by David Colker (L.A. Times)

Tens of thousands of attendees at the SIGGRAPH trade show-each bearing the requisite plastic bag and the glassy-eyed gaze of someone who had spent the last several hours looking at too many computer monitors-wandering through the exhibits on the last day of the show.

But in front of a small podium outside the Mitsubishi Electronics booth, the energy level was far higher. Instead of the small, docile crowds at most booths, here there were more than 140 people jockeying for position. They were listening spellbound to Joel Bauer, who can cram more words into 20 minutes than you did into the entire month of July.

Bauer specializes in trade shows, hired by companies to attract crowds to their booths.

Around him, the marvels of digital magic were on display, but they were no match for Bauer.

“At this show, there are a lot of interactive demos featuring the products.” Bauer said during a break between the 20-minute shows he was performing on the hour. “They feel that if they offer live entertainment, it will take away from the products. “But that’s not correct. The first thing you want to do is to bring them into a booth, win their confidence. You can do that by getting them interested and then making them laugh. Once you have laughter, you have trust.”

Bauer, 36, who has been working trade shows for over 15 years, has developed his act with the precision of a scientist. “The size of my table, the height of my stand, every single thing I do here is designed to move an audience in and control them for a limited amount of time so that they get a message. “It’s control, but it’s being used in a very positive way. We don’t hurt them, we give them a free gift at the end of the show.” That free “gift” is a packet of information about the Mitsubishi color printers he was hired to help sell. Bauer slips in none-to-subtle plugs for his sponsor throughout the show. Bauer studies his sponsors’ products to the point that he can answer many technical questions about them.

To compete with all the distractions on a trade-show floor, he keeps the energy high. “That’s why I keep telling them to move in closer. It creates body heat. It’s makes it harder to escape.”