Trade Show TalesBlog

What to Look for in an LED Lightbox Manufacturer

January 15th, 2020 COMMENTS

Rental Exhibits
Stroll through any airport, mall, event, or trade show and you’ll see hundreds of colorful LED lightboxes in every shape and size. Over the past few years, most have switched to Backlit Tension Fabric SEG Graphics. The reasons are obvious. Not only is fabric more durable than direct print graphics, but it’s also cheaper to ship and easier to maintain. And depending on the print process, the colors are vibrant and the details nearly photographic. 

It’s easy to assume that all LED lightboxes and manufacturers are similar, and the only real difference is price. Price matters of course, but there are other factors to consider.

9 Factors to Consider When Purchasing an LED Lightbox 

#1. Hardness and Durability:  All LED Lightboxes start with an SEG aluminum frame. Every manufacturer engineers their frames using aluminum of varying hardness and durability. Less expensive lightboxes use softer aluminum because it’s cheaper. But cheaper aluminum scratches easily and tarnishes quickly. In addition, the wall thickness is often so thin that structural rigidity is compromised. For lightboxes mounted to a wall or assembled or disassembled at multiple trade shows, you will want aluminum with a 6063 specification. 6063 has better structural integrity and scratch resistant. If the supplier can’t answer that question, then you should be wary. 

#2. Availability: Does the manufacturer have the extrusion, LED lights, hardware, and accessories in stock? And are there extrusion options depending on the situation, such as one-sided vs two-sided, freestanding vs. wall mount. What if you need multiple quantities or quick ship options? Can individual parts be purchased if they are lost or damaged? You don’t want a manufacturer who dabbles in lightboxes. 

#3. Customization: Let’s say you need a width or height larger than the kits listed. Is it possible? If so, how complicated or expensive does it get? How about angles or shapes such as a hexagon? It’s easy to do squares and rectangles (for most manufacturers), but odd shapes and sizes are often a head-scratcher for those who only want to fulfill kits. 

#4. Print Quality: Asking the right questions is essential. 1. Dye-sublimation printing is the best. This ensures the colors are infused into fabric, not just printed on the surface. Many suppliers brag about “fabric printing” but it’s not always dye-sublimation, which requires two steps  — printing to a paper material and then heat fusing the image to fabric. 2. Ask about the age of the printer. The dye-sublimation printer shouldn’t be more than two years old. Anything older than that means the print resolution is just OK, not photographic. 3. Just like clothing, the fabric quality can vary, which may not matter if the graphic is a throwaway and the resolution doesn’t matter.    

#5. Sewing and Sizing:  Experienced manufacturers have this down to a science. They’ve done the calculations thousands of times with varying fabrics, and they know how to print, cut, and sew the fabric so it fits perfectly. Not too loose. Not too tight. Nothing is more frustrating than receiving a fabric graphic that doesn’t fit. 

#6. LED Lights:  This could be a college course. Just understand the various color temperatures, lens, UL and ETL certification, module construction, etc. requires some research and patience. Like fabric, there are multiple ways to make LED lights cheaper, if cheaper is the only criteria. Skipping UL/ETL certification is shortcut. Using exposed connections or alligator clips is another. Sadly, it’s nearly impossible to know what you are getting before you get the LED lightbox. However, in this case, the old adage rarely fails, “If it’s too good to be true, then it probably isn’t.” 

#7. Accessories: Most LED lightboxes are a one-trick pony. The are lightboxes.  That’s it. But what if you want to add shelves, an iPad, a literature holder, wings or headers? What if you want to connect it to other lightboxes or create a full inline or island display. That requires and exhibit builder who has engineered the extrusion to be multi-functional, stocks lightbox accessories, and has the in-house talent to customize. 

#8. Packaging: It’s easy to assume that your display will ship in high-quality cases and packaging. Sadly, that’s rarely true. Most manufacturers use disposable one-way shipping materials. Your lightbox arrives undamaged. Now you have to ship it to the next show or to another location, but there’s nothing to protect it or keep it organized. Insist on reusable shipping materials, which precludes cardboard, shrink wrap, and thin foam. All three will be destroyed after one use. See examples. While you may have to pay a little more, it’s an investment that keeps giving show after show, assembly after assembly.  

