Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for April, 2012

SKU…What a Pisser: Word on the Street — April 23rd thru April 27th

April 29th, 2012 COMMENTS
Classic Exhibits SKU--Shared Knowledge University

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

What a Pisser

If you attended Shared Knowledge University, you know what I am talking about. 🙂

This past week, we held Shared Knowledge University (SKU) training at Classic Exhibits. Based on the early feedback, I think it was a successful event. We had 24 enthusiastic distributors from as far east as Albany, New York, as far south as New Orleans, and as close as Las Vegas and Orange County.

The two day training was conducted at the Classic Exhibits facility and a nearby Courtyard by Marriott. We started each morning with the classroom portion at the Marriott. Then after lunch, we headed over to Classic for hands-on product training where the attendees toured the shop, learned about the rental program, and then spent about three hours each day disassembling products as well as learning about how, why, and when each product was brought to market.

Don't Ask!

Don't Ask!

For a training session to be successful, everything has to come together just right. Here are two elements from SKU that seemed to shine.

Engaged Attendees. Our compliments to the attendees. All 24 came ready to learn. As the trainers, we can’t express how much we appreciate that. Thanks for asking good questions, participating in every session, and for giving us your full attention for two days — even after a late night in the Boiler Room on Monday. You made it easy. Mostly, we appreciate how you embraced the “shared knowledge” theme by sharing your experiences during the sessions and the social events. Your coaching added so much, particularly for the those distributors new to Classic and/or the industry. Thank you!

Content is KING. Whether it is a Distributor Open House or a manufacturer’s training program, content is the glue. For that content, we have many to thank. Mel, first and foremost, pulled together the Master Plan and served as the Master of Ceremonies in the classroom. I know I speak for Mel when I say how proud we are of our staff and their participation in the training. In particular, Mike Swartout (Design Director), Wade West (PM), Charlie Shivel (PM) and Jeff Garrett (Setup PM). We were impressed by their sessions, the content they shared, and their presentations. Last, but certainly not least, our thanks to Dave Brown from Optima Graphics and Eric Albery from Eco-Systems Sustainable Exhibits. They not only agreed to fly to Portland for the training, but also conducted engaging and educational sessions as well.

I thought I’d share a few post-SKU comments from the attendees:

“The flow of the training was just-right, with a sensible progression from overview, to key people, processes, and products. And as much as I thought I had figured-out EDS from my own exploration, the EDS training took me that last bit of the way to understanding its great value as a sales tool.”

“The visit to Classic Exhibits proved very informative and I thought being able to see how your facility operates as well as being able to see the actual properties in person helped us get a better understanding of how the process works. Another added bonus was being able to have some hands on experience with tearing down some of the pop ups so we could have a better understanding when those questions come in from our clients we will be able to answer to them.”

“I talked to many of the attendees towards the end of Day 2 and all of them had great things to say about the presentations, the products, the knowledge, and the organized agenda. You guys did an amazing job putting this together!”

We will be holding another SKU event in mid-September. If you are interested in attending the next SKU training, please let Reid Sherwood or me know. Attendance will be limited to 25.

Two last things for the attendees: DO NOT FORGET THE OREGON PLEDGE! And . . . if the most memorable part of your time in Portland was the porcelain art at Bridgeport, then we succeeded as hosts.

Be well and have a great weekend.

–Kevin Carty

p.s. As a reminder, through May 31 your customer will receive a free copy of the book Build a Better Trade Show Image by Marlys Arnold on any hybrid display purchase. For a sneak peek, here’s a 45 page sample of the ebook. Also, take a minute to checkout the current specials in Exhibit Design Search in the Exhibit Specials gallery — 10 ft., 20 ft., and island designs.

From “8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses”

April 27th, 2012 1 COMMENT

Extraordinary or Just Extra Ordinary?

I thought I’d share a great article in in case you didn’t see it. Be sure to read the comments for differing opinions. Steve Jobs from Apple — an extraordinary boss or just “a bully with a vision”?

According to Geoffrey James in, “The best managers have a fundamentally different understanding of workplace, company, and team dynamics.” Mr. James writes, “A few years back, I interviewed some of the most successful CEOs in the world in order to discover their management secrets. I learned that the “best of the best” tend to share the following eight core beliefs.”

1. Business is an ecosystem, not a battlefield.

Average bosses see business as a conflict between companies, departments and groups. They build huge armies of “troops” to order about, demonize competitors as “enemies,” and treat customers as “territory” to be conquered.

Extraordinary bosses see business as a symbiosis where the most diverse firm is most likely to survive and thrive. They naturally create teams that adapt easily to new markets and can quickly form partnerships with other companies, customers … and even competitors.

2. A company is a community, not a machine.

Average bosses consider their company to be a machine with employees as cogs. They create rigid structures with rigid rules and then try to maintain control by “pulling levers” and “steering the ship.”

Extraordinary bosses see their company as a collection of individual hopes and dreams, all connected to a higher purpose. They inspire employees to dedicate themselves to the success of their peers and therefore to the community–and company–at large.

