Trade Show TalesBlog

Ignorance and Indifference on the Trade Show Floor

October 26th, 2016 COMMENTS

seinfeldJerry: “I don’t understand, I made a reservation, do you have my reservation?”

Agent: “Yes, we do, unfortunately we ran out of cars.”

Jerry: “But the reservation keeps the car here. That’s why you have the reservation.”

Agent: “I know why we have reservations.”

Jerry: “I don’t think you do. If you did, I’d have a car. See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to “hold” the reservation and that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them.”

We all recognize this scene from Seinfeld:  The rental car desk. The banter between Jerry and Elaine. And the snide, indifferent response from the rental car agent. We’ve all experienced this poor customer service from an overbooked flight, a missed service appointment, or a bait and switch on an advertised product.

Yet, not all bad customer service is this blatant. Sometimes it is poor planning, not recognizing industry trends, or pure laziness. As a trade show exhibitor or an attendee, you’ve experienced this walking the show floor.


As a child, you looked forward to the annual county fair — the rides, the concerts, and the food vendors were the highlight of the summer. You planned your summer around it. Trade shows were like that once – many, many years ago. Not anymore.

Exhibitors must be proactive. To be successful, they must invite existing and potential customers to their booth and explain their value. Whether you are using email, social media, advertising, or good old fashion phone calls, as an exhibitor, you should plan for 50% of your show traffic to be generated pre-show. Simply showing up and showing off no longer works.



Think about all the money you spend before the show even starts — the exhibit, freight, booth space, drayage, labor, and travel costs. It’s significant. The show opens, attendees swarm the show floor, and some of those enter your booth space. And you ignore them.

By Day 3 how many pass through your booth without a greeting, a handshake, or even a friendly head nod? Your team may acknowledge them but it’s half-hearted. They’re already checking on their flight or planning for dinner. The attendee senses it. They move on to a competitor excited to see them on Day 3 at 3 pm.


At its core, a trade show is a face-to-face Google search. Attendees are there to find and collect information. Yet, many exhibitors bring charming rather than competent staffers. Simple questions can’t be answered by the booth staff, or the one expert is always unavailable. Even the booth fails the information test. Lots of splash but no real substance on your products and services. The successful exhibitor strikes a balance between charm and competence, flash and substance.



Perhaps I’m naïve, but I don’t buy the statistics about lead follow-up. It’s not ideal, not even close, but most companies follow up on show leads. Unfortunately, they do it half-hearted. They send an email or leave a phone message… then call it good. They treat a show lead as a cold lead, not a warm one.

The trade show attendee stopped in your booth for a reason. It’s your job to pinpoint what they need and when they need it. All too often, we abandon the sales process after the first attempt: “I left and message and they never got back to me.”


What did you learn at your last show about your competitors, your vendors, your industry, and your customers? Nothing is more valuable. Yes, the trade show should lead to more sales. There should be a measurable ROI. However, it’s the unmeasurable ROI that’s often more valuable.

We call it “face-to-face marketing,” but it’s people connecting with people, sharing information, venting, gossiping, and looking for solutions. No website can do that as effectively as two people together. Ever.

There’s no magic or voodoo to outstanding customer service on the trade show floor. It’s all about smart planning, commonsense, and hard work.

–Mel White


Does Your Trade Show Exhibit Have To Be Clever?

October 25th, 2016 COMMENTS


Once Upon a Time…

Trade shows have always been a marketplace where potential attendees wandered through the aisles. When something caught their eye, they would enter the booth to learn more about the product or service. As an exhibitor, a clever message, promotion, or display was crucial since enticing attendees into the booth was an important measure of the show’s overall success.

Clever mattered and the overall booth served the same purpose as a magazine or television ad: enticing people to try your product and service. As a result, marketers went to great lengths to create witty copy, smart graphics, and an interactive experience. In some cases, the copy, graphics, and experience had little to do with the actual product or service. It was more about generating traffic and leads, regardless of the quality.

park3Does Clever Still Matter?

Several years ago, we designed a 20 x 30 island design with a park theme. It included paths, artificial grass, a swing, benches, trees, and a gazebo. The concept was “A Walk in the Park,” which highlighted how easy it was to work with us – design, customer service, exhibit builds. It was a clever idea that attracted traffic to the booth. Even today, our customers still comment on the design, but when I ask them about the underlying marketing message, they draw a blank. Ouch!

Does that approach still work? Yes… and no. The ability to create a creative, integrated, and informative trade show experience for an attendee will always be the “holy grail.” However, being clever may not matter as much as it used to. That may seem counter-intuitive, but trade shows have changed.

