Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for January, 2010

Word on the Street — January 25th thru January 29th

January 31st, 2010 COMMENTS

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Presentation Surprises!

Let’s face it . . . it has happened to all of us.

  1. Your shipment of samples is lost by UPS or FedEx. Or, if they are packed with your luggage, your luggage arrives in Dallas but you are in Pittsburgh and on your way to Baltimore.
  2. Your presentation files are corrupted.
  3. You stop by just to “see how things are going.” It’s supposed to be a casual meeting with the “team” only to discover that the “team” is an audience of 30 people expecting a full-blown presentation.
  4. You go into a meeting planning to present one thing, only to find out that the audience is expecting something entirely different.
  5. Take your pick:  Your laptop crashes. The projector blows a bulb. The internet connection is down or is so slow that you start talking in single Slow-Mo syllables as each page loads.

The list could go on forever.

So what do you do? Here are a couple quick things that can help . . .

  1. I always have a copy of my presentation and website on a thumb drive. That way if either 2, 4 or 5 happen, you can react quickly and have something to show your audience. If you are like me and you travel a lot, you know that things get lost. Last year alone, this happen to me four times! What saved me was the ability to pull up images and a static version of our website off a thumb drive. This allows you to present, even if you do not have your samples or your laptop. You can drop the thumb drive into any machine and you are off and running.
  2. Always have at least 2 or 3 presentations available. Call them “canned” or whatever, but they are presentations that you can always fall back on in an emergency.

Last year I was set to present to a large group about doing business with Classic. For about two years, we had worked with a few folks within the business, but this was my opportunity to show the entire staff our capabilities. I was psyched, since this represented a potentially large account.

So I arrived and set up my laptop and projector, got all my samples out and placed them around the room, and then the staff arrived. I started with the history of the company, and iust as I was about to talk about the product lines and capabilities, one of the Senior Executives raised his hand and said,  “Kevin, I don’t mean to interrupt, but everyone here has a solid understanding of all that Classic can do from the purchase side of things. We held a separate meeting last week just to cover that. What we really wanted to learn about today was your Rental Program. Can you take the hour and get us educated on that specifically?”

Initially, to be honest, I was a little disappointed. I was ready to WOW them with the Classic pitch. And, I was a little irritated that no one had informed me that the meeting was to focus on rentals. But then I remembered that I had a presentation on my laptop that was just for rentals. In no time, I pulled up that PowerPoint and spent the h next hour covering exactly what they wanted to hear from me.

How about you? What do you do when the game changes at the drop of a hat?

Please share your comments via the blog comment section and have a safe and restful weekend!

–Kevin Carty

Word on the Street — January 18th thru January 22nd

January 24th, 2010 2 COMMENTS
Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously!

Those who know me, know that I don’t take myself too seriously. The same can be said about Classic Exhibits. Just look at our recent contestFind Reid’s Head.” Clearly, we are laughing at ourselves while making a point about Exhibit Design Search. And it’s not just about picking on Reid. 🙂 While he’s a great sport about these sorts of things, so are the rest of us. Need I remind you of the AeroMan campaign several years ago. You remember, the one where I was portrayed as a cartoon superhero — Defender of Hanging Signs and Lightweight Tabletops. Sheesh!

(Still looking for Reid’s Head in Exhibit Design Search? There’s a hint in the first paragraph.)

That said, you also know we are very serious about what we do. We take our responsibility as a designer, builder, and marketer of portable, modular, and hybrid exhibits very seriously. We are dedicated to you and to your customers. But balance, just as in our personal lives, is the key to a successful work life. After all, we spend at least one-third of our lives at work or working, another third sleeping, and the remainder doing what we love in our personal lives. So our attitude, which is probably no different than yours, is that we might as well have fun when we’re at work.

