Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for May, 2011

Comcast Retail Interior Project: Word on the Street — May 23rd thru May 27th

May 29th, 2011 COMMENTS
It's Comcastic!

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

It’s Comcastic!

If you glanced at Past 5 Days on the Classic site recently, you noticed some pretty cool pictures of an interior project we completed this spring for Comcast Xfinity.

P5D (5/26/11)
P5D (5/27/11)

Tyler Poage from Exhibits Northwest brought the project to us last summer. The scope was to create a new flagship store in Portland showcasing Comcast’s Xfinity services in a series of vignettes. In addition, the design included workspaces for employees where they could work with customers to setup new service, make changes to existing service, or even assist them with billing issues.

Classic and Exhibits Northwest were not the only folks working on the project. We designed and built the vignettes and the workstations while a local architectural firm and general contractor worked on the building space.

At the start and throughout the project, Exhibits Northwest employed Michael Silva from MSILVA Design to design the retail interior. We’ve worked with Michael before, and he never disappoints. He had a pretty clear set of client goals, one of which was to use similar materials from Comcast’s corporate headquarters.

Classic was brought in to build it as modular sections. It proved to be challenging, but not insurmountable as you can see from the pictures of the final product. The basic goals were to create vignettes that allowed ease of access for wiring and potential redesign of walls in the future.

Vignette Wall

Vignette Walls

The main structural walls were ClassicMODUL aluminum extrusion, using the same Q 914 you’ve seen in Classic island and inline hybrid kits for years. These allowed for a wall structure where we could clad each vignette in laminated Sintra panels to individualize each setting. The aluminum profiles also provided a strong enough internal structure to hang multiple monitors, cabinets, ceilings, etc., while leaving enough space internally for wiring. In addition, using ClassicMODUL permitted us to minimize the ceiling drops. The entire double-sided wall structure consists of only two drops.

Each vignette is unique. They included a kitchen, bus stop, dorm room, and home theater. You can really see where the subcontractors, the contractor, Exhibits NW and the client worked together to create attractive and realistic spaces. These settings demonstrated how Xfinity products are used for PCs or Macs, iPhones or iPads, or various sizes of LCD’s or plasma televisions.

One great design element of the main wall structure was its ability to be scaled down for smaller retail locations. The setting shows off all the vignettes available, but for smaller retail locations, Comcast could choose to build a smaller wall that shows just four vignettes.


The workstations are a more familiar, or at least more typical of trade show design. The difference was that these needed to be constructed for employees who would be working with customers seven days a week. These were permanent builds. They had to withstand daily use and continue to look new for years.

The bases are a great example. The base cabinets are one of my favorite elements of the project. They are some of the nicest pieces I have seen come out of our shop. Nothing like the makeshift furniture found at the mass market office product store.

Home Theater Vignette


This was tricky and a learning process for us. I have to tip my hat to the general contractor. They came with a detail task list and followed it. Did it change a lot . . . yes! 🙂 . But they kept track of every change and held to the dates as best as they could.

The retail installation world is something that Classic Exhibits and ClassicMODUL have been involved in before but usually as a part or a component, not necessarily as the whole project. This was an interesting view into what contractors and architects deal with every day. We gained tremendous insight on how to manage future projects, including some that we are currently working on.

I hope you enjoy the pictures of the project and let me know what you think. I look forward to sharing photos of other interior/retail projects we are currently working on.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend. Please take time to honor our veterans for the freedom they provide us all.

Be well!

–Kevin Carty


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100.

Classic’s Green Initiatives: Word on the Street — May 16th thru May 20th

May 21st, 2011 COMMENTS

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Classic’s Green Initiatives (What You Should Know)

So, you may be saying, “Well it’s about time!” But not so fast.

Over the past three to four years, we have witnessed a lot of companies  jump, or should I say “belly-flop,” into the Green/Sustainable movement. In doing so, many have looked foolish by attempting to make “Green” a marketing ploy rather than a responsible business plan. I’m sure you’ve seen many of the claims. My favorite was the exhibit manufacturer that claimed their lunchroom was a green initiative since many employees ate there rather than drive to a fast food joint.

