by Heath Row (Fast Company Magazine)

It’s one thing to organize a web event, it’s quite another to persuade people to attend. Joel Bauer is an expert in winning the attention of people with lots of choices about where to spend their time. He flies to as many as 80 trade shows and meetings per year, persuading attendees to visit exhibitions sponsored by clients such as IBM, General Motors, and AT&T.

Some people consider Bauer a corporate infotainer. He prefers the term “perceptionist.” His insights on getting attention are just as relevant to Web events as they are to trade shows.

Bigger beats smaller. “You’ve got to create a massive crowd,” Bauer urges. “At trade shows, I do that by compressing the first seven rows. I squeeze people in so tight, it’s like they’re dating.” Online, that means packing your Web events with plenty of people. It’s the law of increasing returns.

Simpler beats jazzier. For trade shows, that means keeping technical jargon to a minimum. “Most people don’t even know what their own products do,” Bauer says. For Web events, simplicity means putting faces to names and sacrificing online features to enhance ease of use. A Web event “is an invitation to interact live,” Bauer says. “So make it simple. The best Web sites are designed for morons.”

The right people beat the wrong people. Bauer’s challenge is not to attract people to trade-show booths. It’s to attract the right people-and to portray his clients in a compelling light. “You’ve got to understand what the company is really about-what makes it different,” he says. The same goes for Web events. “You need to generate obvious value to people,” he says. “What do they want to see or hear?”