AeroMan -- Defender of Hanging Signs

AeroMan -- Defender of Hanging Signs

Personally and professionally, I have no desire to be a stiff. Sorry, but that’s how I would characterize it. If I am going to spend 50-60 hours a week working, then I am going to have fun and enjoy what I do. Too many companies in this business see themselves as “corporate.”  They may have a party once a year, but otherwise they are paragons of control, aloofness, and authority. When they speak, you listen . . . silently. Laughter, silliness, and parody are not part of their Corporate Culture — especially when it comes to their interaction with distributors.

We believe that our relationship should be based on Who We Are. Does that mean that we sometimes “cross the line”? Sometimes. But it’s a risk that applies to everything we do. Without that willingness to “cross the line” there wouldn’t be Perfect 10, Magellan, Sacagawea, or the countless other designs that have defined Classic in recent years. Without that willingness to expose ourselves, there wouldn’t be Past Five Days, Exhibit Design Search, Design Monday, and the Trade Show Tales blog.

I take a lot of pride in what we do, and I often hear you comment about how easy it is to work with Classic. You tell us “we’re flexible, we’re accommodating, we’re receptive. That tells me we’re not a bunch of stiffs. It also tells me that we see each request as a chance to solve your unique display challenge and not force it into a neatly defined Classic box. Now I could be wrong here, but I firmly believe that our willingness not to take ourselves too seriously, means in some odd way, that we take your projects very, very seriously. While I don’t expect to see that rule in a Tom Peters’ management book, it works for us.

But that’s just me. What about you?

Please share your comments via the blog comment section and have a safe and restful weekend!

–Kevin Carty

Annual State of the Company Letter from Kevin Carty

January 19th, 2010 COMMENTS
Kevin Carty, VP of Sales

Kevin Carty, VP of Sales

Thankfully, 2009 is in the rear view mirror. It was a rough but enlightening year.

How did Classic do in 2009? There’s both a short and a long answer. As you may recall, Classic Exhibits began developing a series of affordable hybrid exhibit solutions in 2008, starting with the Perfect 10 Portable Hybrid Display. In 2009, we added the Magellan Miracle, MOR, and Sacagawea. This push will continue in 2010 with the Segue, but more on that later. So the simple answer is . . . as the market downsized and orders for larger exhibits decreased, portable hybrids became our bread and butter. Thankfully, we were prepared to handle this shift with fresh designs and competitive prices.

Now, here’s the longer answer . . . .

Social Media
Social Media was the buzzword in 2009, and Classic wasn’t shy about using it to communicate with distributors and industry partners. I have to admit that I didn’t understand it at first, and I had no desire to “Tweet” or “Blog.” But I have found it to be effective and pretty fun, whether it’s our activity in Twitter, our new Classic Exhibits Group on LinkedIn, or our blog, Trade Show Tales.

Trade Show Tales, in particular, has been quite the hit. Whether we are writing about some of the industry’s most sensitive issues such as Bundling or just posting a whimsical article regarding “Trade Show Fashion Do’s and Don’ts,” the blog gives Classic, Classic Distributors, and Industry Partners another avenue in which to communicate and share ideas.


With a downturn in the economy comes less spending on new exhibits. The ClassicExhibits/Exhibits NW Rental division really stepped up in the past 12 months. Looking back at their creations from the past year, I am amazed at how many of those displays were rentals. It certainly explains why the rental division had such a banner year. Kudos to Jim Shelman, James Sharpe, and the rental crew for their amazing job in 2009.

Rental Exhibits from Classic

Rental Exhibits from Classic

For a peek at the rental designs from last year, go to Past Five Days and type “rentals” in the search tool.

Distributor and Partnership Development

You could feel the love in 2009. There was a palatable sense of “we are in this together, so let’s find ways to make it beneficial for us all . . . without sacrificing our margins.” For companies unwilling to “partner” with distributors or for those who didn’t have a history of reaching out to friends and colleagues, 2009 had to be a painful, lonely year. It was not the year or the market to go it alone.

