Trade Show TalesBlog

2017 Portable Modular Awards at EXHIBITORLIVE

March 22nd, 2017 COMMENTS

EXHIBITOR Portable Modular Awards 2017

Occasionally, we get to “Toot Our Own Horn.” At EXHIBITORLIVE, Classic Exhibits had six finalists for the EXHIBITOR Portable Modular Awards. Our most ever. We won two:  Best Inline and Best Use of Graphics. Here is background on each winner from an article that will appear in EXHIBITOR Magazine.

Best Inline

Exhibitor: Spirion LLC (formerly Identity Finder LLC)
Design/Fabrication: Classic Exhibits Inc.
Design: ProExhibits
System: Classic Exhibits Inc.
Event: RSA Security Conference, 2016
Budget: $20,000 – $39,000
Size: 10-by-20 feet

Bathed in Spirion blue and accented by a pop of orange across the top, the SuperNova lightbox featured nothing more than text proclaiming the product name and three benefit statements. By selecting a mere 13 words with maximum impact, Spirion communicated its key messages in a glance — and managed to wow visitors and judges alike.

In the words of one juror, “Spirion’s space is proof positive that one powerful graphic can deliver an effective message. Elaboration is unnecessary — and often functions as a powerful foe capable of fouling even the most skillful design.”

Best Use of Graphics

Exhibitor: Classic Exhibits Inc.
Design/Fabrication: Classic Exhibits Inc.
System: Classic Exhibits Inc.
Budget: $80,000 – $149,000
Size: 20-by-30 feet

Throughout the space, graphics comprised mostly grey-and-white line drawings of trees and apples, with delicate curls and curves used to craft the intended images. Accompanying text such as “It didn’t just fall from a tree. Introducing Gravitee One-Step Wall System” suggested the new product’s evolution.

The apple imagery comprised both line-drawn, neutral-colored fruit as well as full-color versions, whose shades of red, yellow, and green popped against the otherwise neutral palette. In addition, a roughly 10-foot-tall tower at the front of the space featured a tree illustration along with apple images that sporadically lit up, courtesy of imbedded LEDs.

Our thanks to Katina Rigall, Classic’s Creative Director, for all her work submitting the PMA applications. A very special thanks to Glenna Martin, our Graphic Design Manager, for her award winning design, which we loved so much that we used an updated variation on our 2017 booth. And finally, a huge pat on the back to the project managers and production associates at Classic Exhibits who managed and built these exhibits. There’s a reason why Shared Success is our #1 core value.

Finally, our sincere appreciation to Classic Distributors for your support and business. It means so much to us!

–Mel White


A Fun Video of EXHIBITOR 2017 with Classic Exhibits

March 17th, 2017 2 COMMENTS

If you were at EXHIBITORLIVE, you already know. It was amazing! So many upscale designs and clever promotions this year. We’ll share details in a future blog (once we fully recover), but we thought you might enjoy this fun video edited by Glenna Martin, our Graphic Design Manager.

See anyone you recognize?

Thanks to the Classic Team at the show and back in Portland for making our EXHIBITOR experience special. A big hug to all the Distributors who visited our booth. A thumbs-up to Eco-Systems Sustainable for their partnership. And finally, a special nod to our Designers for our two Portable Modular Award winners:  Best Inline (10×20) and Best Graphic Design. Katina, Kim, Kevin S. and Glenna — You Rock!

–Mel White


Kevin Schuhl | My First Six Months at Classic Exhibits

March 10th, 2017 2 COMMENTS


It’s a Whole New World

There are many things that I have done for more than six months. Many tangentially related to the design of trade show spaces and structures. For example, building scenery, painting sets, designing and producing environmental graphics. What I have not done (until now) is work for any organization for anywhere close to six months. As Ariel said in the Disney version of The Little Mermaid, it’s a whole new world.

My wife and I decided to move to the West Coast from the Upper Midwest. A return journey for me. A new one for her. No plan, no place, just a realization that it was the right time. Since I’ve never worked in a similar situation to Classic Exhibits, my perspective has more to do with large life changes vs. a job career.

My background and skill-set led me to Classic via a placement agency. After a few meetings with Mel, Kevin, and Katina and a mock-up later, I was hired as a Designer in the Design Department.

