Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for June, 2011

Excellent Interview in Event Design Magazine

June 28th, 2011 2 COMMENTS

Event Design Magazine -- June/July 2011

I don’t know how many of you receive Event Design Magazine (, but there is an excellent interview with Sue Huff, Director of Global Conventions for Medtronic, in the June/July 2011 issue, Best Practices column.

Normally, I’d simply link to the article, but it’s not on the Event Design website yet. Instead, I encourage you to read the interview if you have the print edition (pg. 16-17), and for those who do not have the issue, I’ve retyped several of her responses below. If I get in trouble with the folks from Event Design . . . well I’m sure they’ll let me know.

From the article:

Sue Huff manages more than 75 of Medtronic’s exhibition programs across all of the company’s U.S. businesses as well as its Pan-European programs . . . . Here, she talks to designers about the keys to creating global consistency, the evolution of social media and virtual events and overcoming cost containment challenges.

Event Design:  What are some of the biggest trends affecting the trade show industry today?
Sue Huff:  In general, I’m seeing social networking and virtual events used in combination with the convention environment. However, virtual has still not caught on in the healthcare industry like it has in other industries, perhaps because it’s important for physicians to be able to talk face-to-face about tough cases. We’re also seeing the show floor decreasing in size because companies are cutting back. At Event Marketing Summit last year, there was a lot of discussion about moving off the show floor with proprietary events, however, this is not common in the healthcare space.

Event Design:  What is the biggest hurdle at U.S. trade shows today?
Sue Huff:  Cost containment is the biggest challenge. With the recent economy, it’s more and more challenging and that’s why we’re seeing decreasing exhibit space. Exclusive service costs continue to rise, at a time when we’re looking at cutting costs. These costs are controlled by the show organizer and their selected vendors. For example, 63 percent of our convention budges are controlled and negotiated by the show organizer, and we have no control over these costs other than to decrease our size, or bring less (weight) to the show.

Event Design:  Is social media having any impact on how you execute at shows?
Sue Huff:  We use Twitter, Facebook and virtual technology. These channels can communicate what’s going on in the exhibit at a particular time, help us learn what the competition is doing and hear what people are saying, or what topics are of interest to show goers. I see this channel in combination with the face-to-face event increasing over time. Face-to-face is still a very important component for the healthcare industry. We’re also seeing more shows offering some type of virtual/web experience through the organizer.

Event Design:  How would you like to see the trade-show world evolve?
Sue Huff:  There’s still a value to face-to-face but the world is evolving with social media and I would like to continue to see how that’s integrated, but not as a replacement for live events. As the younger generation gets older, they’re just more comfortable with it, so it’s going to to continue to evolve. I would also like to see exhibitors more in control over their costs. I’m not in control of over 63 percent of my costs other than to increase or decrease exhibit size. Signing an exhibit space contract when true labor and the drayage rates are unknown is not OK. We need to know what we’re signing up for. I was recently discussing this model with an industry peer, and we agreed, it’s a flawed model. Normally, when you want to buy a service, you go out and get a bid from various vendors, review the responses, decide which vendor you’re going to work with, negotiate pricing, the vendor then provides the service and you pay the vendor. But today, the entire middle section of this model is missing and broken in our industry. To try and explain drayage to a marketing or finance partner is not possible, because it doesn’t make sense. I would like to see this industry healthy, which means the business model must change.

For the complete interview, please read the print edition, or be patient and it will appear online at Event Design sometime in July.

–Mel White


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.

Patient Recovery: Word on the Street — June 20th thru June 24th

June 26th, 2011 COMMENTS
Getting Healthy

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

On Getting Healthy

As we climb out of the recession, the trade show industry as a whole has bounced back. Albeit slowly. From the manufacturing side, we have witnessed budgets increase and align with the design hopes of end users. All good things.

But as many of you would agree, not unlike the economy at large, the slow to moderate recovery (healthy growth as it has been called) is a key component to actual recovery. Let me draw a personal comparison if you don’t mind.

Some time ago, 11 years to be exact, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer. Like many others who have experienced cancers of many kinds, I was given chemotherapy as my primary treatment. And chemo is designed to essentially kill you from a cellular level. Good and bad cells alike are destroyed in order to hopefully get all the cancer out of your system.

Afterwards, your body (regardless of age) is essentially back at the starting line. Not just from the chemo, but also from the fact that you have been without physical activity for a long period while recovering from surgery and from being out of commission during treatments.

Now, as much as I might have wanted to, I could not just go out and run a 10k, ride my bike 30 miles, or play a game of tennis. Actually walking around the block was like running a marathon. I constantly had to remind myself or be reminded that I needed to take my time and that it would take time to recovery from essentially 4-5 months of inactivity. Atrophy is an amazing phenomenon. It happens so fast, yet it takes so long to build your body back up to where it once was.

