Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for December, 2010

Shooting from the Hip — 16.10 (EDPA Access)

December 20th, 2010 COMMENTS
Shooting from the Hip (trade show tips)

Shooting from the Hip by Reid Sherwood

The Exhibit Designers and Producers Association (EDPA) held its annual meeting a few weeks ago – ACCESS 2010. The meetings are always held at a warm weather resort the week after Thanksgiving. It starts on Wednesday with a golf tournament or a fishing trip for the non-golfers (I always play golf since I can fish in ice in Michigan but can’t golf in it). Mel and I attended as the representatives of Classic Exhibits and ClassicMODUL.

The Marriott Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL was the resort this year. Yes it was chilly, but it was Sawgrass, so who cares. Our scramble group finished 2-under on the valley course. The team consisted of Ken Karns (Elevation Exhibits), Ray Montague (Avalon), Gina Porcaro (Optima Graphics), and me. I think Gina and Ken got tired of carrying us. Ray had a bit of a breakthrough moment on a 100 yard chip shot. He yanked it left by 25 yards and said, “I must just have to aim to the right. I have been pulling that shot left for 45 years.” We all had a good laugh. Well, not Ray, but the three of us and our caddy did.

Our caddy, Donald, was part golf coach, part psychiatrist, and part travel agent. He knew the distance from the edge of every rough to the center of the green on each hole. I was approaching the green on a short par 5, and Donald tells me I am about 75 away. I said, “Ah, a sand wedge. My favorite club.” So I take dead aim and proceed to scuff the ball about halfway to the green. Donald, who is clear across the fairway (up in some rough looking for Ray’s golf ball), hollers loud enough for the entire course to hear, “YARDS REID! YARDS!”


As most of you know, unlike TS2 or EXHIBITOR, this event is specifically for builders, suppliers, and distributors of the trade show industry. There are no end-users. This makes the event more casual and generally more cooperative. There’s more time to chat with distributors, strategic partners, suppliers, and competitors.

I want to commend Jeff Provost and the staff of EDPA. For the first time since I have been involved (about 7 years), I felt like our involvement in the Supplier Showcase was appreciated. I had Jeff and several staff members thank us for participating in the Showcase. I don’t recall that happening in the past, and it was very refreshing. Traffic in the Supplier Showcase was solid on both days because the EDPA made sure to place the sugar, caffeine, and carbohydrates in the show hall. Very smart.

Sessions focused on design as well as other relevant topics. We know design sells. We were reminded of it again. Thanks to those who presented.

Congratulations to Optima (Dave Brown and Gina Porcaro) for taking 1st Place in the Golden Ham Awards, sponsored by Exhibit City News. To see a video of their skit, click here. No offense Gina, but it will never compare to the Golden Pharaoh commercial Dave and I did in Tucson. Although we took second because a Brit pronounced “ALUMINIUM” as only a Brit can, it was the best skit (and everyone knows it).

A special thanks to Dave Mihalik and Lara Davie from ELITeXPO for all their hard work on the silent auction. The pheasant hunt I won will be a blast.

In the end, it was a great few days. My thanks to all who made it possible.

Merry Christmas!

–Reid Sherwood

Word on the Street — December 13th thru December 17th

December 19th, 2010 3 COMMENTS
2011 Trade Show Predictions

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Are You Ready for the Most “Predictably Unpredictable” Two Weeks of the Year?

Anyone who has been in this business long enough knows what I mean. The final two to three weeks of the year are like playing Roulette. The odds aren’t good, but if you put enough chips on the table, you may hit a ginormous jackpot.

Activities outside of the office are always hectic during the holiday season:  planning and/or attending holiday parties, Christmas shopping, wrapping gifts, seeing the lights in your neighborhood, keeping your brother-in-law out of the liquor cabinet, etc. There’s so much to do and not enough time in the day.

At the office, you expect the opposite. That orders and quotes will slow down. It seems logical as folks are on vacation or getting ready for the holiday. This is very true, but not always.

Here’s what us trade show pros know. Starting around December 15, you wonder if this is going to be a quiet or busy year-end because there is never any middle ground!

Quoting activity in early December is a pretty good indicator, but not always. Many companies need to dump their budget before the end of the year (the “use it or loose” theory). At Classic, we often see quotes for multiple quantity units, or quotes from earlier in the year which need to be massaged in hopes of pulling the trigger before the year ends. Sometimes this indicates a very busy end of year . . . other times it ends up being a lot of wishful thinking by Marcom Managers.

Well, back to Wednesday the 15th 2010. The orders started heating up, and by Friday, we could tell the finally two weeks were going to be busy. Even better, the orders do not appear to be “budget dumping” expenditures. Rather, they are exhibits being purchased for January and spring shows. It’s something we haven’t seen for two years.

So, please keep them coming. 🙂 We will be working Monday through Thursday this week and next to fulfill your orders.