3. Management is service, not control.

Average bosses want employees to do exactly what they’re told. They’re hyper-aware of anything that smacks of insubordination and create environments where individual initiative is squelched by the “wait and see what the boss says” mentality.

Extraordinary bosses set a general direction and then commit themselves to obtaining the resources that their employees need to get the job done. They push decision making downward, allowing teams form their own rules and intervening only in emergencies.

4. My employees are my peers, not my children.

Average bosses see employees as inferior, immature beings who simply can’t be trusted if not overseen by a patriarchal management. Employees take their cues from this attitude, expend energy on looking busy and covering their behinds.

Extraordinary bosses treat every employee as if he or she were the most important person in the firm. Excellence is expected everywhere, from the loading dock to the boardroom. As a result, employees at all levels take charge of their own destinies.

[continue for the final “4 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses”]

–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 or

Shared Knowledge University (SKU): Word on the Street — April 16th thru April 20th

April 22nd, 2012 COMMENTS
Classic Exhibits SKU--Shared Knowledge University

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Class is in Session

For seven years, we have been committed to “Shared Success.” The concept is simple: What can we do to make our distributors better and to help them be more successful. Their success, in turn, makes us more successful. It requires listening, sharing, and implementing ideas to serve them and their customers.

For the past four years, we’ve talked about “Shared Knowledge.” Shared Knowledge is our commitment to make as much information as possible available to our distributors via our website, our design database, and our past order database. This IP has proven to be invaluable to selling Classic exhibits to your clients. For example, many of the kits on Exhibit Design Search include links to the set-up instructions, graphic dim sheets, and photos of those kits (and variations of those kits).

Shared Knowledge University (SKU)

Now we are embarking on the next phase of this program: SKU — Shared Knowledge University. SKU is a comprehensive group training program at the Classic Exhibits facility in Portland Oregon, the first one will be held Monday and Tuesday, April 23rd and 24th.

Product training is not new to us. We average about one training session every three weeks, but those trainings have been small one-on-one sessions with a distributor and/or their sales team.

Shared Knowledge UniversitySKU is much the same, but also different. There will be 24 people from 10 companies for a group training schedule. The training promises to be comprehensive and intensive over two full days. It will include all the Classic Exhibits lines, as well as ClassicMODUL Aluminum Extrusion, Classic Rentals, Eco-Systems Sustainable Exhibits (by Eric Albery) and Optima Graphics (by David Brown).

The Eco-systems and Optima sessions will focus on their products and services and highlight how their companies partner with Classic Exhibits.

To say we are “excited” for Monday and Tuesday is to minimize how we are approaching these two days. Mel and I see it as our next step in supporting Shared Success.

For those attending, we look forward to seeing you and to having some good “off hours” fun as well. We are excited to show you what Portland offers during our dinner excursions.

For the rest of you, I will report back on the training and hope you will partake in this new program. We plan to make SKU a regular event three times a year. We will announce the next session soon, most likely in September.

On another note.  Business continues to be positive. We thank you for your business and hope you are experiencing the same success.

Have a great weekend!

–Kevin Carty

What Sasquatch Can Teach Us about Trade Show Marketing

April 13th, 2012 8 COMMENTS

Trade Show Tips from Bigfoot

Bigfoot Action Figure — Smart Marketing!

Sasquatch is no seven-foot dummy. He (she) has a brain to match that brawn. Bigfoot understands marketing, knows PR like a Madison Avenue insider, and can out Kardashian the Kardashians without taking a step outside the Pacific Northwest. Here’s what our “ancestral brother from another mother” can teach us about trade show marketing.

1. It’s Possible to be BIG and Still Not be Seen. All too often, exhibitors are told that an island exhibit will get them more leads, more traffic, and more attention. But a poorly executed island with bland graphics and a confusing floor plan is much worse than a well-designed inline.

2. Mystery has Its Allure. Bigfoot knows the benefits of the tease. Revealing teaser information before the show about a new product or service creates anticipation from customers and the press. Apple is the master of this technique. So is Bigfoot. Being coy with a well-crafted marketing campaign before the show has its benefits.

3. Tap into Your Followers. You won’t see Sasquatch sending press releases or  typing a Twitter message. His followers do all the work. They have websites, Facebook pages, and a television show that keeps our big hairy friend in the news. Occasionally, a rogue “fan” will damage the Bigfoot brand name with a silly stunt, but that’s an acceptable risk with any loosely organized group. Even then, the real followers rally around the brand and repair any damage.

4. Spend Your Marketing Money Wisely. Technically, Bigfoot doesn’t spend any money, at least that we know. But that doesn’t prevent him from getting maximum exposure. He’s got a TV show (Finding Bigfoot) and a website ( Your trade show marketing doesn’t have to be expensive. Planning is crucial. You can maximize your marketing by working with those who have a shared interest. For example, team up with other exhibitors on a prize that would be too expensive for one company, but not for five or six. Then create a theme or event that gives everyone more foot-traffic and exposure.

