Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for October, 2011

7 Mistakes Exhibitors Make

October 24th, 2011 COMMENTS

Are You (or Your Customers) Making These Mistakes?

Here’s the second in a series of three videos outlining the “7 Mistakes Exhibitors Make.” In Part 2, trade show consultant and author Marlys Arnold covers three mistakes exhibitors make regarding booth staff and how to avoid them. Click the image below to view this six minute video.

This is a hidden video, so if a friend forwarded this e-mail to you and you’d like to see the entire series, please go to: to request access to all three videos in the series. Feel free to invite your friends to watch by sending them to the signup page as well.

Video — Part 1:

This covers the first two mistakes exhibitors make . .  . before they even arrive at the show.

Video — Part 2:

This  covers the three mistakes exhibitors make regarding booth staff and how to avoid them.

Video — Part 3:

This covers the final two mistakes made in the booth and after the show.

Marlys Arnold

Since 1991, Marlys Arnold has helped hundreds of men, women, and students improve their personal or professional image, either in workshops or private consultations. “I believe that looking good directly relates to our attitudes about ourselves and our careers,” she said. Her goal is to help companies develop an authentic image by teaching individuals to look terrific and feel good about themselves. “It really doesn’t matter how good the outside looks, if you don’t like the inside, you’ll never be truly comfortable with yourself.”

Marlys is also the regional representative for the nationwide Dress Up Thursday campaign and has received certification in image education from the Conselle Institute of Image Management.

Put Me in Coach: Word on the Street — Oct. 17th thru Oct. 21st

October 23rd, 2011 COMMENTS
Put Me in Coach

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

We’ve All Been There

We’ve all been in the position where we’ve been trying to get “that one account” for . . . forever. You patiently wait, all the while maintaining contact and slowly building a relationship, biding your time until the current vendor makes a mistake or there’s a project they either can’t do or aren’t willing to try.

Then it happens . . . you get the call. Like that rookie quarterback in the NFL who gets called into a game mid season when the veteran QB gets knocked out. It’s your chance to shine and show off.

One of two things happen: you dazzle them, eventually winning their business, or, you choke and throw four interceptions to lose the game.

While I agree it’s not always fair, if the latter happens you most likely will not get another chance anytime soon. And in our industry, you probably caused the customer a lot of unplanned time, angst, and money.

So what do you do when that opportunity finally comes? Let me make a few simple suggestions.

#1. Breathe deeply. 🙂

#2. It sounds simple, but don’t do anything different than you already do for your best customers. Remember what earned you your reputation, namely that you have a great company with great products. Maintain those same principles.

#3. While I don’t suggest you do anything differently, I would suggest that people at every level of your company be made aware of the new project. Heightened awareness is never a bad thing. And, let’s be real. You’ve been waiting for this for a very long time. So everyone needs to know.

#4. Understand that you are dealing with someone new. Adapt a bit. They are used to dealing with another company. Meaning they are used to working with a company that has learned what it is like to work with them for 5, 10, 15 years. You are new to them. So don’t assume anything.

#5. Finally, approach all aspects of it honestly. The customer will appreciate it. While we all appreciate when someone can pull a rabbit out of a hat, we don’t expect it. People are more forgiving than we give them credit for. It’s all new at that point, and you might as well own that together. It will only help to build the relationship. And at the end of the day, the new client will likely appreciate being “managed” a bit rather than feeling like they have to “manage” the project.

While those are just some brief thoughts, I am sure you can draw from your experiences to add more. Please do share.

Hope you have a great and restful weekend. Be well.

–Kevin Carty

Ten “Guaranteed” Techniques to Get Traffic to Your Booth

October 18th, 2011 2 COMMENTS

“What Can I Do to Increase Traffic to My Booth?”

I get asked this a lot. I explain the importance of selecting the right show, meticulous pre-show planning, careful graphic messaging, and booth sales training. They nod and say “Yes,” “Uh huh,” “OK,”  and “Of course!” But I’m no fool. I can hear their disappointment and reluctance. All that takes time, energy, planning, and a dash of creativity. In other words, it’s too much work.