As a result, we have opted not to market a green plan that is not real. Instead, we have taken real steps to become a more responsible business when it comes to recycling and being a steward of the environment.

Granted, we’ve had help. As many of you know, we acquired ownership in Eco-systems Sustainable Exhibits last June. But even before that, we had a very close partnership with Eco-systems where we provided manufacturing expertise to Eco-systems, and they, in turn, guided us toward more sustainable manufacturing processes.

Again, this has been a learning process for Classic Exhibits — one we are still learning almost daily. We still have a long way to go, but our Production and Administrative employees are clearly passionate about it. Make no mistake, we will continue to become more and more environmentally conscious. But understand one thing. It’s unlikely we’ll refer to Classic as a “Green Company” anytime soon. Because we are not. For exhibit solutions that are 100% “Eco-friendly,” we encourage you to turn to Eco-systems Sustainable Exhibits, the industry leader in sustainable displays.

Here are a few of the Green/Sustainable changes in our manufacturing process over the past few years.

recycle, reuse, reduce

Recycle, Reuse, Reduce

1. Eco-fi Fabric

Classic uses Eco-fi fabrics, which are made from recycled soda bottles, for many of our fabric needs. Whether it’s on Quadro Pop-ups, Intro Folding Fabric Systems, Euro LT Modular panels (backsides), or the wood crates that we line with fabric and completely jig for your displays.

2. Glues

Classic primarily uses 3M’s Fastbond 3000, a water-based adhesive. It’s a replacement for many of the standard glues of the past which were not only unsafe for the environment, but also did not work as well.

3. Metal Recycling

You can’t be the leader in hybrid exhibit manufacturing and MODUL aluminum extrusions without metal drops. Nearly every order creates drops whether it’s Aero Overhead Hanging Signs, Visionary Designs Hybrids, Sacagawea, or specialty work on our CNC mill. We work with a local company called Metro Metals. They pick up our drops for recycling and pay us for the metal.

4. Aluminum Extrusions

We are very fortunate to work with a local aluminum extruder that believes in using as much regrind aluminum as possible in their billets. So much so, that they are the only extruder we know that certifies the recycled content of their billets with a 27 percent post consumer minimum! Combine that with the fact that they recycle their own drops off the extrusion press (post industrial) and you get a level of recycled content that often exceeds 70 percent.

5. Sheet Goods

Like others in our business, we use a lot of sheet goods:  Sintra, Lexan, Styrene, Coroplast, Black Foam, Acrylic, Laminate, and certainly Wood.

On the plastics, we developed a program with a local company, Denton Plastics, where they pickup our drops and recycle it into reusable pellets. With a simple series of labeled drop bins, our shop staff has someplace other than the trash to throw even the smallest pieces of laminate and acrylic scraps. Which leads me to the next item . . . .

6. Regrind Cases and Black Foam

All of Classic’s roto-molded cases  are made from 100% regrind plastic. The beauty is that the plastic pellets used to make our regrind cases are supplied by Denton Plastics, the same company that recycles all of our sheet good drops (except the wood of course). So, the drops we produce are actually in some cases recycled into pellets that are then used by our local roto-molder to make our cases. Pretty cool and a fast reclamation of goods.

In addition, the die-cut foam packaging you’ve come to expect and love from Classic is made from recycled content. The next time you receive a Sacagawea or a Perfect 10 and open a roto-molded case (regrind plastic), unpack the MODUL aluminum (recycled content), and admire the packaging (recycled foam), you’re witnessing our commitment to finding green solutions.

7. Wood

Classic has many local options for recycling our wood drops as well. All of which, like the plastics, get ground down and then sold for re-use in either recycled sheet goods or other recycled wood products.

8. Cardboard and Paper

Recycling cardboard and paper has always been easy. We’ve been recycling all our paper products for years.