Has it been all sunshine and roses? Not quite. Working with a large group of people is different than working for oneself. Things that you take for granted working solo require more attention in a group.

Like communication, where everyone needs to be on the same page. I am still trying to find the appropriate level of email redundancy. I spent a week reminding myself that when I write “Good afternoon, Projects” that the Projects email is a recipient (thank you to those distributors who took the time to respond with “Are you sure this went to Projects? I don’t see them listed”). And it’s not just what I communicate. It’s how I communicate to ensure it reflects the values of the company. I have to remind myself that it’s coming from Kevin Schuhl who works at Classic Exhibits.

Every single day I work on various design projects. Then move on to the next one. And after six months, there are occasionally surprises when I walk through the shop. As a Designer, my work gets tossed over the fence to Customer Service for a quote. As a result, I don’t always know when a design becomes an order. Then, lo and behold, there is a backlit L-shaped counter being photographed that not only seemed like a long shot to be produced, but ultimately was produced with the same placeholder graphics used in the original design.

For example, Gravitee kits have food-based graphics, a decision by Marketing to differentiate it from other lines. So it should not have been surprising that one of my first designs was purchased by a food-based company.

Not every design is successful. I’m learning. There was that unique approach to a charging station kiosk that looked great on the screen but didn’t quite function as expected on carpet. Or an elegant curved wall designed for multiple booth configurations that didn’t make the cut as a 10×10. Thankfully, we get the opportunity to address and correct these flaws.

In the end, I am here to draw pictures. It’s something I’ve done my entire life. I had no idea one could study experiential design in college; yet, I now have the opportunity to apprentice under a designer who did just that. When you think about the people and processes involved from taking a rendering to a structure that will travel to shows, events, or even in lobbies, you start to understand the benefits of working in concert with others toward one goal.

That sums it up for me. I am generally a curious person, always looking for something new, always looking to learn. I have arrived at a place where I can use inherent, lifelong skills and experience while still exploring new arenas, learning how to navigate from people who have been there, and hopefully contribute something in the process.

My wife also reminds me that it doesn’t hurt that Classic happens to be a place where people seem to genuinely get along and are able to take the work seriously, without taking themselves too seriously. The culture matters. Inside the main entrance, there is a large backlit graphic that describes the company’s Shared Success philosophy. If you’ve ever read it on Classic’s website, I can assure you that those values, from my experience after six months, are reflected in the company.

Let me know if I can assist your efforts. I look forward to working with you on your next project.

Kevin Schuhl

Your Women in Exhibitions Meeting at EXHIBITORLIVE

March 9th, 2017 COMMENTS

Women in Exposition Meeting at EXHIBITOR

Monday, March 13 | Mandalay Bay Palm F, Level 3

Calling ALL women in the exhibition industry! The Women In Exhibitions (WIE) meeting will be held on Monday, March 13 at 5 pm at Mandalay Bay – Palm F, Level 3. Please join us as we network and build key relationships with other women in our industry.

This year, we will discuss our progress over the past 15 years, and what YOU want from WIE as we move forward. Bring your ideas! There is no shortage of challenges for us and the industry.

If interested, please do two things:

  1. Join the WIE Group on LinkedIn.
  2. Let others know who may not receive this email. No need to RSVP.

If you would like to chat with me before the meeting, I’ll be in booth #1645. I am excited about EXHIBITORLIVE this year. Our booth will feature Gravitee, SuperNova lightboxes, and charging stations of all shapes and sizes. And the graphics are jaw dropping thanks to our Graphic Design Manager, Glenna Martin (who will be at the WIE meeting as well).

I look forward to seeing you in Vegas and hearing your suggestions for the 2017 Women in Exhibitions meeting.


Katina Rigall Zipay

Ahhh, The Elusive Email Subject Line

February 17th, 2017 COMMENTS

effective email marketing subject lines

Anyone who writes marketing or sales emails sweats over subject lines. Admittedly, I’ve read quite a few articles from experts, each with kernels of wisdom. Yesterday, I read a great one from Tina Brown at Warp Corp, a builder and printer of tension fabric structures in Seattle. Tina brought it all together in a tidy, well-written package. So, I’m sharing.

