Trade Show TalesBlog

Why EXHIBITOR Matters (But Should It?)

March 15th, 2014 4 COMMENTS

Each year, I have to remind myself why participating in EXHIBITOR matters. That may seem odd. After all, EXHIBITOR spends a mountain of cash listing all the reasons to attend. Who am I to argue with them. They know their audience. But, I still have to ask myself why should I attend? I’ve already gone at least fifteen times.

I’ve worked for three display manufacturers, and there have been years when I’ve questioned whether we should attend, let alone exhibit. I’ve seen competitors skip a year or two with “seemingly” few repercussions. Why should we build an exhibit just for EXHIBITOR and spend considerable cash at a show where we know all the players.

Then I remind myself (or Kevin reminds me), why EXHIBITOR matters to Classic Exhibits:

1. Our Distributors. We are a distributor-driven company. That’s how we sell our products. Yes, Reid and Jen visit our distributors throughout the year, and we hold Shared Knowledge University twice a year. That said . . . There’s no other event that brings more Classic Distributors to one place than EXHIBITOR. It’s our chance to see, learn, and share stories with them. My only regret, and I know many of you will groan when I say this, but I wish the hall hours were longer and at least one day longer. There’s just not enough time during those three days to spend quality time with each distributor. Inevitably, I leave the show knowing that I short-changed myself by not spending enough time with Distributor A, B, C, or D.

2. Our Employees. We’re in the trade show business, but that doesn’t mean we attend trade shows regularly. We don’t. We’re designing, project managing, and building exhibits. Then it ships to a show, and we never see it again. More often than not, we never see it in its final state with the graphics, products, flooring, A/V, etc. We miss that feedback and that experience. Attending EXHIBITOR allows many of our employees to immerse themselves in a trade show about trade shows. They see how our solutions differ from other builders or service providers. They get the opportunity to meet distributors face-to-face, often for the first time after working with them for years.

3. Products/Trends. Classic Exhibits is in a constant state of R&D. It’s rare that a week goes by that we don’t create an innovative solution either by necessity or by design. If it’s really important, we devote a Design Monday to it or we send a dedicated email broadcast. But, we’re smart enough to realize that your days are information intense and expecting you to internalize each and every new innovation is impractical. EXHIBITOR allows us to focus on those new ideas or products that we want to share with our distributors. Year after year, distributors tell me that they attend EXHIBITOR for one main reason — to see what’s new. And each year, I make a point to ask them what they saw “new” in the exhibit hall. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Except for what Classic is showing, I’ve only seen one or two interesting ideas.” Honestly, I’m always shocked by this. Why would any manufacturer, builder, or service provider come to EXHIBITOR without NEW?

The Before Photo . . . In Progress

4. The Industry. This will sound sanctimonious. I’ve had conversations with suppliers, partners, or competitors who have told me they are not participating in the show. I could understand that if our industry had multiple shows each year . . . but we don’t. We have one. Then they’ll tell me that EXHIBITOR never really paid off for them. It didn’t create any new sales or find new distributors or identify any new suppliers. Folks, that’s clearly BULLSHIT or better yet, it tells me they don’t understand trade show marketing. You can’t be in the business of trade shows and not participate in trade shows. You can’t! Whenever a supplier, certainly one of considerable size and focus in our industry, tells me that they not only don’t exhibit at EXHIBITOR but they also rarely attend, then they are unlikely to win my business.

5. Social. Despite the long hours and the pressure, it’s fun. I always meet new people and see old friends. I get to hear all the gossip and speculate on this year or next year. The food is good. The parties are always memorable in so many ways. It’s always a roller coast ride of emotions, sights and sounds, and at least one experience that makes me happy I don’t live in Las Vegas year round. Our personal and business lives are pressure-packed and EXHIBITOR is (for me) an annual perk. It is work, but it never seems like work.

If you are attending EXHIBITOR, I’ll see you there. Get my attention if it’s during show hours. If not, let’s make arrangements to have a drink or a meal before or after show hours. For anyone not attending, we’ll do our best to share photos from EXHIBITOR in the blog.

Happy travels.

–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



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4 Responses to “Why EXHIBITOR Matters (But Should It?)”

  1. Great points, Mel – Can’t wait to see everybody on the show floor!

  2. Steve Alford says:

    Very good post! Mel is right, WHY BOTHER? Go on.. co’z they are always here to help you..

  3. Susan C says:

    Well said Mel, even if my reply is long after the fact.

  4. Mel says:

    Thanks Susan.

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