Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for September, 2009

When 50% “Show” and 50% “Trade” is 100% “In Doubt”

September 29th, 2009 1 COMMENT

The Future of Trade Shows

After ten plus years in the exhibit industry, I tend to make assumptions about trade shows. To me, they are convention halls, pipe and drape, carpeting, hanging banners, and trade show displays. They are drayage, union labor, and confusing electrical forms. You expect the typical exhibit hall to be 50 percent “show” and 50 percent “trade” once the doors open.  

Admittedly, my perception is a bit skewed. I work for a portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit manufacturer, and tend to see every show as a healthy dose of our designs with a smattering of custom exhibits and a sprinkling of banner stands. Those are trade shows, all set within a large exposition hall. That said . . .  I’m not naïve. I know a typical arts and crafts fair, Chamber of Commerce show, or local health fair doesn’t have all the pomp and circumstance of a traditional trade show. However, even those shows have professional table top displays, pop ups, and banner stands. I have always believed (and preached) that if you want your show to be successful, you should follow the advice of industry experts.

No Carpeting, No Pipe and Drape, No Drayage

Two weeks ago, I discovered otherwise. I learned, through personal experience, that you can hold a successful show without carpeting, without hanging banners, and largely without professional displays. People will come if the event speaks to their hobby or their lifestyle. And, in many situations, a more casual approach may give the event more credibility – especially in the beginning.

vegfes1About three months ago, I volunteered to assist with a local vegan/vegetarian festival, called the Portland VegFest 2009. This isn’t a new event. In fact, this year marks the 5th year, but this was the first year the VegFest was to be held in the Oregon Convention Center. The previous events were held in a local high school cafeteria. As the newbie on the planning committee, I quickly learned that the committee was well-organized, professional, and knowledgeable, but that the event had little money for the normal bells and whistles of a trade show. There would be no carpeting or hanging banners. Signage would be minimal, and even the printing of the black and white program was held to 1500 copies.


Word on the Street — September 21st thru September 25th

September 25th, 2009 COMMENTS
Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

It’s almost “Randy” time!

This week I am using this forum for a totally different purpose,  but something I feel very passionate about and want to share with you.

15th Annual Randy Smith Memorial Golf Classic
October 12, 2009
at Berkeley Hills in Duluth, GA

Every October since 1995, our industry quietly holds what many of you have heard me refer to as “our industy’s most important and impactful” event of the year. That event is called The Randy Smith Memorial Golf Classic. It is held each fall in Atlanta. The Mission Statement below explains the objectives of the event:

“The objective of the Randy Smith Memorial Golf Classic is to help families in the exhibition industry who have suffered severe tragedies or face insurmountable medical expenses. Our commitment is to provide financial and emotional support to all past and present recipients and their families.”

For nine years now, I have attended this event. I remember, and never will forget, the first time I attended and how much it impacted my life. Each year when I attend the Randy, my sense of pride in the trade show industry increases.

It’s a unique time where we can come together, not just as customers, vendors or competitors . . . but as a unified industry that really cares about its own.

If you have ever been, you know exactly what I am talking about!

So, I thought I would throw out a challenge to you all — Join me and all the others at this year’s event. You don’t have to golf if you are not a golfer. They also have a tennis event. And if you are not a golfer or a tennis player, then you can join us for the banquet. The banquet is where you will really see what this industry stands for!

For those who have attended in the past, please share your Randy thoughts and past experiences by commenting below.

And to those of you who have often considered it, but never attended, please come this year and help make it another amazing event. I, along with many others, can guarantee that it will be one trip that you will never regret!

Have a safe and restful weekend.

Be Well!