So rather than send out press releases about how we encourage carpooling, or how our systems are reconfigurable, or how we offer a substantial rental program, all of which make us green somehow, we’ll continue to take it one positive step at a time and learn from our suppliers, our employees, and from our partner Eco-systems Sustainable Exhibits.

Be well.

–Kevin Carty

Why I Attend Trade Shows — Love on Aisle #600

May 21st, 2011 8 COMMENTS
Love on Aisle #600 -- Trade Shows and Events

Love on Aisle #600 -- Trade Shows and Events

Shame. Shame, Shame. Get your mind out of the gutter. This is neither a steamy romance nor an even steamier fantasy. This is about the love of trade shows and why you, me, or anyone else attends them.

Over the years, I’ve read more articles than I’d care to admit about why trade shows are important, why exhibit marketing is effective, and why we MUST attend them. They make sense, in the same way that taking vitamins makes sense. On some level you know it can’t hurt and it’s good for you, even if you can’t always measure the results. I could give you the typical sales and marketing reasons to attend, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll share nine reasons why I attend trade shows. It may not be as informative, but it will be a lot more interesting.

Reason #1: I have to. I work for a trade show exhibit designer and manufacturer. Even worse, I co-manage the business so I can’t even pretend to hate trade shows, even if I did. Which I don’t. (Just in case my boss reads this, let me repeat, “I enjoy attending trade shows!”)

Reason #2: I get to see family, friends, and acquaintances. That’s a big deal to me. Until about two years ago, my brother lived in Las Vegas. Attending a trade show in Vegas was an excuse to see my brother. When TS2 was in Philadelphia, I had dinner with my old college roommate. Mostly, I get to see colleagues and industry suppliers whom I’ve known for years. Since I don’t travel quite as much as I used to, the shows are an excuse to chat about business and politics, to have a drink or two, and to gossip, learn, and enjoy.

Red vs. Blue

Reason #3: Competitors. They are there, just like you, with the latest and greatest. Even if you don’t get to see all the whiz-bang cool stuff, you get a sense of what direction they are headed. Are they moving upstream? Downstream? Are they investing in R&D? Who’s hanging out in their booth this year? Who’s not? I never understand why companies forbid their employees from chatting with competitors. Obviously, you have to be smart about what you do or do not share, but from my experience, most competitors are friendly, and the stories, observations, and lies you share are at worse harmless and at best enlightening. And to those not so friendly competitors . . . your paranoia will shorten your life by about 10 years.

Reason #4: I love walking the show floor because there are so many folks with encyclopedic knowledge about an industry. I attended my first trade show in 1994, about a month after starting as the marketing director for an exhibit manufacturer. The owner, a man who knew everyone at the show, introduced me to what seemed like hundreds of people. As we walked the show, he shared his knowledge about the industry, the history of the various companies, and the benefits and features of the products. What I learned by walking the show, both on my own and with him, compressed my learning curve by a good year. I could have never gotten the same information without attending the show.

Reason #5: Ink pens. My wife is a writer. She loves pens, all kinds of pens, but mostly fat pens. I score major points whenever I bring home 3-4 cheap trade show pens, especially if they have some kind of gimmick (and are fat).

Reason #6: Trade shows are an amazing buffet of new ideas. How can you not be impressed by the collective creativity? Whether it’s EuroShop in Germany or the local Business-to-Business show by the Chamber, I always discover new products, services, presentations, trinkets, and people. Even if I’m not looking for something specific, I usually find something worth pursuing after the show that will benefit our business or our customers. Would a virtual trade show offer the same experience? Perhaps, but I doubt it.

Reason #7: Customers. Trade shows are a lot like annual employee performance reviews. There should be no surprises, unless they’re positive. If you dread attending your annual industry trade show because of customer complaints, then your company is in serious trouble. I attend for just the opposite reason. Like Reason #2, I really enjoy meeting customers, talking about their businesses, learning about the challenges in their markets, and hearing about their lives. I know it’s a cliché, but shaking someone’s hand and looking them in the eye changes everything. Sure there may be a negative here and there, but it’s mostly all positive. Over the years, I can only count a few times, working with various companies, that I haven’t left a show feeling upbeat.