VK-5076 Island Exhibit

VK-5076 Island Exhibit

The reason I am sharing this is simple. Currently in our business and industry, like other industries in the US market, we are still recovering from the recession of the past 2-3 years. And in all reality, that recovery did not really start until about January of this year. At least that is when we really started seeing consistent, positive economic changes. And I, like others, have to keep reminding myself or be reminded by others that we are still early in this recovery process. Lest I forget that some even think we might slip back into another recession. I personally doubt that, but I have to admit that nothing would surprise me.

However, I/we need to continue to remain patient. Just like the muscles in your legs and arms that go unused for a long period of time and take awhile to gain their strength back, our economy and businesses will also take time to truly bounce back to peak health. So rather than focus on the length of time the recovery is taking, we should be focusing on the leaps and bounds we are making daily and weekly. Much of which is a direct result of the hard work we did to clean up our own houses during the lean times so we all come out of this stronger and healthier than before.

I know this may seem a bit off topic as you review the latest Island designs in Design Monday, like Ginsana (VK-5076) introduced this week, but it’s really not. It reflects some of the hard work we have been doing during the recovery process as we create high-end and multi-functional designs for you and your end users.

I guess what grandma always said is true, “Patience is a virtue.” Or as my grandad said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Have a great weekend!

–Kevin Carty

Urban Exhibitionary

June 22nd, 2011 20 COMMENTS

Beginning in mid-July, Classic Exhibits and ClassicMODUL will run a series of banner ads in the ExhibitorOnline weekly e-broadcast. Most of you receive this email every Thursday or Friday from EXHIBITOR Magazine.

We’ll showcase a new banner ad each week (for 18 weeks). We decided to mimic the Urban Dictionary, but with exhibit industry terms and definitions. We call it the Urban Exhibitionary. To prime the pump, we reached out to some industry friends for ideas, and some of their clever definitions are listed below, but this is merely the first step to creating a comprehensive exhibit dictionary. We want your witty ideas and would love to use the best ones in the ads.

Here are some of the more interesting ones so far.


Blink: Special effects lighting that’s often used to compensate for a not-so-great display. Blink rules the dance floor, but isn’t quite as flashy as its rapper cousin, Bling.

That company’s got so much Blink on display, I couldn’t even read their sign.


Masterwaiting: Realizing you’re going to have to “go it alone” on the big presentation when your boss is delayed.

Please check on the flight status for Mr. K’s arrival, I’m in the hallway just Masterwaiting and the customer looks pretty anxious.


TTWN: Too Tired for Wednesday Night.

I know it’s the last night of EXHIBITOR, but I’m TTWN.


Port-not-able: Unwieldy, overweight exhibits that carry the claim “portable.”

At 300 lbs., that display goes in the Port-not-able Hall of Shame.


Face-to-Space: Used to describe “virtual” events and teleconferences.

Trade shows will always be the place to be seen. It’s impossible to close the deal when you’re working Face-to-Space.


Assertain: When someone wastes your time with small talk or jokes instead of providing factual information about pricing or warranty. Often used as a tactic to stall. (Alt.) Slang: What happens when an unlikable person attempts to entertain.

It took me two weeks to get the pricing info I requested, but the sales dude called everyday just to assertain me. (Alt.) Slang: He may think he’s an Elvis impersonator, but it’s really just assertainment.


Trinketeer: A show attendee whose primary focus is to gather as many trinkets and trash as possible. No giveaway item is too small or insignificant for this exhibit hall swashbuckler!

Did you see the two Trinketeers fighting over the last promotional Stress Ball at Booth 2234?


Arch-ritis: The pain from wearing new shoes at a trade show.

I told Sally not to wear those new pumps. Now, she’s got a serious case of arch-ritis.


CuervoSweat: Literally perspiring alcohol after a very late night entertaining clients.

You need to move away from me Jack, or I’ll be hammered by noon from your CuervoSweat fumes.


Booth Zombie: The comatose exhibitor who doesn’t like to talk to strangers, make eye contact, or stand for seven hours straight.

The Booth Zombie sat behind the table and stared blindly away from attendees, stopping only to check her emails, file her nails, and drink coffee.


Annie-halled:  The realization that you’ve been abandoned (orphaned) in the exhibit hall while dismantling your display.

I was tearing down the exhibit when I realized I’d been annie-halled by my co-workers. Leapin’ lizards!


Ban-boozled: The “too good to be true” $99 banner stand bargain . . . that wasn’t.

I knew I’d been ban-boozled when the directions were sturdier than the banner stand.


Guttastrophe: The SUDDEN realization at a trade show that eating and drinking too much while wearing last year’s belt size has consequences.

He was in the middle of a very large exhibit hall when the telltale signs of a major Guttastrophe were upon him.


We’d love to include your terms in the Urban Exhibitionary. You’re a creative bunch. Post your terms and definitions. We’ll use the very best ones and collect the rest into a dictionary.

. . . Frankly, I’m a little frightened of what you’ll share. 😉

–Mel White


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.