So let’s try another approach. I asked my wife, Christine, the same question. Christine is a brilliant and creative woman who’s both an academic and a pop culture fan. She knows nothing about trade shows despite my working in the industry for 15 years and sharing my successes and sorrows nearly every night (but that’s a different blog post). I asked her what it would take, assuming she’s already at a trade show, to entice her to visit an exhibitor. Here are her Top 10 suggestions in reverse order. Enjoy!

Zombies vs. Unicorns

Zombies vs. Unicorns

10.)  Zombies vs. Unicorns:  In the new collection of short stories, Zombies vs. Unicorns, authors Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier explore which of the two title creatures rule. I would like to see a booth in which zombies and unicorns do engage in battle. Real zombies. Real unicorns.

9.)  Jet Pack:  I am still waiting for my jet pack, promised to me in science films we watched in elementary school in the 1960s. I would definitely wait in line to get to a booth that was giving away jet packs.

8.)  Universal Translator:  And speaking of science, I think those Star Trek implants that allow the wearer to perfectly understand all other languages are really cool. A booth could raffle a few of those off.

7.)  Johnny Depp:  All women like Johnny Depp. But a divorced Johnny Depp who is actually interested in women from his own age group? A trade show exhibitor should really do this.

6.)  Clones:  Like most people these days, I cannot find enough time in the day to do everything I need/want to do. A cloning machine to create multiple me’s to get stuff done would be pretty awesome.

5.)  Chocolate Exhibit:  Exhibitors could take a tip from Willy Wonka:  a booth made of non-fat but tasty chocolate, and booth-goers may eat right from the display.

4.)  Summer:  I am very partial to summer, so a booth set up at any Robert Moses beach on the South Shore of Long Island, in July, with no crowds, would be spectacular. Extra booth points for a quilt, an umbrella, no hairy men in Speedo’s, and a full picnic basket.

3.)  NPR:  A booth featuring all of my favorite anchors and personalities from NPR would be okay. All of them reporting nothing but good news would be great. Tom and Ray fixing my husband’s worthless beater of a car . . . even better.

2.)  History Dinner Party:  Remember that game where you get to choose the 10 people you would want at a dinner party, and they could be alive or dead? A booth that could throw that dinner party, individualized for everyone who stops by, would be a booth folks would remember for a very long time.

1.)  One Word:  Kittens.

Feel free to click on the comments link and add your own guarantee techniques to increase booth traffic.

Consider it a double dog “zombies vs. unicorns” dare.  Thanks Christine! 😉

–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.

The Industry Gives Back: Word on the Street — Oct. 10th thru Oct. 14th

October 16th, 2011 4 COMMENTS
Randy Smith Memorial Golf Follow Up

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Randy Smith Memorial Golf Classic Follow Up

On Monday, October 10, hundreds of industry professionals gathered in Atlanta to honor those who are either going through medical hardships, lost their battles, or lost loved ones to sickness or accidents.

Like in past years, it proved to be a highly emotionally-charged event. And this year Classic Exhibits had one of their own honored, Mike Swartout, our Director of Design, who is currently battling stage 4 prostate cancer.

Mike, along with several others, were honored and ultimately helped financially through the funds raised before and during the event. And a lot of money was raised even during these uncertain economic times. The truly inspirational work that Rich Johnson, Jim Wurm, and Ted Peterson do on behalf of others never ceases to amaze me. Thanks again guys.

Mike Swartout at Randy Smith

Mike Swartout at Randy Smith

One of the highlights of the day-long event was when Mike spoke during the banquet. A perfect blend of comedy, reality, and emotion. He set the crowd at ease regarding his situation through his words. Mike has allowed me to post his speech, which I hope you will read.

Since my diagnosis, I’m continually amazed by the support I have received:  from medical teams, family, friends, co-workers, recently a stranger on the bus, and from many, such as yourselves, who do not even know me.