What? No Sewing Kit!

Reason #8: Hotel/Motel Toiletries. Actually, I don’t really care about the shampoo or the conditioner, but I hoard the little soaps. I am cheap, but that’s not the reason. I can’t stand the liquid soap at the gym where I am a member, and over the years I’ve probably left over a 100 bars of soap at the gym because I’m absent-minded. The mini-motel soaps are perfect. I don’t care if I leave them, and I don’t care about the brand.

Reason #9: Potential Customers. Next to chatting with existing customers, potential customers are my favorite reason to participate in trade shows. You get to see your company and your booth through their eyes. Is your product and service relevant to them? What interests them? What have they seen at the show that appeals to them? What does the future hold for them? For you? Far too many exhibitors are simply carnival barkers with more teeth and less visible tattoos. They want to close the sale, not create a relationship. That’s unfortunate because no one wants to be assaulted at a show. “Listen and Learn” is my mantra at every show.

Reason #10: For purely selfish reasons, I need a #10 to complete the list. Please take a moment and share your reason for attending/participating in trade shows. Why do you love to stroll down Aisle #600?

— Mel White

Additional Blog Entries:
10 Quick Tips for Any Trade Show Novice
Trade Shows as First Dates

Classic Exhibits Welcomes Display Supply & Lighting to EDS

May 21st, 2011 COMMENTS
Display Supply and Lighting

New Galleries in EDS

Lighting and Exhibit and Electrical Supplies Galleries

Classic Exhibits Inc., a designer and manufacturer of portable, modular, and custom hybrid displays, announces the addition of Display Supply & Lighting’s (DS&L) products to Exhibit Design Search. Exhibit Design Search (EDS) is a comprehensive web-based search tool for trade show displays and accessories, and includes over 1400 displays, 2000 photos, and 50 trade show articles. Most Classic Distributors have branded versions of EDS on their websites.

The two new galleries, Lighting and Exhibit and Electrical Supplies, supplement the existing 26 display galleries by adding a complete line of halogen, LED, fluorescent, and incandescent lights to the search database, along with display needs like Velcro® brand products, multi-outlet strips, and replacement cords.

DS&L joins four other vendors as strategic partners in Exhibit Design Search. Those partners include Eco-systems Sustainable Exhibits, Optima Graphics, Brumark Flooring, and Classic Exhibits. Each partner contributes to and manages galleries that reflect their expertise and product lines. Classic Distributors benefit from a “one-stop shop” on their website and can order products directly from each strategic partner.

According to Rob Cohen, Vice President of DS&L, “DS&L is excited to support the efforts of our partners to market solutions using technology in sustainable, cost-effective tools like EDS. Classic Exhibits has built an effective portal that allows distributors and their customers to easily learn more about, and select, products that meet their needs, and we are proud to be a part of that solution.”

“We are delighted to partner with DS&L,” says Kevin Carty, VP of Sales at Classic Exhibits. “This collaboration reflects our core philosophy of “Shared Success,” in which we work with industry leaders to create best-in-class solutions for our distributors and their customers. For customers, Exhibit Design Search makes it easy to find the right products at the right price using a web-based search tool that promotes the brands that matter – our distributor’s brands. In this way, we win, our customers win, and our suppliers win.”

For questions about Classic Exhibits or Exhibit Design Search, contact Mel White, VP of Marketing and Business Development at or 503.652-2100 x-210. For more information about Classic Exhibits, refer to or


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. These solutions include the Perfect 10, Sacagawea, Magellan, Euro LT, and Visionary Designs. The Classic line also includes ClassicMODUL Aluminum Extrusions with over 200 profiles and hundreds of accessories for trade show, museum, architectural, and retail environments. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network throughout North America and in select International markets.

Trade Shows as First Dates

May 10th, 2011 COMMENTS
Trade Show as First Date

Trade Shows as First Dates

Are You Nervous?