#9. Assembly:  It’s easy to overlook how the lightbox will be assembled but that would be a HUGE MISTAKE. Some require tools and a bag of loose parts. Others have push-button connectors. Others are “mostly” tool-less, but the hardware is cumbersome and/or unnecessarily complicated. Ask to see the instructions or an assembly video. Even if you aren’t planning to assemble it, could you put it together based on the instructions in a reasonable amount of time? Remember, time is money, especially on the show floor. No one wants surprises at a trade show, and a well-designed lightbox won’t make you sweat, literally or figuratively. Do the research and trust your gut.

It’s important to remember that the pretty image you see on a website is just a rendering. What you receive is not. Ask the right questions and purchase your lightbox from a vendor you trust. Remember, you “may” be able to return the hardware, but the graphics, it’s yours whether you like it or not. Finally, keep in mind that you are buying a design, a marketing structure that represents your brand. It’s more than just an aluminum frame with graphics. 

–Mel White
mel@classicexhibits.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite

**********************************************

Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, and custom exhibit solutions, including SuperNova LED Lightboxes. 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 www.classicexhibits.com.

 

When to Purchase vs. Rent an Exhibit — Understanding Your Options

January 14th, 2020 COMMENTS
Trade Show Rental Exhibit
Inline Rental Exhibit

Why Rent Your Next Exhibit?

It’s an exciting time to be in the exhibition industry. At no other time in the past 20 years has the pace of change been so dramatic. While some exhibit houses are embracing it, others are sticking their proverbial head in the sand.

Take rental displays for example. Just a few years ago, rental displays were the stepchildren of trade show design. Neglected and underappreciated by both exhibit houses and general service contractors. Exhibitors who chose a rental display either weren’t serious about trade show marketing or simply didn’t understand the poor image those displays projected on the show floor.

How that has changed! Rentals have gone upscale and depending on the provider can be customized to meet almost any exhibitor’s marketing goals. They are basically indistinguishable from the purchase display across the aisle or your competitor’s new exhibit. So why the change and why should you consider a rental OR better yet a purchase/rental?

The Top 3 – Plus a Bonus Tip. 😉

Reason #1 – Design Flexibility

The marketing goals for most companies are constantly evolving with multiple campaigns and a host of products and services, each with a distinct brand and messaging. What worked in Q1 may not be effective for Q3 or scrapped all together.

Rental displays make it easy to change graphics, add structural elements, or simply go from an inline to an island (or vice versa). That flexibility can be very dynamic for your brand and marketing goals and more cost effective in the long-term.

Trade Show Rental Exhibit
Island Rental Exhibit

Reason #2 – Upfront Cost

Rental displays are not only less expensive upfront, but they also allow you to stretch your budget even further. Take the exhibitor who settled for a ho-hum inline in the past. With a rental, they could add attractive meeting space, LED lighting, large monitors, shelving, and extensive storage – all at the same price of a purchase.

More bang for the buck means you can elevate your trade show presence with attendees. Or, if you choose not to make significant changes to the display, the savings can be spent on client entertainment/meals, pre-show marketing, or booth staffing. Or directly to your marketing bottom line.

Reason #3 – Associated Expenses

When you purchase a new exhibit, there are always associated expenses, some you may not anticipate. Storage for example. Larger exhibits are packed in crates. Those crates either must be stored at your exhibit house for a monthly fee or in your own facility. Either way, it’s an ongoing cost. Plus, when components are lost or damaged, those must be replaced.

Before each show, someone has to reassemble the booth to ensure all the parts and pieces are there, and if there are changes, then there are design fees, new components or graphics, and the labor to get it prepped and perfect.

With a rental, nearly all of that disappears. No storage. No prep charges. No labor. You may have new charges if you change the graphics or the design, but in general, those are more controllable and predictable.  