Partnership development was not just with distributors. Classic spent a lot of time deepening its relationships with existing vendor partners as well as opening doors to new relationships. This manifested itself in the development of new “joint products”as well as partnering on larger inventory buys to help decrease raw costs, allowing us to continue to offer competitive pricing.


Word on the Street — January 11th thru January 15th

January 17th, 2010 COMMENTS
Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

A Lasting Impression

Ever leave a meeting or sales presentation and wonder if what you said “stuck”? Better yet, after giving a presentation, have you ever discovered that your client went in another direction? Worse, the direction they chose was something you could have handled as well. Wonder why?

It happens to all of us. For me, it makes me look back at what I did not convey properly in my presentation to that person or group. So I wonder . . . what are the keys to making a lasting impression?

1. Emotion

Experts will tell you, the stronger the emotion, the stronger the impression. Sometimes the biggest error we make is to get “too comfortable” with our service and product offerings. We assume that the folks we’re talking to have the same understanding of how “great” our products or services are, that they see the features and benefits, and finally, that they are just as passionate about these unique advantages as we are. This can easily happen if you are not careful, especially if you are giving the same presentation over and over.

Once we turn eighteen, the word “Cheerleader” doesn’t have the same impact. That’s too bad because all companies need cheerleaders who are passionate about their products and services. We remember cheerleaders. In our hearts, we all want that same passion and commitment. Steve Jobs at Apple is a great example of that unabashed “cheering” of the company’s products and culture. Wrong or right, we all want to hear what he has to say because we know he believes and he cares.  

2. Use Images

People’s memories are triggered more through the use of effective images than through words. Think about it, it’s the key to making a good commercial or ad right? Well, the same applies to presentations for a live audience. The images you choose are critical. Using images that are too simple or plain will not only be ineffective, but can also actually turn off the crowd. For example, if presenting Aero Overhead Hanging Signs, I would show the jobs that highlight the most creative and custom shapes. Showing the standard shapes and sizes would be less effective. I’ve learned over time that there is a natural assumption made by the audience that you can do the standard stuff, when you WOW them with the truly custom stuff.

3. Differentiate Yourself and Your Product or Service

When there are several other companies that make or sell similar products, you need to emphasize what makes you truly “different.” Differentiation can be in service and capabilities. For example, look at Nordstrom. They sell many of the same brands as the other stores, but their service is unmatched. You know when you buy something from Nordstrom that you are going to receive the best customer service at the time of the purchase — AND, should you ever have to return the product, you know you will get a “no questions asked” approach when you walk back into the store

From a product standpoint, capabilities are the key! For example, for over 10 years, the Quadro S has been a leader in Pop-up Systems. The reason is simple — it’s the only system of its kind that can hold up to 200 lbs on any internal shelf on the straight frame. It can hold multiple flat screen LCD’s within one unit, and it is the only pop up that can double as a full video presentation wall with 9 large LCD’s inset into a straight frame.

What are some methods that you use to help leave a lasting impression on your clients?

Please share your comments via the blog comment section and have a safe and restful weekend!

–Kevin Carty

Aero Overhead Hanging Signs — Setup Animation Video

January 11th, 2010 COMMENTS

This one minute animation of the Aero Pinwheel shows how Aero Overhead Hanging Signs assemble. Every Aero Overhead Hanging Sign assembles with push-button connectors, and then the lightweight Aero aluminum frames are wrapped in tension fabric graphics.

Aero Overhead Hanging Signs are designed to be beautiful, adaptable, and recognizable, whether it’s for a trade show or special event. Choose from 21 stock structures—rounds, squares, pinwheels, rectangles, and triangles—or design a custom shape that communicates your unique message. Aero Overhead Hanging Signs are economical to own, simple to assemble, and easy to maintain.

To see the full line of Aero Overhead designs, visit and click on the Exhibit Design Search menu.

To see the video on YouTube, click