Islands and Summer Just Go Together: Word on the Street — June 13th thru June 17th

June 18th, 2011 COMMENTS
Islands and Summer

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Five Weeks of New Island Designs

It is officially summer next week . . .  although in the Pacific Northwest you would be hard pressed to know that. Until a week ago, we’ve rarely approached highs of 70 all spring. But today, as I write this, it’s 75 degrees with no clouds in the sky. About time!

As the title of the blog suggests, summer is when we dream of a tropical island vacation.  While I can’t offer you that, I can announce the release of a five new Island Designs. Beginning this week and over the next five weeks in Design Monday, we’ll showcase five fresh and exciting Island kits.

Admittedly, our focus has been on inline designs over the past two years. We reacted to the market. Our responsibility was to create kits for a recessionary economy that appealed to more modest budgets. We think we did a pretty darn good job — Magellan, Sacagawea, and SEGUE Sunrise to name a few. But we didn’t completely ignore islands. Our rental islands have been strong, and our rental division has done a spectacular job designing affordable, yet customizable kits. But from the purchase side, we have been designed to specific distributor projects rather than to creating island kits. With the economy improving, we have spent the past six months designing five unique “kits.” We hope these kits will appeal to your clients for their late summer and fall shows.

The basic plan of attack was simple. First, we listened to you and to what your clients wanted. Namely, islands that not only could stand alone on their design merits, but could also be reconfigured into other island and inline configurations.

Trade Show Island Design from Classic Exhibits

VK-5075 Island Design

Second, we designed these kits to take advantage of large format fabric and SEG graphics, TSP profiles from ClassicMODUL (where possible), and creative accent lighting options. We also recognized that truly custom elements, such as fully assembled counters and workstations, add design heft to islands without adding significant weight.

Finally, while the designs are custom-looking from an aesthetic standpoint, they are designed for “repeatability” and “expandability.” Those two factors allow us to price them more competitively, since we believe these kits (or variations of these designs) will be purchased again and again, much like Sacagawea or Perfect 10 kits. This week, we’re presenting the VK-5075,  branded for Barnes and Noble. By using similar towers and counter units, this unit can easily be rearranged with minimal effort and money to create alternate footprints for the second, third, and fourth shows.

So enjoy! Please let us know what you think. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Be well and have a great weekend. And for all the fathers out there, relax and enjoy time with your family.

–Kevin Carty

Eco-systems Sustainable Exhibits: Milestones and Timeline

June 18th, 2011 COMMENTS

Milestones and Timeline

In just over four years, Eco-Systems has become the leader of innovative and sustainable exhibit products and practices. Eco-Systems offers customers high-quality “green” display options — from table tops to islands — through a network of over 90 certified distributors in North America.

The timeline below highlights many of the important events that have shaped Eco-Systems, including the development of many eco-friendly first materials and product lines.

January 2007: Eco-Systems Sustainable Exhibits is incorporated.

February 2007: Eco-Systems develops the first series of proprietary products to replace PVC (the most dangerous man made life-cycle plastic).

March 2007: Eco-Systems Sustainable Exhibits pioneers the nation’s first branded modular exhibit system built from LEED accredited materials at EXHIBITOR2007 in Las Vegas, thus creating a new “green” category in the exhibit industry.

March 2007: Eco-Systems stuns the industry with a coveted Buyer’s Choice Award at EXHIBITOR2007.

April 2007: Eco-Systems develops Eco-Poly Print Media, a 100% recycled plastic media for water-based print applications.

May 2007: Eco-Systems begins development of national distribution network.

August 2007: Eco-Systems further validates sustainable exhibit products with 1st Place Award in Best of the Best category at the TS2 Show.

February 2008: Eco-Systems begins development of Paradise Fabric, made from 100% recycled post-consumer soda bottles.

May 2008: EPA announces formation of Sustainable Green Meetings Standards writing initiative. Eco-Systems president Tim Morris is a key participant in activities.

June 2008: Eco-Systems enters into a joint-venture partnership with Classic Exhibits Inc. to take advantage of design, manufacturing, and distribution strengths.

September 2008: Eco-Systems partners with Optima Graphics to supply the trade show industry with Paradise Fabric and other green materials.

February 2009: Eco-Systems introduces Greencore, a biodegradable and printable substrate as an alternative to Sintra.

January 2010: Due to lower material costs and production efficiencies, Eco-Systems is able to drastically lower prices across the board.

June 2010: Eco-Systems and Classic Exhibits enter an equity partnership.

March 2011: Eco-Systems moves manufacturing facility to Portland, Oregon to take advantage of production synergies between Classic Exhibits and Eco-Systems.

Eco-systems Timeline

Download the Eco-systems Sustainable Visual Timeline

For more information about Eco-systems and sustainable trade show alternatives, go to or contact Eric Albery, VP of Marketing and Business Development at 866.463.2611.