The History of chair massage at trade shows and Conventions
Humans have probably been exchanging brief massages for thousands of years. Writings about massage have been found in many ancient civilizations including Rome, Greece, India, Japan, China, Egypt and Mesopotamia. Today most people have had the experience of exchanging brief shoulder rubs with friends and family members. Massage is now an accepted part of life in the industrialized world. That's why chair massage at trade shows is so popular. To be touched is a basic human need – it feels good and people want it. All the better when it's free!
There is no substitute for the human touch
The first massage chair was invented in 1996 by David Palmer. Chair massage began showing up at trade shows around 1990. It was an obvious choice for a traffic builder because people at trade shows really appreciate a chance to get their neck, back and shoulders worked on. High stress environment -- stress relief via chair massage – this was a no brainer. It was an excellent idea for an in-booth promotion.
I remember some massage therapists who around 1990 went to Moscone Center in San Francisco and set up their massage chairs outside the convention center, offering chair massage at $1 per minute to the passing crowds. They were popular immediately. Eventually they were asked by the guards to leave, but not before a savvy exhibitor spotted them and asked them to come inside and perform chair massage in his exhibit. Who knows if this was the beginning of chair massage at trade shows; but the invention of the portable massage chair made trade show massage inevitable.
It's amazing how long attendees will wait to receive a free chair massage. 20-Minute Vacation provided chair massage at the 2002 Oncology Nurses Society Congress and trade show in Washington DC. Our client was Amgen and they built a beautiful massage area in their huge exhibit. It included eight massage therapists and eight electric foot massagers. The nurses had to wait in line outside the massage area and when they came in they had to wait again inside while using the electric foot massagers. I talked to many attendees who said they have spent 45 minutes total in the Amgen exhibit – and they were glad to do it!
In contrast if you offer a giveaway, visitors might come by, get their free gift and leave. But when you offer chair massage they'll be with you for 20-Minutes or more. Plus, chair massage is no longer thought of as a fringe attraction. It's now an accepted part of the trade show industry.
I regard it as similar to offering food and beverages, also an accepted part of the industry. But massage is thought of as a healthy alternative to food and alcohol. And that's a positive thing for exhibitors.
– Gary Buzzard