Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for February, 2011

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

February 27th, 2011 COMMENTS
Too Big

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Avoiding Arrogance

“Avoiding Arrogance” is an insightful blog posting by Tom Cox that appeared in Oregon Business last week. It reminds us of things NOT to do or to assume as we interact with colleagues and customers on projects. Below is the blog entry. You can either read it here or follow the link.

Avoiding Arrogance – Oregon Business

Enjoy and please share your comments and thoughts.

If I had a nickel for every time a client said “I don’t understand why people can’t just . . .” I would be rich.

Last week a coaching client related her struggles with her co-workers. She manages projects and has higher standards than almost anyone else in the firm.

When others manage projects, the work gets done late and sloppy. There’s a terrible last-minute rush to finish it before the deadline, and there are inevitably change orders — to fix the sloppy errors created during the rush — that destroy the profitability of the project.

When my client manages a project, there are lots of early deadlines, work gets done on time, and she demands high quality at every step. Those projects finish easily, on time, with great results — and they make the firm money.

So what’s the problem?

So What's the Problem?

The problem is, every time my client manages a project, her co-workers push back against all her good practices. They dislike the early deadlines. They resent the demand for quality. They are “too busy” with the other, behind-schedule projects to work on her project in a timely way.

Meanwhile, they also complain about how unhappy they are with the rush, the pressure, the late nights at the last minute, and the sloppiness.

As my client put it, “I don’t understand why people can’t just see how they are creating bad outcomes with their bad habits. And it makes no sense for them to resist my practices when they are obviously going to result in a happier outcome.”

Folks, any time you start a sentence with “I don’t understand,” you’re confessing your own ignorance, and your focus needs to come OFF the other people and ONTO your understanding.

Your co-workers are not starting this journey at the destination. They are starting at some other point. Your role may be to guide them to the destination. Standing around expressing your bafflement that they aren’t already there, is a waste of your time, and it’s a distraction for you.

Of course they aren’t already doing it the new way. That’s what makes the new way “new” — we aren’t doing it yet.

Reverse your thinking and start with the facts — your co-workers have crummy project habits. That’s because that’s all they really know how to do. If they found it easy to do it your way, they would. If they saw the “obvious” connection between better habits and better outcomes, they wouldn’t resist you.

The key facts are:

1. They are not yet doing the new behaviors
2. They resist the new behaviors

From these facts we can infer that the new behaviors are somewhat difficult and scary for them.

And in fact you are being arrogant — because these behaviors are easy for you, because the connection from good behaviors to good outcomes is obvious to you, you somehow expect everybody else to know what you know and be good at what you’re good at.

You’re expecting them to start at the destination. It’s absurd.

Here’s a better way.

First, acknowledge that both they and you don’t know certain things. They don’t know good practices, and you don’t know why. Or they find good practices hard, and you find understanding them hard.

Next, remember that everybody (who isn’t a sociopath) is doing their best. They are. You are.

Now, acknowledge that they are doing their best, and that if they aren’t behaving in an effective way, it’s going to be because of one (or more) of three reasons:

1. They don’t know what to do (exactly)
2. They don’t know how to do it (easily)
3. They don’t know why it’s important

When they push back, it’s often because of discomfort at one of these three points. And you’ve done it too — you’ve balked at doing things where the expectations on you were unclear (organized your office yet?), or where the behavior was difficult (how’s that diet coming?), or where it seemed unimportant (just floss the teeth you want to keep).

Once you let go of your own sense of superiority — your arrogance — and return to the level of being human, you become more effective. Once you let them out of jail — when you see them as good people doing their best — and return them to the level of being human, you can better connect with them.

All that’s left is to determine which thing is stopping them, and coach them through it.

Keep standing for excellence. Don’t give up because it’s hard to encourage people. It’s also noble. And we value the victories we have to fight for.

Read more:

Thanks to Tom Cox for a very insightful article!

Be well!

–Kevin Carty

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

February 20th, 2011 COMMENTS

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

First Timer’s Experience

This past week had a running theme — First Timers. That is, people who were either attending and/or coordinating their first trade show, or in one case, preparing for their first retail installation. You know what this is like. It’s draining, exhilarating, and frustrating — usually at the same time.

The first “first timer” is a company in California, or more specifically, their marketing agency, which is based in Portland. They are preparing for a show in Chicago in March. Helping them, and the Exhibits Northwest Account Executive, has reminded me of what happens when an exhibit leaves our manufacturing facility. It is also a painful reminder of the crazy hoops exhibitors have to jump through at each and every show.

Let’s start with their questions about electrical. I had to emphasize the need for flat cords when they were coordinating with show labor since they ordered Flex Flooring from Brumark. As we all know, unless they use flat cords, they will have bumps from traditional round cords.

Coordinating the electrical labor left the the marketing agency scratching their heads. I explained that they would need to order electrical services before laying the floor, but there was the possibility in Chicago and in future cities that they would need to order

Electrical Policies for Trade Shows

Are You Kidding Me?

an additional hour once the exhibit was built for someone to plug everything in. The look on their face said it all. I will just leave it at that. But, it also served as a reminder why many exhibitors leave a trade show with a sour taste in their mouth. They are unaware of this industry’s idiosyncrasies (to state it politely). Even if it was stated in their show book, many of those details are neither read nor understood.

