Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for August, 2009

Word on the Street — August 24th thru August 28th

August 28th, 2009 COMMENTS
Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Who is Classic Exhibits?

The headline this week is clearly self-promoting. But there’s a good reason. Last week, we talked about the upturn in business. This week, the upturn continued, so much of my time was devoted to orders, quotes, and production. 

During the busy season, I am frequently reminded, often by distributors, of all the reasons that Classic is different, so indulge me for a few minutes while I discuss “Nimble Manufacturing,” a core concept at Classic Exhibits.

Nimble Manufacturing  

We are a nimble manufacturer. What does that mean? In short, we are a not only a Manufacturer of Portable, Modular, Custom Modular and Custom Hybrid Displays, but we are also an Exhibit Builder. This is an important distinction that needs to be made when comparing Classic Exhibits to our competitors.

Do we design and manufacture “kits”? Yep!  Lots of them. In our humble opinion, we design and manufacture the most creative line of exhibit kits in the world. 

Being nimble is important. When you decide to be an exhibit builder and a kit builder, you have to be willing to be nimble, creative, AND reasonable. For example, let’s say your client wants a 10 x 20 Magellan Hybrid Kit, but they want it modified. They want the counter top lime green (not standard black), and they want to move one of the interior uprights 6″ to better fit their graphic layout requirements. We do it . . . and we do without major upcharges or ridiculous turnaround times. In our minds, why make it painful if it doesn’t have to be. In this case, we can get the laminate in a couple of days, and we have everything it takes to reconfigure the metal, so why demand a huge upcharge? If we have to air freight in the laminate, there may be a fee to cover the shipping.  But other than that, we should be able to build the modified kit without too much trouble and without creating a process and procedural nightmare. After all, we are exhibit builders.


What the Heck are Hybrid Exhibits (and why is everyone talking about them)?

August 27th, 2009 COMMENTS
Hybrid Trade Show Displays

Hybrid Trade Show Displays

Perhaps no term is more hyped and less understood in the exhibit industry than “hybrid.” Nearly every exhibit manufacturer and custom builder refers to their latest designs as portable hybrids, modular, hybrids, or even custom hybrids. Why the emphasis on this term? The answer is simple: Value. More than ever, exhibitors are demanding displays that do everything – assemble quickly, look custom, ship light, and reconfigure. Just a few years ago that would have been impossible, but not any more.

The Building Blocks

If you’ve walked a trade show recently, you’ve seen a profusion of aluminum structures and tension fabric graphics. Those are the building blocks of hybrid displays. Aluminum is attractive, structural, and lightweight. Tension fabric is vibrant, durable, and cost-effective. Together they serve as the creative foundation for displays priced from $4,000 to $250,000.

But what makes them hybrids. For the past 30 years, the exhibit world was divided into two worlds:  portable/ modular displays or custom exhibits. Portable/modular displays have been dominated by pop ups, panel displays, and modular laminate exhibits. These “systems” have well-defined configurations, components, and accessories, but limited design flexibility. Custom exhibits, built primarily from wood, have offered exhibitors endless design possibilities but are rarely portable or modular.

Hybrid Exhibit Systems

Hybrid exhibits merge those two worlds. Hybrids start with tension fabric and aluminum extrusion systems (such as MODUL). Beyond that, the design can be anything and can include anything. There are portable hybrids, such as Sacagawea, consisting of an aluminum extrusion frame and tension fabric graphics, which pack in portable roto-molded cases. There are modular hybrids, like Euro LT, which add modular laminate components and pack in roto-molded tubs or small crates. And there are custom hybrids, such as Visionary Designs, which combine extrusion with just about anything else – metal, wood, plex, glass, and sometimes even portable or modular systems. As with all custom exhibits, the final design is whatever fulfills the marketing and budgetary requirements of the client.

Hybrids may not be the ideal for solution for everyone. For many exhibitors, a basic pop up or full custom makes more sense for their exhibit marketing goals. However, hybrid exhibits are here to stay. Only hybrids offer the lightweight strength of aluminum extrusion, the bold impact of tension fabric graphic, and the flexibility of unlimited design – all at a terrific value.

–Mel White
More Trade Show Tales Blog Posts 

Word on the Street — August 17th thru August 21st

August 21st, 2009 COMMENTS
Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Sales Uptick You Say? Feels Like You are Getting Busier?


Well, I am a happy to say that you are not the only one busy this week, although I was beginning to wonder if the August through October trade show season was ever going to kick into gear. I am working on multiple quotes and projects, trying to get them all finished by mid-afternoon so this week’s post will be brief.  

Thankfully, we are seeing an increase in business, albeit about a week or two later than usual. But it is here and that’s all that matters.

I spoke with many of you this week. You said that design and quoting have been very busy the past few weeks, and now the orders are finally starting to roll in. You’re seeing a lot of 10′ x 30′ and smaller inlines, primarily hybrid booths, such as Visionary Designs, Perfect 10, and Magellan. We are seeing much of the same, with a small mix of larger exhibits and an onslaught of rental orders. The rental business is insane right now.

Everyone is saying that it feels like we are going to have a great finish to the year, but that the economy continues to be unpredictable. So we will see.