From the entire Classic Exhibits family, may your holidays be filled with joy, peace, and wonder. Thank you for making us part of your lives.

–Kevin Carty

Optima Graphics Wins the Golden Ham Award

December 14th, 2010 COMMENTS

Congratulations to our friends at Optima Graphics for winning the Golden Ham Award at the 2010 EDPA Access Conference in Ponte Verdra, FL. Dave Brown and Gina Porcaro are the feature actors in this one-minute spoof of a Progressive Insurance commercial.

Click on the Image to See the Video on Optima's Website

Word on the Street — December 6th thru December 10th

December 12th, 2010 COMMENTS
2011 Trade Show Predictions

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Industry Predictions 2011 — Part 2

First let me say, “Hello!” With vacation and the holiday, I have been gone recently and have not blogged for several weeks. But I am back in the office now, and I would like to dovetail on Mel’s entry back in mid-November regarding 2011 industry predictions. So here are my thoughts . . .

To say that the past two years have been a bit nutty would be a gross understatement. At Classic, we have seen strong months that have been off the charts followed up by months where I was left calling the local phone company just to see if the phones were broken.

But this fall (September thru November) has left me very hopeful for 2011. November, for example, was our best November ever. And the quoting activity in September, October, and November has left me very optimistic. People are “planning” rather than “reacting.” We’re seeing people preparing weeks and months in advance rather than holding onto their dollars until the last possible minute and buying in a reactivate mode weeks before their show. This is a great sign!

Islands are back! They are not back to 2008 levels, but we are seeing a normal mix in our quoting and sales process. Most are more than simple islands that carry little detail or flash. They are more elaborate, and the budgets have been healthy. All in all, we’re witnessing the “first-steps” in the rebuilding of exhibit programs for corporate exhibit clients. In early 2011, we will be introducing a series of modular island concepts which we’re very excited about. As this market expands, we want to ensure that Classic Distributors have the tools to capture more than their share.

SEGUE Sunrise VK-1905

Hybrids, Hybrids, Hybrids . . .  they are not going anywhere and are clearly here to stay for years to come. As a company, we are equipped more than ever to handle all requests. Whether it is for a starter client that has $3000 to spend on a 10 x 10, $15,000 to spend on a 10 x 20, or a seasoned client that has $10,000 for a 10 x 10 or $25,000 for a 10 x 20.

We have seen business increase across our entire hybrid lines from Sacagawea to Visionary Designs. We expect the SEGUE line to be particularly strong over the next 12 months as Silicone Edge Graphic solutions become even more popular. The SEGUE Sunrise, introduced in this week’s Design Monday, is a great example of how you can compete at the entry level with a portable, well-engineered, and smart “no tools” hybrid solution. It’s unlike anything else on the market, and we expect Classic Distributors will find an enthusiastic audience for these portable hybrid kits.

Sustainable (Green) Exhibits. This was treated as a clever marketing term two to three years ago. A fad if you will. But believe me when I say that eco-friendly exhibiting is not a fad. It is real, and there is a large market for it. We have seen the price for materials adjust down. The exhibits are now a financially viable option for those companies with green exhibit initiatives. The Eco-systems Sustainable brand experienced solid sales increases in 2010  as companies have increased their marketing budgets. The potential leading into 2011 is larger than ever.

The ClassicMODUL Aluminum Extrusion team has spent a lot of time, energy, and resources reaching out to alternative markets over the past two years. Those efforts have begun to payoff as budgets have slowly started to come back. I expect that the ClassicMODUL division will experience significant growth in the retail, POP, and architectural markets in 2011.

At the end of the day, I am more than hopeful for 2011. Will there be an immediate return to 20 to 30 percent annual growth? No, and it would be foolish to expect that. There have been significant and permanent changes in the exhibit market that will make it difficult to return to the “glory days.” Rather, we will all be catering to a new type of market that will force us to be creative, adaptive, and responsible. With that will come smaller growth than we have seen in the past. But positive growth all the same.

What do you expect for 2011? Please share your thoughts and opinions with other Classic Distributors.

Hope you had a great and restful weekend.

Be well

–Kevin Carty

It’s Between This or That — Choosing the Right Trade Show Display

December 10th, 2010 COMMENTS

Choosing the right trade show display is rarely straightforward. Most of the time, you are selecting between two similar but slightly different displays. Sometimes it’s about the price. Other times it’s about a personal design preference. Many times, it comes down to weight and assembly.

We can’t cover every scenario, but we can review some of the more common “this or that” portable/modular choices. You gotta make a decision . . . which one will you choose?

Briefcase Table Top vs. Full-size Table Top

Briefcase Table Top

This comes down to price, presentation, convenience, and assembly. Briefcase table tops tend to be smaller than traditional pop up, fabric, or hybrid table tops. There’s no assembly, unless you have a header, which may add another minute to the setup time. They are functional, convenience, and durable. Pop up, fabric, and hybrid table tops are almost always larger than briefcase table tops and may include options like backlit headers, lights, seamless graphics, and literature holders. Price varies  from $400 to $2000 depending on accessories and design.