–Kevin Carty

What You Should Know as a First-Time Exhibit Buyer

September 20th, 2009 COMMENTS
Visionary Design VK-1073 Hybrid Exhibit

Visionary Design VK-1073 Hybrid Exhibit

  • Don’t let the trade show exhibit buying experience intimidate you
  • Your marketing objectives and strategy should dictate your exhibit marketing needs
  • Be prepared for sticker shock. Exhibits can be expensive
  • Where to buy depends on your goals. Do you need a large custom exhibit? Or do you need a portable, modular, or hybrid exhibit?
  • Plan ahead. You’ll save money and make smarter decisions

How to Get Started

For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that exhibit marketing is a new experience. Exhibit marketing is certainly not rocket science. You don’t need a marketing degree to be successful at exhibit marketing. However, it helps to get advice so you make the right decisions.

Buying your first exhibit can, at first, raise more questions than answers. There are different types of exhibits and different types of exhibiting. The best fit will depend on how you plan to use the exhibit, the image you want to project, and the budget you have to work with.

Chances are you’ll purchase your exhibit from a local exhibit company. Exhibit companies have been around for decades and understand exhibits and trade shows. Originally, exhibits were custom-crafted. Then exhibit systems evolved as an alternative to the high cost of custom craftsmanship. Now, there are multiple exhibit categories. Exhibit systems, which includes portable, modular, and hybrid exhibits, are evolving towards custom-crafted exhibits, and custom-crafted exhibits are evolving towards exhibit systems. Both have distinct advantages and exhibit companies work hard to carve out distinct niches along the custom to portable spectrum. The exhibit (or exhibits) that best fits your company’s exhibit marketing strategy will slot in somewhere along this spectrum. This is where an exhibit consultant can be very useful. Ultimately, an exhibit consultant wants to help you maximize your exhibit marketing potential.

Word on the Street — September 14th thru September 18th

September 19th, 2009 COMMENTS
Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Where Have All the Turnaround Times Gone?

Of course, I say this partially in jest, but boy isn’t it true right now?!?

And please don’t get me wrong. Like you, we are delighted to have the business. As many of you have shared with me this week, everyone is ordering much later this year.

Every morning at Classic, we hold a 15 minute Lead Meeting. It is designed to give the Production Leads and the Purchasing, Sales, Marketing, and Customer Service Managers a quick review of the day’s business as well as an opportunity to look ahead at upcoming orders, quotes, and purchasing requests.

We use our Shipping Report as our guide in these 15 minute morning meetings. So naturally, I review it before the meeting begins. It looks much different these days than it did this time last year.

As many of you know, Classic Exhibits already has the fastest lead times in the industry, so we are used to being nimble when it comes to your client’s “unrealistic” requests. One of the ideals we adhere to in Production is:  “Do enough of tomorrow’s work today, so that when tomorrow goes to hell or someone has a rush need, we are prepared to handle it.”

Sometimes even I forget these basic ideals. But I am always amazed by how our Production and Customer Service teams live by them. Looking at the Shipping Report this week, I have seen everything from 10 x 10 Visionary Designs Custom Hybrids with 4 day turnaround times to a Euro LT 20 x 30 Island that has to deliver in 8 days. It’s crazy! And yet . . .

We make it happen!

Now, to be fair to our Project Management and Production team, this is not a invitation to hammer our lead times.  We do everything we can to meet your requests, which you already know, but when we say, “Sorry” which is very, very rare, or when we add rush charges, you know those are real and not arbitrary.

That said, we are very happy to have the business and even happier to see Classic Distributors busy. 

Have a safe and restful weekend.

Be Well!

–Kevin Carty

If Trade Show Exhibits Were Celebrities, They Would Be . . . .

September 14th, 2009 8 COMMENTS
If Exhibits Were Celebrities

If exhibits were celebrities, Carrot Top would be a . . .

Some of these are “spot on”:   Tom Arnold, Carrot Top, Lindsay Lohan as trade show exhibits? Just use your imagination my friend.

Banner Stands (cheap, attractive, but not always reliable): Tara Reid, Andy Dick, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan

Custom Exhibits (talented, larger than life, but occasionally temperamental):  Meryl Streep, Orson Welles, Dame Judi Dench, Aretha Franklin 

Overhead Tension Fabric Signs (highly visible and stretched tight): Joan Rivers