Trade shows are like first dates, first meetings, or job interviews. These “firsts” can scare the bejesus out of you. They should. No matter how well you prepare, the unknowns trump the knowns by a ratio of about 10,000 to 1. If you’ve ever been on a blind date, or even a first date with someone you’ve just met, you know that a date is about being the person you strive to be, not the person you are.

Of course, not everyone has the gumption, the imagination, or the self-awareness to lift their game to the next level. Some people never grasp that first impressions are lasting impressions. They wear scuffed shoes to the job interview, slouch in the chair, chew gum, or dress inappropriately. They make the decision easy for the interviewer. On that important first date, when every word and every gesture is scrutinized, they monopolize the conversation, talk with their mouth full of food, and tell jokes that would offend Andrew Dice Clay.

I suspect, however, that most of us strive to make a positive first impression. After all, we want to be liked and we want to be respected. In a typical social situation, we engage others in conversation in order to learn about their lives and to share ours.

Looking Good

Then why do so many trade show exhibits stink and so many trade show booth staffers stink even more. For the vast majority of attendees, their first impression of you is based on your display. It’s their first date, your first interview, and the first meeting for both of you. Walk the typical trade show, whether it’s a Chamber of Commerce “Meet and Greet” or your industry’s lollapalooza in Las Vegas, Orlando, or Chicago. About 50 percent of the exhibits are creative, targeted, and well-planned. The booth staff understands their roles and makes every effort to behave like outstanding role models. No inappropriate scratching, no Starbucks coffee cups littering the display, no obsessive Crackberry distractions. They are there to work the show and understand that during show hours they are on stage and every interaction is a performance.

Looking Bad

Ralph and Alf

Alf and Ralph

And then there are the other 50 percent. Let’s start with the booth. Ttoo often it’s bulletin board artwork stuck to a booth built by the Alf and Ralph, the Monroe Brothers on Green Acres. Or if it’s a professionally designed exhibit, it’s long in the tooth, damaged, and the exhibit equivalent of Archie’s jalopy sitting on cinder blocks. Now that may be acceptable at the local hobby fair, but wearing the trade show equivalent of a lime green leisure suit at the Governor’s Ball is tacky (funny but still tacky). It screams, “I just don’t care.” Now you may be comfortable on your first date with a piece of kale stuck to your front teeth, but even if your date has matching green dental jewelry, chances are there will not be a second date. Trade shows are expensive, but the actual display is usually the least expensive investment over 2-3 years. So invest wisely.

Behaving Badly

Now the booth staff. This is almost too easy. So rather than riff on the stereotypical cell phone chatting, Motrin popping from a hangover, couldn’t give a rat’s @$$ booth staffers, let’s take the high road. The reason too many exhibits are staffed with the wrong people is simple. They are the wrong people. They don’t have a vested interest in the company’s success, they aren’t knowledgeable, and they aren’t “people” people. Trade shows are not magazine ads or television spots. They are face-to-face sales opportunities. How often have you been to a Chamber of Commerce mixer and the local bank’s display is staffed by a teller? The teller is pleasant and pleasant-looking, but he/she doesn’t know anything about the bank’s loan programs, CD rates, or charitable programs. The teller shouldn’t be there. The local branch manager should be. Pamphlets, key chains, and a big smile are not replacements for one-on-one knowledge.

Ideally, your trade show staffing should have senior management participation. They have the knowledge and the vested interest. Too often, however, they wander the show floor like a band middles-school bullies whispering snide comments about competitors, eating candy, and planning the evening’s activities. Never underestimate the power of a title. And unless your senior management is poison, meeting the CEO or President of a company in their booth can turn “interest” into an “order” almost immediately.

Want to succeed at your next trade show? Treat it like a first date. Look your best and mind your manners. Remember that first impressions are lasting impressions. And no matter how tempting that kale omelet looks for breakfast, it’s probably a good idea to select the oatmeal instead.

Related Posts:

–Mel White