So what is the one thing that stands out the most to you with the sales uptick? For me, it is the aggressiveness required to win the business — whether it’s the quick turn times on quotes and production, or the unrealistic budget constraints. It’s clear there’s business out there, but everyone is holding onto their money a little tighter and looking for creative, cost-effective solutions. It’s understandable, and in most cases, very doable.

In the end, it’s new business and it feels good to be busy, even if it means a busy weekend as well.

Look for even more Sacagawea Hybrid Designs next week.  You’ll like the designs. We already know you love the prices.

Be Well!

–Kevin Carty

The Secret Life of a Pop Up Display

August 18th, 2009 1 COMMENT
The Secret Life of a Pop Up Display

The Secret Life of a Pop Up Display

If Only a Pop-Up Display Could Speak . . .

As you can imagine, pop up displays have secrets. Although they usually don’t share their stories, they’ve decided it’s about time to reveal them in the hopes of improving the lives of all pop ups. Pop Up Secrets . . . Direct from the Source!

Secret #1:  We’re Not All the Same
In that sense, we’re just like you. We may look similar, but some pop ups are fragile while others are strong. Some are built to withstand years of trade show abuse. Those pop ups get shipped from show to show and assembled by rough inexperienced hands and continue to do our job year after year. Others are not as robust. We are made to be handled with TLC and our lifespan is much shorter. How do you know the difference? Sometimes it’s difficult to tell, but just like any product, whether it’s a car, shoes, or tools, price is a good indicator of quality and features. Not always, but there’s usually a reason why one pop up costs $999 and another $1,999.

Secret #2:  We Love Graphics
Why? We’re exhibitionists by nature and graphics draw attention. The more eyeballs staring at us the happier we are. However, we are also very picky, some would say egotistical, about our appearance. We love large graphics. These can be full mural graphics or Velcro-attached graphics to fabric panels. If you want to humiliate us in front of our friends at a trade show, just slap on graphics you printed from your home or office printer. It’s the pop up equivalent of attending a formal black tie event wearing Larry the Cable Guy’s flannel shirt . . . with Larry’s “too friendly” cousin as your date.

Word on the Street — August 10th thru August 14th

August 14th, 2009 5 COMMENTS
Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Social Media. . . Just a Fad? Administrative Crack Maybe . . . but It’s Clearly NOT a Fad!

OK, nobody’s looking, so you’re safe — Raise your hand if you have a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or MySpace account. If your hand is not up, then you are either lying or you are reading this on paper because you still haven’t figured out how to turn on a computer.

While I will concede that many of these, especially MySpace and Facebook, started primarily as fads over the past few years, times have clearly changed. So much so that they are affecting other mediums as well.

Did you know that ESPN just this week banned all its on-air and print talent from talking sports on Twitter and other Social Media sites? It’s true! The thought being, if they are breaking sports news in Tweets or Facebook updates and I read them there, then why would I need to watch Sportscenter.

Personally, I have a Twitter account, a LinkedIn account and yes, a Facebook page. If you had asked me about these sites a year ago, I would have laughed and said, “Heck no!” Now, I even write a weekly blog post. And I am clearly not the only one. Let me site some facts I recently read online at

Social Media Facts

  • If Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s 4th largest between the United States and Indonesia
  • Years to reach 50 millions users:  Radio (38 Years), TV (13 Years), Internet (4 Years), iPod (3 Years). Facebook added 100 million users in less than 9 months. iPhone applications hit 1 billion in 9 months
  • % of companies using LinkedIn as a primary tool to find employees — 80%
  • There are over 200,000,000 blogs
  • 34% of bloggers post opinions about products and brands
  • 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations 
  • People care more about how their social graph ranks products and services than how Google ranks them

There are many, many more that will stagger you. When you have 4-5 minutes to spare, check out this video on YouTube:

Business Perspective

So, from a business perspective, is there value to be found in these trending numbers? I think there clearly is. In a weird way, I would suggest that we are “coming full circle” — back before traditional print, TV and radio were the main forms of corporate advertising. Social Media provides a “Word-of-Mouth” advertising that costs nothing, and is often 100% better than any paid ad on Google could ever give you in return.

Depending on your age, ask your parents, grandparents or great grandparents about Word-of-Mouth. I think you will find that Word-of-Mouth was the most powerful form of advertising then, and it is becoming the dominate form now.

I review LinkedIn several times a day. I do not contribute as much as I would like to, but I read posts all day long. I could argue that I learn more there than I do in a three-day stint on the show floor at EXHIBITOR Show. Not to imply that tradeshows have lost their relevance. They have not! People still want to go, touch, feel, and learn.  However, LinkedIn provides controlled information from the standpoint that I am in control of what I read and learn.

I do think there are inherent dangers involved of course. Social Media can easily become a time and human resources black hole for a company. The Social Media Addiction is a very real thing. Many companies have banned or blocked virtually all Social Networking sites from their internal networks. And I think for good reason. While I see the value on many levels, I am not sure that each job description really needs to have access to such sites.

So, I know many of you have your own Social Media accounts, blogs, and sites. How have they impacted how you do business? Have they impacted how you do business? Do you see them as valuable business tools?

Please comment and let me know.

Have a great and restful weekend.

Be Well!

–Kevin Carty