Thank you.

Unless you’ve been in similar shoes, and I suspect some of you have, my words can’t convey what it means to be able to draw on others strength during a “scary scary” at 2:30 am.

Huge thanks to Kevin Carty and Mel White at Classic Exhibits for their compassion and Kevin’s personal understanding of this cowardly disease.

Those of you who run a business and/or manage people know what happens when a critical employee is bouncing between their desk and appointments like a BB in a boxcar.

Somehow Kevin and Mel have managed to make it work. Heck, just recently I’ve been unable to drive and Mel picks me up at the train stop in the morning.

A little background . . . 28 months ago, I was being treated for suspicious back pain. 26 months ago, I made another appointment and was informed that my medical professional was no longer with the clinic. They assigned me someone new. Thank God.

August 4 — I remember that day clearly. It was an early morning appointment and before my wife Janet and I could get back home, we got a call from the Dr. It was a call to come back at three. At 3:40, I know because for some reason I was looking at the Doc’s watch, I was informed about this marker, that marker, and a PSA of 2640. A normal PSA is 1-5.

Angry, scared, and questioning, I went through a whirlwind of scary tests including a biopsy I wouldn’t wish on, if I had one, my worst enemy. Janet and I were confused and clueless. Not states we are used to.

Fortunately, I had support [there’s that word again]: friends, family, and co-workers who shored me up with hasty sandbags even though none of us knew for sure how high the proverbial flood water would rise.

That support bought me breathing room to remember a promise I’d made to myself. If I was ever to get sick, the going to the doctor can’t make you well kind of sick, I wouldn’t let the sickness go to waste.

As I stand here, this very moment, the insidious disease, cancer, is chewing away at my bones. But there are also some jacked up white blood cells having a say about that, thanks to cutting-edge research being done at the Providence Cancer Center in Portland. Those cells are working really hard at slowing the cancer bugs. Heck, why waste good cancer cells.

As I stand here, I hope someone who is scared beyond belief, just like me, has found my blog and the silly stories I tell. I hope it amuses them and takes some of the “scary scary” away. Why waste my scary scary.

Ladies, now you get to see your men squirm in their seats as I get on my soap box. Men get that digital exam, now. Digital means finger, index finger [told you they’d squirm]. It takes thirty seconds. If it takes longer than thirty seconds, consider getting a new doctor.

And, I don’t care what medical group or panel says about PSA tests. If you are of an age or have a family history with this disease, have the test. It is just a silly blood test. Armed with the results you can then make an informed and timely decision.

Lastly, I’m continually told I’m too young for this particular version of cancer. Whatever your age, prepare for your family.

Hopefully, these small things will support someone in the future. Selfishly for me, these small things provide a reason for having this unreasonable disease.

I hope and pray that nothing like this happens to you and yours. But I’m thankful knowing you are out there for those of us who do.

Thanks!  — Mike Swartout

One element that Mike did not really touch on, but that I want to mention is the experimental treatments Mike has been undergoing. These treatments are less about Mike and more about research for future patients. Some of the knowledge being gained through the trials will continue to be used on new patients, giving hope to many in the future. As a twelve-year survivor myself and someone who benefited from the trials of others, I can speak to the profound nature of what Mike is doing on behalf of those he does not even know. I was given a regimen at the time that was not even known two years prior, one that provided me a better opportunity of beating cancer.


Lastly, I always love this event for providing an opportunity to see and spend time with great friends in the industry. More than just work friends. Life friends.

For those of you who missed the event, please mark your calendar for next year. It really is the one event each year that truly makes you appreciate the quality of the people we all work with each day.

I hope you had a great weekend and coming work week.

Be well!

–Kevin Carty

When Trade Shows Don’t Make Sense

October 11th, 2011 7 COMMENTS

TradeshowI’m about to become a heretic. Get those $6 bottles of convention hall Aquafina and Dasani ready. It’s the closest thing we have to holy water.

