Exhibitor Show is packing 'em in here Crowd is talking about People Vision's SpokesMannequin


October 01, 1998|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

Call it the show about nothing. The Baltimore Convention Center is playing host this week to the Exhibitor Show -- a trade show on trade shows.

Booth after booth about booths. Attention-grabbing displays about how to display attention-grabbing displays.

Of the 102 exhibits, the one that probably garnered the most "Ooos," "Aahhs" and "What the s?" was hosted by People Vision and featured the SpokesMannequin. The Roselle Park, N.J., company has developed a 3-D screen shaped like a human head, complete with formed nose, lips and chin.

The head, made all the creepier by the fact that it was draped in an Obi Wan Kenobi-style gray hood and placed in a black wooden box, stared straight ahead while talking, and morphed from a man into a woman into a tiger.

Although the mannequin, which goes for around $30,000, could theoretically take the place of human back-slapping exhibitors, its real purpose is to grab attention. And that's the name of the game in trade shows. You've got to grab them, then hold them.

"It stops people walking down the aisles and then they can listen to your message," said People Vision President Wayne Sullivant. "Some people stand there with their mouths hanging open and a dazed look on their face, but often they are paying attention to what it says."

The trade-show trade show is sponsored by Exhibitor Magazine and has been held in Las Vegas for each of the past 11 years. This year, organizers decided they needed an Eastern venue as well, said show spokesman Wayne Dunham, and they have a contract to return to Baltimore through 2000.

"New York was just too big for this size show, and a lot of people said they didn't want to go to New York," he said. "We looked at Orlando, but then Baltimore came up as a possible destination because it's literally right in the middle of the East Coast."

The show began Tuesday and runs through today. Organizers had hoped to draw at least 2,000 people and the actual number is about 2,800 so far, Dunham said, including those preregistered for today's exhibition.

"We love the facility and the ambience of Baltimore," he said. "The city's done a very good job of selling itself."

The Inner Harbor and the show got a thumbs up from Joe Godbert, display technician for plumbing giant Kohler Co. Trade shows have gotten much more high-technology and entertainment-oriented since he started in the business 15 years ago, Godbert said.

"Everybody's out to be No. 1; everybody's vying for the attention, and every year it gets more and more expensive," he said. "One year, we hired tap dancers to dance in big work boots every 30 minutes and that was a big draw. Another year, we had violins, but that wasn't as big of a pull."

Along with the show itself, the event includes numerous seminars on subjects such as Outsourcing: Friend or Foe and How to Talk Marketing Like You Know What It Means.

Admission to the show itself is free to anyone with a business card; the 90-minute seminars, which will continue through tomorrow, are $120 each.

Pub Date: 10/01/98

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