Want a Crowd at PC Expo? Joel Bauer Has a Pitch for You
By MICHAEL BROADHURST (THE WALL STREET JOURNAL INTERACTIVE EDITION)
NEW YORK -- PC Expo has no shortage of attendees wandering the aisles like lost puppies, mesmerized by the shiny new tech toys and the over-the-top sales pitches and not sure if the booth on the left or the pavilion on the right is home. Self-styled "infotainer" Joel Bauer is ready to guide them. Mr. Bauer is undoubtedly the chairman of the board.
What Mr. Bauer does is draw crowds -- and big ones -- for whoever's hired him. This year it's Panasonic -- a subsidiary of Japan's Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. -- after several years of representing Motorola Inc. Mr. Bauer's web site outlines the dos and don'ts of product promotion, which he follows to the letter at PC Expo. He stands on a riser about a foot above the crowd -- because "when we were children we acquired knowledge and guidance from those higher up" -- and makes sure he's the loudest barker on the block -- because "an inferior product or service can win over your superior performer if your competitor secures the attendees' attention more effectively."
The 37-year-old Mr. Bauer says he has been performing for over 31 years. "I attract more people than anyone else in the industry, and we don't have any chairs," Mr. Bauer tells one of his audiences at the end of his show. "If people are interested in what we're saying, they'll stay." And he's right. Every time Mr. Bauer does his show people flock to the Panasonic area in the middle of the expo floor. Mr. Bauer is personable and holds people's attention with a vise grip, for which he makes no apology. He banks on being able to read the audience's pulse and tone -- a point he illustrates by putting his finger to a reporter's neck to do the same -- and to adjust his act accordingly. "If the audience is in sync with the performer, they don't care what he's talking about," he says. "They just want to stay and listen." Mr. Bauer's company, Bauer & Assoc., employs 38 infotainers in all. Mr. Bauer's so popular not only due to the crowds of customers he draws, but also because of the media attention he generates for the companies he represents. What's more, he says, he guarantees his clients crowds: If he doesn't draw -- even in the madhouse that is the exhibition floor of PC Expo -- the client doesn't pay, "because at shows like this there are no second chances." Mr. Bauer says he gets such a great response from his crowds (and convinces many of them to check out Panasonic's wares when he's through) because he gives them entertainment as well as information -- hence his coinage "infotainer."
Mr. Bauer stands at the top of the infotainment heap. "I guarantee the largest crowd in the smallest space,"--he says proudly.