NOTE: If you are easily shocked or made uncomfortable by this type of stuff, please stop reading now.
Every industry has its association.
And many professional speakers (like yours truly) are willing to work with and share their expertise with small business owners and managers and keep them abreast* of trends, marketing techniques, and business operations innovations.
That's how I wound up on a trade show floor at the 2017 Gentleman's Club EXPO, watching a woman spinning around a pole, wearing high heels. Everyone has her talents. More about the show floor later...
As a result of a random connection I made at the Nightclub & Bar Show, I was invited to present to an audience of Deja Vu and Hustler Club owners and managers from the stage of the Erotic Heritage Museum. The Puppetry of the Penis performance was replaced that evening by my rather tame Prezi. No nudity or genitalia were harmed or involved in the making of my workshop.
Erica, who helped me connect my laptop, gave me a most informative tour of the entire museum. Their newest installation is Robots and Sex (an ironic tie-in with my new book and website Embrace the Machine.) In addition to erotica, the museum provides an educational overview of censorship and sexual gaffes that had an impact on history. As unflappable and non-judgmental as I may be, I hit the stage a little flustered and flushed. I've presented in some interesting venues...but this one takes the cake.
The audience was warm, smart, and engaged. Like all small business owners, they wanted to know more about social media and how they can find new profitable prospects and build business loyalty. We talked about reputation management, customer service, the impact of robots on service, and hiring/retaining talent; basically everything I would speak to any retail business owner about these days. I got a round of applause (but alas, no small bills in my waistband).
The world of gentlemen's club (now a dated term) has evolved, with many clubs now owned by women, performers of both genders taking the stage, and technology playing a bigger role in both marketing and operations management. Many clubs offer closed-circuit sports viewing, bachelor and bachelorette parties, gourmet cuisine, and themed nights showcasing celebrity talent as a draw.
As for the trade show, the exhibitors fell into a few major categories:
- Operational and financial systems. If you're going to pay for that lap dance, you need cash, right? ATM vendors were showcasing their hot solutions. Bookkeeping, security, and business brokerage services also had (tame) displays. Nightclub Security Consultants offers online and in-person training to bouncers and other club staff. Club owners can keep unsavory types out with biometric technologies like this cool one from Servall Biometrics (photo below). Ken C. Gauvey and the delightful and smart Angela Rockstar (a stage name?) specialize in gentlemen's club consulting.
- Fashion and beauty. I sampled the under-eye treatment one vendor was selling. I'm not sure whether club patrons are looking at performers' eyes, but feeling and looking one's best is key for anyone in the entertainment industry, I suppose. I was tempted to get pink hair extensions from Euphoric, but decided it was "off brand." Waitressville (one of my fave women-owned businesses and a regular exhibitor at other hospitality shows) was displaying their line of comfy and glittery bustiers. Every woman deserves to be comfortable at work! I confess...I have never gotten pasties as swag before (a gift from Stripper Centro). Speaking of gadgets and technology...
- Digital Dancing. So simple, you can do this at home! Although the Internet porn industry has taken a bite out of the club world, smart marketers have figured out how to use tech-based media as a sales tool. Individual performers have built huge fan followings and clubs can leverage these "influencers" to drive traffic. Start-up Froliic (another female-founded venture) is a fully integrated mobile app, encompassing functionality like table reservations, entertainer and club profiles, and chat. Robots and automation are taking center stage in the hospitality industry, as I noted in this article, and Jevo the Automated Gelatin Shot Maker can produce hundreds of shots in minutes, freeing up bartenders and performers to be more hospitable.
- Sexy "accessories" and novelties included The Money Gun, souvenir items in all shapes, sizes, and scents , and Feetease (disposable bare feet covers -- because who knows what's on that stage or on the street for your walk of shame? )
The Association of Club Executives is a real-deal professional organization, committed to protecting the rights of both business owners and performers and to prevent human trafficking. The size of the industry is estimated to be about $7 billion.
Raunchy jokes and puns aside, this industry is a huge and serious one, looking to evolve, scale, and incorporate digital media and more women in management (like any other business today). The people I met were smart, fun, and open to new ideas.
As I was heading to the airport at 6am, I spotted a male performer leaving a club after a long night's work. Dancing, spinning, serving, and entertaining is a 24/7 gig. I won't be giving up my marketing consulting, writing, and speaking clients any time soon. Plus, I could never walk on 4" heels...much less spin on them!
*Please forgive my punning throughout...it's just too tempting!
P.S. For a little bit of history of the original saloons of the wild west and the respectable women who simply danced and entertained, check out this great article.
P.P.S. For more photos (and a short video) from the show, visit my blog here.