February 2, 2001

LinuxWorld: Caldera's booth dude loves his job, really

Author: JT Smith

- By Grant Gross -
Imagine having to give the same corporate spiel eight times a day, for
the better part of a week. If you're among the throngs of people who'd
despise doing that kind of thing, meet Paul Hatch, who's been pitching
Caldera Linux to the masses at LinuxWorld this week.

You've enjoyed Hatch's work this week if you've been anywhere near the
.org Pavilion at LinuxWorld, or within about five booth-widths in any
direction of Caldera's booth, for that matter. Hatch and another
pitchman have been giving 10-minute Caldera talks every half hour during the
show. If you've been in earshot, you've probably heard Hatch say
something like, "My mom has trouble sending email, but she could probably
install Linux using this Lizard installation tool. It's that easy!"

Hatch's job was to do the corporate overview presentation eight times a
day, but on the shortened Friday hours at LinuxWorld, he took over the
product presentation as well, meaning he was stepping up to the
microphone 10 times that day.

Hatch is a corporate communications manager at Caldera -- no he's not a
hired trade show actor like those used at many booths. He looks like an actor
you'd hire to play a corporate communications manager: short haircut,
clean-shaven, Caldera polo shirt tucked neatly into his khakis. He swears he
likes the work. "It's a lot of fun doing this," he says. "The first day
I was doing it, I hit a wall about 2:30. I had to stop and think about
what I was doing during the presentation."

With a video display following along behind him, Hatch can cheat if he
gets stuck. But he had the corporate overview memorized early in the
show, and he predicted he'd have the product presentation down after
doing it a couple of times Friday.

The presentations themselves don't differ greatly each time, but Hatch
chats up the audience as he's gearing up for each show by asking who's
a Linux user, where they're from, small talk like that. Late Friday
morning, the crowd was still sparse, so Hatch would get on the mic and
just start talking to draw a crowd.

About 15 people stopped by for the 11:30 a.m. presentation. Friday was
Beatles day, so Hatch was giving out a Caldera fuzzy vest to the
audience member who could answer a Beatles trivia question, and Hatch chucked
trinkets such as frisbees and mouse pads to people who attempt answers
to his Linux trivia questions.

"How many Linux servers shipped in 1999?" Someone guesses 30,000; Hatch
tosses him a keychain. Fifty thousand? Another key chain goes flying
across the audience. The correct answer: 1 million. "It's amazing how
it's growing," Hatch says of Linux.

After more trivia, Hatch launches into a quick advertisement for
Caldera's Volution Web-base systems management tool. He emphasizes the
Web-based aspect, saying you can manage your Linux system "whether you're at
home in the middle of the night watching Gilligan's Island, or
you're on the golf course with a PDA."

The crowds have been about three-quarters corporate, with a few "Linux
junkies" mixed in, Hatch says. Speaking to the pro-Linux crowd, he gets
in a dig at a certain closed-source software maker while explaining
Volution's health monitoring feature. "If Microsoft had something like
this, they would'nt have had their Web site go down, because they would've
known it was coming."

After the 10-minute show, attendees can get a free T-shirt by getting a
card stamped by Hatch and another Caldera booth worker. Once a day,
Hatch and crew draw for a free Compaq iPaq from the cards turned in.

Supporting Hatch are a handful of engineers, who get the technical
questions he can't answer, but Hatch says he fielded only three or four
questions Thursday. "Some people just like to come up and talk about their
experiences using Caldera," he says. "I'm happy to hear them talk about
it."

Hatch's enthusiasm stays consistent throughout the day, through pitch
after pitch of the same stuff. "Try me in two years," he says when asked
if it gets boring. "If I'm still doing it, it may be getting a little
old."

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