5 Tricks to Mastering the Elusive Subject Line

Guest Post: Tina Brown, Warp Corp

Just when you thought you wrote something brilliant, you find that your open rates are less than impressive. How could writing 5-7 words be so hard? You used to write 2,000-word papers in college. You can form a sentence in your sleep. No really, you’re a sleep talker.

E-mail marketing

The truth is that subject lines are the doorway into your email campaigns. If that doorway isn’t enticing, no one will go on to click your emails, let alone buy your products. In fact, Convince and Convert reports that 33% of email recipients open email based on subject line alone. Even more challenging, your readers are inundated each and every day by a tidal wave of other emails vying for their attention. So how do you write email subject lines that cut through the noise?

Let me first reveal that subject lines are everywhere—on billboards, in songs and commercials, magazines, news articles, and even everyday conversations. To create your own, all it takes is knowing how to shape it, and the inspiration will start flooding in.

I’ve spent the last three years working in demand generation with one major goal in mind: crack the code on writing the perfect subject line. After hundreds, if not thousands, of subject lines tests, I have boiled it down to these five tips to improve your subject lines and increase your open rates:

1. Front-Load the Important Words

You know that one friend who’s horrible at telling stories? You know, where 15 minutes into telling their story, you begin thinking “Where is this even going? Are we ever going to hear the good part?” And by the time they finally get to the good part, you’ve already checked out. Yeah, some subject lines are just like that—don’t let it be yours.

People want to know why your email is more important than the thousands of others in their inbox, so put all the important, actionable words in the front of your subject line to entice opens. In other words, get to the point! In my experience, changing the structure of the sentence line to front-load the important keywords has increased open rates by 10-20%.

2. Ask a Question

Effective Email Subject Lines

I’ve been told several times that the most well-liked person in the room is the one who does nothing but asks folks questions, showing genuine interest in their lives and saying very little about their own. Why? Because people love to talk about themselves and their interests. Ask your subscribers questions and it’ll not only pique their curiosity, but they’ll respond positively by opening more of your emails. For example, imagine you’re sending out a new ebook on “The Holy Grail to Higher Revenue.” In your subject line, instead of just repeating the title, you could write “Looking for the Holy Grail to higher revenue? We have it!”

3. Use Numbers

People love numbers and lists. They’re easy to read, help us make sense of more complex concepts by breaking it into smaller parts, and let us know exactly what to expect (e.g. 5 Things Your Subject Lines Are Missing). The New Yorker even published a piece on “A List of Reasons Why Our Brains Love Lists,” which goes into this in depth. Numbers can also be used to create a sense of urgency or emphasize a discount.

4. Get Personal

There’s usually at least one person in every office who can’t seem to remember anyone’s first name. Mike is Matt, Joe is John, and Stacy is Stephanie. They might try to get around it by using nicknames like sport, bud, pal, dude, man, bro, and fella. For the record, no one likes that, especially not your email subscribers.

Address your subscribers by their name or insert pronouns like “you” or “your” to give your subject lines a personalized touch. According to Experian, emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened (although it varies by industry), yet 70% of brands are not personalizing emails sent to subscribers. That’s a huge opportunity for your brand to stand out!

5. Use Rhymes, Alliteration, and Puns

This might seem weird, but I have always seen subject lines that use rhymes, alliteration, or puns do really well. Have you ever read a word or name over and over again until it either sounds weird or gets funnier each time? My word is “hullabaloo,” which means a great noise or excitement. Or have you ever read a subject line that was so clever it deserved to be opened?

If you can write a subject line that rolls off the tongue, you will get a higher open rate. It’s like music to the ears! It’s not easy to come up with these but when you do, they will perform exceedingly well. In fact, I’ve seen extraordinary subject line performance where I’ve beaten the control by 30-40%! For some inspiration, just take a look at some of the session names from SXSW. Some of my favorites from previous years? “Social Music Marketing: Bands, Brands and Fans” and “An Unusual Arsenal: Tech Tools to Topple a Tyrant.”

That’s it! 5 tips to improve your subject lines and get your emails opened. I hope that these tips inspire you to get out there and write subject lines like no one has ever seen before. Remember, subject lines exist everywhere. All you have to do is keep your eyes and ears open.


My sincere thanks to Tina for allowing Classic Exhibits to share this in the Trade Show Tales blog. Please let her know if you enjoyed her post.

–Mel White