Insider Tip:  College recruiters love briefcase table tops. Pharmaceutical reps like pop ups or hybrid table tops.

Full-size Table Top vs. Banner Stand(s)

Banner Stand

This one is tough. Full-size table tops on a 6 ft. table make a great backdrop to any 10 x 10 space. The graphic area is large enough to convey one or two messages and your display will probably look different than your neighbor. Banner stands are lightweight, easy to assembly, and can be placed at the back of the booth or on the aisle. It’s not uncommon to see three banner stands placed side-by-side to create a semi-uniform large image.

Insider Tip:  Why choose one or the other . . . Get both! It’s affordable and gives you the ability to take advantage of a table and the fill the booth space without adding clutter.

Banner Stand vs. Fabric Pop Up Display

Fabric Pop Up

This one depends on how many banner stands you want. One or two banner stands in a 10 x 10 space is not a display, and frankly it looks cheap and ridiculous. Two banner stands with a case to counter conversion is much better. A fabric pop up like Xpressions fills the backwall and takes about the same time to setup as multiple banner stands. The difference is price and design. Fabric pop ups are more expensive, but offer more visual impact.

Insider Tip:  Both a banner stand and a fabric pop up give the ability to change your graphics frequently. In general, changing the graphic on a fabric pop up is easier than changing the graphic on a banner stand.

Fabric Pop Up vs. Pop Up Display

Pop Up Display

This is really a matter of taste. Fabric pop ups require less assembly time since the graphics are attached to the frame. Fabric pop up graphics are a series of tension fabric images attached to a visible straight frame. Pop up panels are unrolled and then hung on the frame. Pop up graphics are usually mural lambda or inkjet graphics attached to a curved frame. Pop up systems generally have more accessories such as shelves, literature holders, and monitor mounts.

If you want a seamless, single graphic, go with a pop up. If you want a series of images which create a unified theme or message, got with a fabric pop up.

Insiders Tip:  You’ve heard it before, but you get what you pay for. The prices for these systems are all over the board. Ask lots of questions and less than you need or more than you’ll use.

Pop Up vs. Portable Hybrid Display

Portable Hybrid

Pop up displays have been the mainstay of the portable exhibitor for over 20 years. Portable hybrids are the interlopers, offering more design options but at a higher price. You can’t go wrong with a pop up display, but you aren’t going to win any design awards. Walk any trade show and you’ll see a pop up display on every aisle. They are effective but not sexy anymore. Portable hybrids come in a variety of design flavors and options. The large format graphics are tension fabric, making them lightweight and durable. The downside . . . portable hybrids rarely ship as compact as pop ups and the setup time can be double. Most portable hybrids require some tool assemble, although newer systems like the Perfect 10 and Sacagawea are either tool-free or mostly tool-free.

Insiders Tip:  Portable hybrids come in all price points, from $3500 to $13,0000 for a 10 x 10 display. This is one of the few instances where the price point corresponds directly with the options, design flair, and graphic elements. More money means more curves, larger graphics, more accessory options (and often better packaging).

Portable Hybrid vs. Modular Hybrid Display

Modular Hybrid

What is a hybrid? In short, it’s a display that incorporates engineered aluminum extrusion, tension fabric graphics, and other stuff (which varies by design and manufacturer). Portable hybrids pack in roto-molded wheeled cases. Modular hybrids pack in roto-molded tubs or small wood crates. Portable Hybrids, such as Magellan are lightweight, economical, and attractive, but may not have all the bells and whistles such as extensive storage, large screen monitor capability, puck lighting, and multiple graphics. Modular Hybrids, like Visionary Designs, allow you to create whatever you want. The only limitation is your budget.

Insiders Tip:  The terms modular hybrid and custom hybrid are often used interchangeably. Frankly, there are not enough differences to quibble.

Modular Hybrid vs. Modular Laminate Exhibit

Modular Laminate Hybrid

Bear with me on this. It’s a little esoteric. If you read the previous section, you know what Modular Hybrids are all about. Modular Laminate exhibits are are primarily modular laminate panels rather than aluminum extrusion and tension fabric. That said, Modular Hybrids may have some laminate components, and Modular Laminates may have some aluminum and fabric components. It’s just depends on which material is the primary building block. Why choose one over the other? Some people love the the look of laminates. Others prefer large format fabric graphics. It all comes down to personal tastes and the image you are attempting to project.

Insiders Tip:  I’m a snob when it comes to modular laminate systems. I have a right to be. I’ve seen every variation over the past 15 years. The best ones are lightweight, durable, two-sided, and simple to install. The worst ones have taken a simple idea and created a mechanical Rubik’s Cube with springs and funky locks. Simple and durable are always better in this case.

–Mel White