The second example came from a friend who was attending and exhibiting at the International Roofing Show for the first time in Las Vegas. He called me late Friday afternoon, and I asked him what he was doing. His response was typical. “We are just sitting here waiting for our crates.” How many times have we all been there?! It’s really no fault of show management or labor. It’s just a reality of the process. Just when you think your long week, especially in a town like Vegas which has been non-stop for 2-5 days, is over, you find yourself wanting nothing more than to pack up and board the next plane out of town. But alas, you wait . . . sometimes for hours.

My friend made another comment which was very Vegas specific. He said,  “I am tired. My days seem to run together in this town.” Any of us who have spent any time in Las Vegas know exactly what he means.

The last example has to do with a local retail project for Exhibits Northwest. We are in the home stretch of the first install. After this one is complete, the program will be implemented at additional locations.

This time, we are the First Timers. We have completed nearly everything and are getting ready for the on-site installation. Having done this very infrequently, we forgot about the bureaucratic hoops to get something installed in a commercial building. For example, learning the city building codes has been an eye opener. I am not complaining, but it is foreign to me and to the team at Classic Exhibits and Exhibits NW. Apparently, in the city of Portland, whatever you build must survive the Apocalypse. 🙂

It really made me empathize with those end-users attending their first show. What’s the most surprising thing your customers experience the first time they exhibit? Please share your story.

Be well!

–Kevin Carty

Looking for a Deal is Easy . . .

February 18th, 2011 COMMENTS
Shooting from the Hip (trade show tips)

Shooting from the Hip by Reid Sherwood

Well, after last week’s sales calls, I decided that all anybody wants to talk about is price. The price of EVERYTHING. Not just trade show exhibits, but everyone is looking for a deal. Looking for a deal is easy, because there is always someone or something cheaper. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it is equal. Just cheaper.

I had a handful of appointments where the conversations went something like this, “Hey, we just had you guys quote a project, and you were 8 percent less than Brand Z so you are getting the job.” Or maybe like this, “I had you quote three different designs, and you were less expensive on two and more on one.” Then you hear, “I love your new Sacagawea designs because they are so well made AND affordable.” That gives you a little hope that design matters and so does quality. That statement is followed up with, “All your stuff is too expensive.” So, if you are doing market research (and I am not), you come away with your head spinning.

What Really Matters to People Anymore?

Do you ever buy on quality? Has the Wal-Mart mentality totally consumed us? When I see a retractable banner stand for $99, including the graphic, I wonder how long before it breaks, and you have to replace it. If a distributor is selling it, how can you afford to service something that was only a hundred bucks to begin with?

Cheaper than Cheaper?

Cheaper than Cheaper?

We did a little exercise when I worked at Optima Graphics that went something like this. Name 10 things that you buy on price alone. Well it was obvious after a few minutes that price is rarely the only factor. Gas, bread and milk became the three “locks” where price was the driving force. But even as you stop to rationalize, you find that you aren’t going to buy your milk for 2.49 a gallon at convenience store A, and then your fuel at convenience store B, even though the gas is 2 cents a gallon cheaper at B. Convenience and your time plays a factor in buying.

Sometimes buying is easier at one place even if you are paying a little more than making the more difficult purchase at So, are you going to follow that path of least resistance or are you going to put forth some effort to save money?

Just for conversation’s sake, here are some things that I spend more on than what some would call reasonable:

  • Car Repair – Not labor, but on any parts. I usually spend the longer dollar since typically you get a much better warranty.
  • Hunting Equipment – One of my hobbies. I use the equipment hard, expect it to last, therefore I pay more and get more.
  • Shoes – Hey, they are my feet. I want them happy.
  • Clothes – Because of all the travel I do, I expect them to hold up and last.

Here are some things I WON’T spend extra on and try to buy the cheapest available:

  • Reading Glasses – I lose them. Often. So I try to buy them at a dollar store and buy 10 pairs.
  • Phone and Computer Charging Cords – I either lose them or they break. I think they are made to fail. It has been quite a while since I bought any since every rental car center and every hotel has a box of charging cords you can sift through and find your style.
  • Bottled Water – I would buy FIJI, which is expensive, but it is in a square bottle and doesn’t fit in a single drink holder I have ever seen. So I buy whatever is cheap and round.

That is enough to get the conversation rolling I hope. Hope you all have projects closing. That makes everyone happy.

Till the next time,

Reid Sherwood

Customer Appreciation Reception at EXHIBITOR

February 15th, 2011 COMMENTS

Join us for a a Customer Appreciation Reception on Tuesday March 29 at the Eye Candy Lounge. The reception is sponsored by Classic Exhibits Inc., Display Supply and Lighting and Optima Graphics.

To receive a complementary drink ticket, visit Classic Exhibits (#1455), DS&L (#1361), or Optima Graphics (#1721) on the EXHIBITOR Show floor on either Monday or Tuesday. There are a limited number of tickets available — so don’t dawdle my friend. Your odds worsen with each passing hour.

Classic Exhibits, DS&L, and Optima Graphics Reception

Our 2011 EXHIBITOR Show Invitation

February 10th, 2011 COMMENTS

Attend 2011 EXHIBITOR for FREE

As a guest of Classic Exhibits Inc., you are invited to click this Classic-only link.

You will be taken to a registration form. Once you complete the form, the final price will be zero, gratis, zippo, nada to walk the Exhibit Hall.

For this most generous gift, we ask one favor. Visit us at booth #1455, a 20 x 30 island exhibit, where we’ll showcase the latest products and rentals from Classic Exhibits Inc. and Eco-systems Sustainable Exhibits.

We look forward to seeing you there!