Since the mid-90s when I fell into the trade show biz, I’ve been conditioned to believe that every organization benefits from a well-planned trade show marketing program. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Fortune 500 Goliath operating on seven continents or a three person non-profit in Elizabethtown, KY. Trade show marketing, when executed properly, is an efficient tool for finding new customers, spreading a message, introducing new products, and solidifying a campaign. And even as virtual trade shows have gotten more chatter, those of us “in the know” know that Face-to-Face Marketing trumps Face-to-Space (as we call virtual trade shows) every time.

To be honest, I need to take off the blinders. Trade shows do not make sense for every business. It may not fit their business model or growth plans. Or, they may not have the internal capacity or skill to plan and execute a strategy. For these folks, participating as an exhibitor would be a waste of time, money, and resources. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t attend trade shows. For some companies, attending rather than participating makes far more sense.

So, let’s take a moment to explore this idea and determine when trade shows, as an exhibitor, does not make sense.

1. Capacity: If you are one of those fortunate organizations that has more business than you can handle, then priming the pump at a trade show would only exacerbate the problem. You need solutions on how to handle existing business, and there are any number of shows for that.

2. Growth Restrictions: Some companies, and some non-profits, simply do not want to grow or are unable to expand for financial or personnel reasons. They don’t foresee their organization getting any larger (or any smaller). Many private practice physicians fall into this category.

3. Skills: Trade show marketing takes time and talent as well as money. Buying a display is not a plan any more than buying a car is a drivers license. Too many companies participate in trade shows without a plan and then wonder why the show wasn’t more successful. Frankly, there are very few unsuccessful shows, but there are lots of unsuccessful exhibitors. If you don’t have the time or the talent to be an exhibitor, then walk the show as an attendee or hire an exhibit house to coach you.

4. Cost:  Trade shows can be expensive, if you know what you are doing. They can be insanely expensive if you don’t. Done right (are you beginning to see a theme?), you’ll more than recoup your investment every time. Done wrong . . . at best, you’ll waste money . . . at worse, you’ll damage your organization’s reputation. If you can’t afford to look presentable, then don’t participate. It’s like showing up at a wedding in cutoff jeans, flip-flops, and a muscle shirt. It’s inappropriate and you’ll look like a duffus.

Duffus Family Crest

5. People: Who you send to represent your organization matters. Some exhibit personnel are lazy or confused. They’re there because the show is in Orlando and Mickey Mouse beckons. When attendees can track them down, they yawn, pick their nails, and scratch. Others have social skills that would make a third-world dictator proud. Still others know just enough to be dangerous. What they share could sink the company because of their lack of knowledge or their discontent with management, co-workers, or the selection in the company vending machines.

6. Management: If senior management doesn’t “get it” and only “tolerates it,” then don’t waste your time. Trade shows demand the attention and the support of senior management. While they may not be able to attend smaller shows, they should always be at the major industry shows — in the booth and greeting clients. A management team that never works the booth doesn’t understand the value of face-to-face marketing.

7. Bad Fit:  Some businesses, non-profits, or government agencies are simply a bad fit for any trade show: local gas stations, state prisons, para-military hate groups, illegal drug dealers, pimps, etc. I’m sure there are lots more, but it hurts my head to think about it.

It’s important to remember that trade shows come in many shapes and sizes. There are the biggies, like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), medium ones like the National Electrical Contractors Association, and local ones like Home and Garden and Chamber of Commerce shows.

Every year, there are thousands of trade shows. Choosing the right one(s) can be challenging without the guidance of someone who’s been there and who knows the “ins and outs” of trade shows. That’s where a trade show consultant comes in handy. They can advise you of the right shows, the best exhibit design, and how to market yourself. In the world of trade shows, the expression “penny wise and pound foolish” is the mantra of many exhibitors. Don’t make that mistake. If you choose to be an exhibitor, seek the advice of professionals and plan, plan, plan.

–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.