Trade Show Rental Exhibits
Inline Trade Show Rental Exhibit

Bonus Tip – Rental and Purchase

Rental vs Purchase doesn’t have to be an either/or decision. More and more sophisticated exhibitors are choosing both. They purchase those design elements they know they’ll use again and again regardless of the show or configuration. For example, a central 12 ft. tower with locking storage. If you need that every single time, then it makes sense to buy it and rebrand it when necessary. However, if you sometimes need multiple monitor workstations but other times you would rather have more meeting space, then it doesn’t make sense to purchase monitor stands. Rent them instead.

It’s often the peripheral items like counters, pedestals, charging stations, monitor stands, lightboxes, etc. which change frequently. Rent them. That way you can play with what works best and make informed decisions based on your experience and success.

Still a Bit Confused?

Your next step is to work with experienced exhibit professionals like Brave Exhibits whose sole mission is maximizing your trade show success. Show after show. Brave Exhibits has learned how to avoid the costly mistakes that inexperienced exhibitors make. And believe me, it’s easy to waste money before you know what works and what doesn’t. They’ll ensure that doesn’t happen whether you decide on a Purchase or Rental or Purchase/Rental.

To browse our extensive rental inline and island galleries, click on the links.

Annual State of the Company Letter 2019/2020 by Kevin Carty

January 10th, 2020 COMMENTS

You can read the Annual State of the Company in the blog post or by clicking on the image and downloading the PDF. In addition, there are two URLs mentioned in the article (but are not clickable). See the bullets below:

Classic Exhibits State of the Company Letter, Page 1
Classic Exhibits State of the Company Letter, Page 2
Classic Exhibits State of the Company Letter, Page 3
Classic Exhibits State of the Company Letter Page 4

After 10 Years… | Harold Mintz

January 10th, 2020 4 COMMENTS

I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook the other day when I came upon one of those “what if” questions an old high school buddy posted: “If you could go back in time and give your younger self advice, what would you say?”

Personally, I’m not a fan of these “what if” posts. What’s the point? Facebook is for showing others how sunsets look from your backyard, not for turning the clock back 10 years to address things you have no ability to change.

And then destiny stepped in… “Ding!” It’s an email from Mel White.

Harold –

You have a unique perspective regarding your visits with Distributors because of your 10 year gap in the industry. What would you say are the biggest differences between your meetings 10 years ago and your meetings now?

I am very curious.

When destiny speaks, Harold listens. Time to look back 10 years and identify “What’s Different.”

Harold Who?

Most of the folks I’m meeting don’t know me. Maybe they’ve heard my name, but most are unaware of me or my experience in the industry. This is a constant reminder of the old axiom, “What have you done for me lately?”

I have minimal street cred with many Classic’s Distribution Partners so I am often starting off new. It’s up to me to build those relationships and earn their trust, confidence, and business.

I Swear… You’re the Only One!

It’s 2020. Dedicated Distribution is a thing of the past. Back in the old days when I visited a city, it was to meet with our sole distributor who represented that territory.

Times have changed, and I understand why but it requires a mental adjustment for me.

Today I plan my visits to see multiple Classic Distributors that either sell our products or that might sell our products in that territory. Some are primarily custom houses. Others portable modular. And then there are agencies who tap into Classic for special projects.

The Person Who Said, “You Only Get One Chance to Make a First Impression” Wasn’t a Regional Sales Manager.

When I visited Distributors ten years ago, I’d share our latest headlines: “What’s new? Check out our new widget! Cool, right?” Show and telling our newest products and services was of prime importance to keep our extended sales force informed and up to date.

And while I still do that, there is greater emphasis placed on discussing all of the things Classic provides rather than simply the newest toys in our box. Faster and constant turnover of Distributor employees is one of the primary reasons. “Where’s Jim?” “Jim? Get with the program. Jim left 3 months ago. But meet Billy. Billy’s the new Jim.”

It’s like I’m starting all over with every visit. So I get LOTS of chances to make a first impression for better or for worse.

I Love the Pix my New iPhone Takes. Wait a Minute… Are You Telling Me It Can Make a Phone Call Too?

Vintage iPhone

That tiny little computer I carry around in my back pocket does SO much more than make phone calls. It’s a robust and multi-faceted tool. Same with Classic. Many Distributors think of us as the company that only provides whatever it is they last purchased from us.

