new rules and no more complaints of such nature were made. It is no surprise that everyone conducted great business as usual and the buzz on the show floor remained professional, eager and inspiring at all times. Female professionals represented at Infosecurity Europe 2014 accounted for 13.7 percent this year, which is a slight increase on 2013. According to a report launched by (ISC)² in 2013 Global Information Security Workforce (GISWS) males dominate the information security profession, with only 7% females accounting for the UK workforce and 11% of women representing the information security profession globally (Women in the information security profession).
Being female and a marketer myself, this is a subject that I find quite interesting. While I believe there is a place for the “sex sells” strategy to generate leads/interest, I don’t think it marries particularly well with B2B industries. In information security we are talking about issues related to the protection of critical business information. Would you invest your budget in a company that promotes their core business assets on female ‘body parts’? Personally, I think it is an unnecessary promotional means and is highly likely to draw the wrong kind of attention to your brand and USP. I also seriously question the lead quality obtained, as the core reason for getting the lead in the first place is of a different nature than genuine product interest. With marketing spend under close scrutiny lead quality is more important than lead quantity. A recent post on Techcrunch explains in a tech company business case why ‘booth babes don’t work‘.
Who gets outraged the most?
What moves me the most is that it was mainly males who have been very outspoken about their dislike of the use of booth babes. Why is this? Are women scared to speak out? Or do we simply not bother? In conversation with Jack Daniel, a veteran and blogger in information security, BSides Co-Founder and Technical Product Manager at Tenable Network Security, which also exhibited at this year’s Infosecurity Europe I would like to share the following discussion:
Infosecurity Europe banned the use of ‘booth babes’ by exhibitors in 2013. What’s your opinion about the use of ‘booth babes’ in general? And what did you think when you heard about the announcement?
“I was happy to see Infosecurity Europe ban “booth babes”, I think it has led to a more professional feeling at the event. I hope other conferences follow their lead. I think booth babes are a distraction, and a detriment to the industry. Fast cars, screaming barkers, and other nonsense are annoying, but “booth babes” are both annoying and detrimental; women in our industry often have needless challenges to being taken seriously, “booth babes” reinforce the fallacy that women in infosec are not to be taken seriously.”
Do you think ‘booth babes’ help exhibitors to obtain relevant high-quality leads?
“Absolutely not. They may draw people to the booth and drive leads, but they are generally low quality and irrelevant leads. Quality leads require exhibitors to share quality information with event attendees, anything short of that, wastes the time of both the exhibitor and attendee.”
How do you feel when you attend other commercial conferences and exhibitions that allow such practice?
“It is awkward, distracting, and disappointing. If people want to see scantily clad women (or men), or race cars, or any other diversions there are much better places than unrelated conferences and exhibitions for that behaviour. Maybe I’m strange, but when I want to talk business, I just want to talk business with like-minded people.”
In our case complaints in the past came mainly from male professionals – why do you think this is?
“I don’t have a good answer, but I do have some wild speculations: “Booth Babes” may not be worth the effort to battle given other and more significant challenges women face in this (and many other) industries. Women may not complain for fear of being labelled “whiners”, possibly fearing that will just add to their challenges.”
Thank you Jack Daniel!
While opinions about the use of booth babes may differ, here at Infosecurity Europe we are working tirelessly to build quality products and experiences for all our stakeholders at all times. We are proud to say that we had 98.1% satisfied visitors, from which 81% were very or completely satisfied. Did our exhibitors meet their business objectives and ROI? I think so. 97.2% of our exhibitors were satisfied, out of which 70.2% were very or completely satisfied, which is reflected in almost 80% of rebookings for 2015 that have been confirmed to date. 27% exhibitors took orders at the show and 73.3% expect to receive orders as a result of the show. I think it is fair to say: business success at Infosecurity Europe continues and thrives without booth babes and we cannot wait to celebrate our 20th anniversary with you!