Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for May 3rd, 2012

In the “Old Days” . . . .

May 3rd, 2012 4 COMMENTS
Shooting from the Hip (trade show tips)

Shooting from the Hip by Reid Sherwood

It was Better Back When (Except When It Wasn’t)

The trade show market seems to be back, maybe not with a vengeance, but certainly with a nice steady fire. (Yes I know all the fire comments are coming — but hey, I asked for it.) Classic Distributors haven’t complained recently about business, but they have all said, “It’s good, but still not like the old days.”

The “Old Days” are a little of what I would like to talk about here. Please feel free to add to my jaded perception.

In the “Old Days” . . . We had the Luxury of TIME

When I took my first order ever in this industry (circa 1987) from Mary Ann Kenkle at what was then Omni-Craft in South Bend Indiana, she ordered a very simple 6 ft. tabletop with a backlit, silk-screened header. We required six weeks production and needed to have a hard PMT of their artwork. PMT is photomechanical transfer. It typically came in the mail. Today, we have exhibits that look custom, are often available in “8 Days or Less,” and expect that Optima will ship us the fabric graphic in 48 hours.

In the “Old Days” . . . We had CUSTOMER LOYALTY

RFP’s were sent to three companies, and the incumbent was truly a partner. I had a conversation with a good friend and distributor a few weeks back about the fact that there are lots of opportunities out there, but not all are worth chasing. As we continued the conversation, he told me about a RFP that he received that included his company and 13 others. If they are looking at 14 companies, then the buyer really has no idea what the final goal is. Customer LOYALTY is a partnership.

Good Times?


If you have a computer with Microsoft Paint, then you are a graphic designer, or if you have Google SketchUp, then you are an exhibit designer. I have often heard Mike Swartout, the Design Director at Classic Exhibits, say, “Ya know, that really isn’t a bad design, but they forgot to allow for one critical element…..GRAVITY.”

Sometimes the design can be so complex with curves, layers, great backlit images, and with every bell and whistle that you would find on a Rolls Royce. Other times, a simple Sacagawea 10 ft. exhibit with a nicely done fabric graphic and easy assembly is just the ticket. The difference is in the thought that went into creating the solution. Not how many buttons can you click on your computer and make a pretty picture.

I am sure there are many more, but these are the things that I hear about most often. Please feel free to add on whether they are sarcastic or serious. We welcome all comments (as long as they are safe for grandma’s ears).

Till the next time,

Reid Sherwood