Ten years ago, most of our Distributors knew exactly what we offered. Today, some Distributors know us as the company that rents highly customized booths. Others think of us as an extension of their own shop floor during the busy season capable of building exhibits straight from their designers’ renderings. And yes, some of our Distributors think of Classic as the company to turn to for high quality, affordable portable/modular exhibits, charging stations, or iPad stands.

Regardless of which niche you put us in, we do more than that.

AE? AM? AP? Sure, I’ll Meet with You!

I used to meet almost exclusively with Account Executives when visiting a Distributor. Geez… how old am I?! Today decisions about which vendor to use are made by lots of folks in addition to Account Executives, like Account Managers, Purchasing Agents, Designers, and sometimes a guy named Joe with no title.

Our internal contacts at Distributors have not only increased but have also gotten a bit confusing. Sometimes the internal contact changes based on the client (which makes sense). Other times it changes because it’s a custom project or a rental or a portable modular order. All that makes my job both more challenging and interesting.

The Smithsonian Called… They Want Your Showroom

Trade Show Showrooms

Most Distributors used to have a showroom. Ha! Today there is more space for previewing a Client’s new booth than there is for a showroom. One of the obvious reasons is that most Distributors are selling to clients from all over the country and not just from ”the neighborhood.”

As I talk to Classic Distributors, they tell me a showroom isn’t as important anymore. And with square foot pricing always on the rise, space has to be allocated appropriately. When visiting Distributors. I regularly ask, “How many of your Clients are located within an hour of where we’re standing?” The answers are quite telling — less local, more national.

It’s worth noting here that I am regularly being asked for freebies, loaners, and BIG discounts on showroom units. Showrooms still exist. And some are stunningly beautiful. They’re just becoming an endangered species. #savetheshowrooms #givetoyourlocalshowroomfoundation

Extrusions are Like Opinions. Everyone’s Got One But Few are As Good as Mine

Aluminum Extrusion Systems for the Trade Show Industry

Ten years ago, Distributors were ramping up their rental inventory with pallets of metal extrusion. Octanorm. AGAM. beMatrix. Aluvision. All had a place on select shelves. Today I still see examples of all four with beMatix leading the way.

For obvious reasons, Distributors ask their sales teams to promote the system sitting on their shelves. But more and more Distributors wish they could turn the clock back on their extrusion investments. Their reasoning is quite simple. It’s tough to compete against other exhibit houses when everyone is using the same building blocks. We’re seeing design saturation on the show floor with many booths looking the same just with different graphics. And clients are noticing.

When I share info about Gravitee, Classic’s tool-less extrusion system, Distributors take notice. Tool-less means no tiny connectors to lose and best of all – much faster set up! When you combine the money saved on I&D with the refreshing look of unique designs, many Distributors are wishing they could turn the clock back 10 years.

Some Things Never Change

Cilantro
Why is Cilantro Still a Thing?

The last one has nothing to do with trade shows or exhibitions. But seriously, “Why is cilantro still a thing?” I would have hoped that this disgusting herb would have gone the way of dedicated distribution. But alas, it still thrives. Blecch.

Harold Mintz is a Regional Sales Manager at Classic Exhibits. You can contact Harold at harold@classicexhibits.com.

Our Gravitee One-Step Federal Trademark Registration

January 9th, 2020 COMMENTS

In 2019, we received a utility patent for the Gravitee One-Step Modular Wall System. Today, we receive our federal trademark registration for the Gravitee logo. For anyone who’s ever sweated over a logo with all the opinions and iterations that accompany it, you know this is a big deal. Obviously, we’re very happy.

Thanks USPTO! I bet they don’t hear that very often.

Since 1993, Classic Exhibits has been North America’s leading builder of quality trade show exhibits for professional exhibitors. Browse through 1500 contemporary displays or request a custom design personalized to your trade show marketing goals.

Find success on the trade show floor with an exhibit that reflects your marketing message… at a price that will make your CFO giddy. For more information, see http://www.classicexhibits.com.