Google/Amazon in a Really Big Building

The Internet has changed trade shows, but not in the way you think. For years, “experts” predicted that virtual trade shows would replace physical trade shows. That hasn’t happened, nor is it likely to happen anytime soon. According to CEIR, tradeshow attendance has grown for 21 straight quarters.

People want to be with people who share their professional and personal interests. Today’s trade show attendees are far less likely to wander the trade show floor. They pre-shop in the same way we all do research before buying a new television, car, or service. Attendees are less inclined to discover a vendor at the show. Instead, they identify who they want to visit and plan accordingly. Is there a chance they’ll stumble on a new vendor? Of course, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.

What Does That Mean to You?

preshowYour job is difficult and allocating scarce resources is one of your main challenges. Clever takes time. And, if the goal is less about enticing random attendees into the booth, then it becomes more about communicating a problem and your solution. That message is easier since it’s something you do every day. So, what do you do with all this extra time? You devote it to pre-show marketing and to building qualified traffic to the booth… before the show even starts. Successful trade show programs are as much about pre-show and post-show as “the show.”

That’s not to say your trade show exhibit shouldn’t be attractive. It should, but I would encourage you to focus on more practical matters the next time you design or rebrand your display. What do you need in the booth space to conduct business? Make it less about showmanship and more about conversations and information. Take the time you would have spent creating the perfect theme and use it to create targeted social media campaigns and invitations to your clients before the show. Give them a reason to put you on their calendar at the show.

It’s OK to be clever, but on a list of trade show marketing priorities, smart (and successful) beats clever every time.

–Mel White


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or


Changes in Latitude | Reid Sherwood

October 20th, 2016 3 COMMENTS


Dear Classic Family of Distributors,

I trust that your October is crazy good. Things at Classic are cruising along. Oh how I love the smell of manufacturing in October.

I wanted to share with you all some news. Reid Sherwood, the Eastern Regional Sales Manager, was offered a wonderful opportunity and is leaving Classic Exhibits on November 4. He’ll shift gears to the supplier side of the industry.

As a friend and colleague, I am very happy for Reid. Don’t get me wrong, I and the entire team are sad to see Reid leave, but we believe in the core philosophy of Shared Success. We are very proud of what Reid has accomplished at Classic Exhibits. And we are equally proud and happy that he has been able to parlay that into a positive career move.

As Classic’s Evangelist across the eastern half of the United Stated for the past eight years, Reid’s efforts and the relationships he has fostered have expanded our great family of Distributors, Partners, and Work Friends. So for that Mr. Sherwood I thank you!

To our Family of Distributors, you are probably wondering what’s next. Who is coming to visit us? Rest assured, we are actively searching for a new Eastern Regional Sales Manager. We began placing ads last week and will be going through the hiring process soon.

In the meantime, be on the look out for Mel, Jen, or me as we cover some of Reid’s territory. Until then, please congratulate Mr. Sherwood and wish him well in his new adventure.

Have a great rest of your week and restful weekend ahead.


Reid, Mel said, “If you didn’t want to finish that blog post, you could have told him. You didn’t need to quit.”



Gravitee | Stack It High. Watch It Fly.

October 20th, 2016 COMMENTS

No Tools. No Loose Parts. No Kidding!

When I worked in retail, I knew it was the holidays when the corporate buyers would tell us to “Stack It High and Watch It Fly.” We would be told to “merchandise” product displays in the aisles, a no-no at any other time of the year.

There would be watches on tables, socks piled high in the Men’s Department, and stacks of VCRs and CD players in Electronics. It was the department store version of an impulse buy, like candy bars and magazines at the supermarket checkout.

I was reminded of this yesterday. Below are 32 Gravitee One-Step Panels stacked on (1) one pallet. The panels were returned to Classic Rental Solutions from a large 30 x 30 island project.

Here are a photos of the rental island build with the Gravitee One-Step System.

Curious about the new Gravitee System? Go to the product page and download the product literature.


–Mel White


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or


10 BIG Trade Shows in North America | December 2016 and January 2017

October 18th, 2016 COMMENTS


These OUTSTANDING December and January trade shows are a hit. And like Ted Williams at the plate, you’ll want to keep your eye on the ball and knock it out of the park.

Performance Racing Industry Show, Dec. 8 – 10, 2016, Indiana Convention Center, Indianapolis

The PRI Trade Show is THE Epicenter of New Racing Technology. 1,200 companies will display the latest advances in racing products and race engineering. Engine parts, suspension components, data acquisition, safety gear, new metal alloys and coatings, machining equipment, race electronics — it’s all part of the world’s largest racing trade show.