5. Training. After all these years why hasn’t a Sasquatch been captured? Training. There are no unprepared Bigfoots. They know how to respond to nearly every situation, whether it’s a sudden encounter with Boy Scouts or a deer hunter. Exhibitors who “arrive” at their booth without adequate training and who do not know how to respond to most show floor situations will fail. Unfortunately, it’s the most controllable part of any trade show marketing program . . . and most exhibitors simply “wing it.”

Bigfoot and Tradeshow Marketing

Not All PR is Good

6. Leave Your Mark. What’s the point of participating in a trade show if you don’t leave your mark? Bigfoot routinely leaves the big three: foot prints, hair, and scat. It shows he’s been there and people take notice. No one is advising you to leave the “big three” at your next show, but making a lasting impression is critical to your company’s success. Is your message clear? Does it show how your company can solve a potential client’s problem? How do you engage the attendees in the booth? And, finally, are you following up on all leads after the show?

7. Smells that Linger. Bigfoot sightings often include a description of an unpleasant acrid or skunky odor. That’s not good, but no one expects our tall friend to bathe with Irish Spring. You, on the other hand, should do the following:

  • Clean that suit, sport coat, or jacket once in awhile. Just because it doesn’t look dirty doesn’t mean it doesn’t reek of B.O., Subway $5 foot-longs, and Vegas casinos.
  • Coffee Breath. No one’s telling you not to have a latte, cappuccino, or Dunkin’ in the morning. Drink away. But for goodness sake, don’t assume that your breath will smell like rose petals after five cups. Free Tip:  Breath mints are every exhibitor’s best friend. Take several. Rinse and repeat.
  • Perfume and Cologne. We aren’t living in 17th Century France where the aristocracy used fragrances to mask bad hygiene and a fear of bathing. If you insist on smelling like Jennifer (A or L), Antonio, Beyonce, Britney, or Paris, a little goes a long, long way.

8. Family. How often do you hear of Bigfoot sightings where the dad, mom, and kids are strolling through the woods or frolicking in a stream? Never. Being Bigfoot is serious work and families can be a distraction. No one is telling you not to bring your family to the industry trade show. After all, it’s in Las Vegas or Orlando or San Francisco. If you are serious about maximizing your trade show investment, you already know that trade shows are not a vacation. Not only are you on your feet at the show all day, but there’s also meetings before and after the show with suppliers, clients, and coworkers. There’s the pressure of responding to emails and calls while away from the office. And nearly every show has non-stop educational and social events.

9. The Brand is Important. You already know this, but occasionally, marketing managers think they can treat branding at a trade show the same as branding in a magazine ad. 3D marketing has a unique set of challenges which only advice or experience can teach you. Rely on your local trade show professional to guide you. You’ll save money, time, and headaches. There’s a reason the Lock Ness Monster is no longer in the news. Poor branding. That’s not a mistake Sasquatch ever plans to make.

Learn from the big guy and you too can maximize your trade show marketing potential.

Please share your comments.

–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 or

Why Small Businesses Fail to Grow

April 11th, 2012 COMMENTS

Excerpt from the “Art of Running a Small Business”

Many, if not most, Classic Exhibits distributors fall into the small business classification as defined by the Small Business Administration. Small businesses have challenges that larger businesses do not. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen a Fortune 500 executive waltz into a small display company, sometimes as an investment or a “retirement” job, only to stumble badly. They simply did not understand how to manage and grow a small business.

During the recession, you undoubtedly worked very hard to maintain your business. Now, with the economy improving, I thought I’d share an article from The New York Times, written by Jay Goltz. It’s a quick read and a sobering reminder of the “10 Reasons Small Businesses Fail to Grow.” Enjoy and let me know if you agree.

“There are many reasons some small companies grow and others hit a wall. There are external factors like market size, competition and demand. But there are also internal factors that have to do with operations and leadership. In every industry, there are companies that grow and dominate, while others stagnate or shrink and ultimately fail. Here are what I believe to be the 10 factors that separate the two:

1. Complacency. An important aspect of corporate culture, a popular topic these days, is how driven the company is. A small company is usually a reflection of the owner’s needs, desires and personality. Some owners want to take over the world, and some are happy making a living. Still others just want to golf as much as possible. There’s nothing wrong with that — unless you work there and want to grow with the company.

2. The right people. You cannot build a company without the right people. This requires both a great hiring protocol and the stomach to make the changes that become necessary as the company grows. This is easier said than done — especially when it turns out that people who were “right” at the beginning are no longer “right” in their roles as the company grows. The ability to manage these issues might be something of a gift, although it’s also nice to have some luck. But it mostly takes dedication to the process.

3. Lack of standards and controls. This covers a lot of territory, including quality, service and problem resolution. Whether a company enjoys a 97 percent customer satisfaction rate or a 93 percent rate will have a significant impact on the size of a company over the long run. It’s not enough to have high standards without implementing the control systems that assure those standards are met. Without the controls, you will have good intentions accompanied by bad results.” [continue]

–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 or