Power-Gen International, Dec. 13 – 15, 2016, Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, FL

As the World’s Largest Power Generation Event, POWER-GEN International is the industry leader in providing comprehensive coverage of the trends, technologies and issues facing the generation sector. More than 1,400 companies from all sectors of the industry exhibit each year to benefit from the exposure to more than 20,000 attendees. Displaying a wide variety of products and services, POWER-GEN International represents a horizontal look at the industry with key emphasis on new solutions and innovations for the future.

Consumer Electronics Show, Jan. 5 – 8, 2017, Las Vegas, NV

The 2016 CES was a record-breaking year. More than 170,000 attendees from across the globe gathered among 2.47 million net square feet of exhibit space. That’s why CES is the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technology. No other even gives companies this depth of exposure and reach, because there’s NO other event experience like CES. It’s where business gets done: on the show floor, in and around their conference program, in impromptu connections, and in planned meetings and special events.

National Western Rodeo & Stock Show, Jan. 7 – 22, 2017, Multiple Venues, Denver, CO

The National Western Stock Show, one of Colorado’s preeminent tourist destinations, held every January for 16 days. A nationally recognized western heritage and entertainment event, the stock show hosts one of the world’s richest regular season professional rodeos, one of the country’s largest horse shows and Colorado’s largest western trade show, attracting attendance numbers over 650,000 visitors each year.

International Builders’ Show, co-located with KBIS – Design and Construction Week, Jan. 10 – 12, 2017, Orlando, FL

IBS brings together the industry’s most important global manufacturers and suppliers and showcases the latest products, materials and technologies involved in all types of buildings – including wood, concrete, stone and brick. See 550,000 net square feet of exhibits and more than 1,400 manufacturers and suppliers of the latest and most in-demand products and services.

KBIS will host 500+ leading brands in the kitchen and bath industry, including over 100 NEW companies, spanning across two halls. No other event offers an interactive look at the top brands, the ability to compare products side-by-side and get answers straight from the manufacturers.

Outdoor Retailer – Winter Show, Jan. 10 – 12, 2017, Salt Lake City, UT

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market is where orders are written, new accounts are found, connections are made, and winter sports products brands are launched. Outdoor Retailer has proven to be the leading growth vehicle for the winter sports market and brands that are interested in progressing and advancing into multiple channels of the outdoor marketplace. From small shops and regional chains, to the largest national and international retailers – OR Winter Market attracts thousands of buyers and senior level decision makers.

Retail’s BIG Show 2017, Jan. 15 – 17, 2017, Javits Convention Center, New York, NY

NRF’s Annual Convention and EXPO earned the nickname “Retail’s BIG Show” years ago and because the name was so appropriate, it stuck. Today, Retail’s BIG Show is the National Retail Federation’s flagship event held annually in New York City. The three-day event offers unparalleled education, collegial networking with 33,000 of your newest friends, and an enormous EXPO Hall full of technologies and solutions. After more than a century – 106 years to be exact – Retail’s BIG Show is still the only place where you can see and experience all things Retail.

NAMM – National Association of Music Merchants, Jan. 19 – 22, 2017, Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, CA

No other trade show has been more influential in introducing musical trends, unveiling the latest, cutting-edge technologies, creating household product names, showcasing emerging brands and uniting every segment in the industry than The NAMM Show. The NAMM Show is a true global gathering, with buyers attending from 125 countries and regions. Exhibitors benefit from exposure to a diverse base of businesses that buy products, including retail stores and non-exhibiting distributors.

Winter Fancy Food Show, Jan. 22 – 24, 2017, Moscone Center, San Francisco, CA

The Winter Fancy Food Show is the largest specialty food and beverage show on the West Coast, drawing 33,000+ industry professionals, and the premier showcase for industry innovation. The next big products. The next big companies. The next big trends. They’ll be discovered at WFFS 2017 in San Francisco.

NADA – National Automobile Dealers Association, Jan. 26 – 29, 2017, New Orleans, LA

The NADA Convention & Expo is celebrating 100 years in 2017. The NADA Convention & Expo is the world’s largest international gathering of franchised new-vehicle dealers. More than 25,000 new-car and truck dealers and their managers, as well as dealers from over 30 countries, auto industry executives and exhibitor staff typically attend the NADA/ATD Convention & Expo each year. It offers dealers the chance to meet face-to-face with major automakers, provides dozens of workshops with the industry’s best trainers, and features hundreds of exhibitors showcasing the latest equipment, services and technologies.


Shopping for a new or rental exhibit? See over 1400 contemporary islands, inlines, banner stands, and trade show accessories at Click on Exhibit Design Search for the largest display selection in North America. To find a Classic Exhibits Distributors, click here.