Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for July, 2012

Town Call Review: Word on the Street — July 23rd thru July 27th

July 29th, 2012 2 COMMENTS
Town Call Meeting

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Classic’s Town Call

With July almost past, I am beginning to question where summer has gone. In Oregon, it doesn’t begin until July 5. I’ve heard Mel’s wife refer to June in the Pacific Northwest as “Junuary.” Very true, particularly this year.

Well, with August around the corner, we are already in full blown busy mode. Lots and lots of designing and quoting for fall shows. Thank you very much for the new opportunities both large and small, kits and custom. From what we’ve seen, some amazing work lies ahead in the coming months.

Our sincere thanks to those distributors who attended our first Classic Town Call on Thursday. We had a very good crowd and plenty of questions. As with any new initiative, we were a little nervous, but based on your feedback, we are excited to continue this format following the end of each quarter. With each one, we’ll refine the presentation and the message.

For those who missed the call, here is a link on YouTube to the recording of the call.

Those who joined us heard about the market trends we’ve seen in the first six months of 2012,  such as:

  • Retail. More Retail Display projects, both prototypes and production runs
  • Custom. More and more true “Custom Elements” whether as standalone projects or as components of kits both inline and islands
  • Silicone Edge Graphics. SEG is not only here to stay, but it’s also becoming a “standard.” Classic is bending as many TSP profiles for SEG graphics as possible, much to the chagrin of our Production crew 🙂
  • Personnel. New Additions to the Classic Family of Employees to handle your sales growth
  • Research and Development. New Products coming such as more iPad Kiosks, and many new products that were added in the first half of the year
  • Rentals. Custom Rentals have not slowed as Purchase sales have increased. Rentals are up 20% YTD, on top of the increases over the past four years. Lots of hybrid island rentals
  • ClassicMODUL. We’re opening another regional depot in the next 45 days and if you haven’t checked the prices lately at CM . . . you should. They’ve gone down on many common profiles.

Well, I hope you take a few minutes to check out the Town Call recording and please let us know what you think. How can we make this quarterly Town Hall meeting with you even better in the future. We  want your thoughts and your constructive criticism.

For now, I am back to painting my house. Some idiot (ME) thought that this could be done in two days. Which makes sense if each day was 64 hours long.

Be well and have a great week ahead.

–Kevin Carty




Delight and Surprise: Word on the Street — July 16th thru July 20th

July 22nd, 2012 COMMENTS
Delight and Surprise

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Over Promise and Under Deliver

We all know the danger of “over-promising and under delivering.” In business, there are few errors that can be more damaging, particularly when trying to attract new customers or launching a new product to existing customers. Then there’s the flip side of “under promising and over delivering” which has its own risks.

Over hyping a program or product can kill it if the deliverables don’t match the pre-hype. That’s not to say that promoting a new product or service is not critical. It clearly is! But at a minimum, there needs to be as  much effort in the “frosting,” i.e., the experience of receiving the product or service. I would argue that the “end experience” is the most critical experience.

Let’s look at something near and dear to me — Apple. I’ll admit it. I’ve drunk the Kool-aid and have been an Apple Fan Club member since May 2010. For years I fought it, accusing Apple of being just a marketing machine. Nothing more. Something the “cool kids” had to have to be “ccol” for those who bought into the Apple hype.

I Took the Bait

When i received my Macbook Pro in the mail, I took it home, opened it, and begin the set-up process. That’s where the “delight and surprise” began. Mind you, I already was a “win” for the Apple marketing machine. I bought the laptop. Victory for them right? Yes and No, but I would argue Not Yet. The “Yes” came next.

When I tore the packing tape off the plain brown corrugated shipping box and peered inside, the packaging was amazing. Well thought out, clean, everything had a place and was in its place. It was COOL. But again, the victory, while building, was not quite complete.

After removing the Macbook Pro from the box, the real victory materialized. I plugged in my shinny new laptop via a magnetic plug. What a great concept, especially for someone with two five year olds racing around who trip over things like cords. The cord wouldn’t get damaged (or do any damage to a five year old). Genius.

Them I hit the power button. Being a PC user for the prior 16 years, I was prepared for an agonizing 4-6 hours of set up and install. But something very strange happened. My Macbook Pro began to set itself up — literally! It was the definition of “intuitive.” By the time I was done, I looked at the clock and realized that it had only taken (1) hour from start to finish, migration time for email included

Back to my point. Here was a marketing machine that not only exceeded expectations, but “Surprised and Delighted” this new user!

There are millions of great products and services. We all yearn to design, sell, or own them. But, and this is the important “but,” there are far fewer with great user experiences. For example, who wants to buy a beautiful 20 x 30 island like the one featured in Design Monday this week and then receive a box of metal with some unintelligible set-up instructions. Nothing will spoil the buying process more. After all, your client just spent thousands of dollars on the booth space, the exhibit, and all the show services. They expect a perfect exhibit and a positive exhibit experience, as they should. But we need to surprise them as well and leave a lasting impression. At Classic, we hope we do just that, which is why we are always asking you in phone calls, in Customer Feedback emails, and in this blog, “Was your customer ‘Surprised and Delighted?'”

How do you accomplish that in your business? How do you make the “End Experience” as delightful as everything that precedes it? What’s the “frosting” that turns a mere cake into a party? Please share your secret with the other Classic Exhibits community.

STARTING TODAY, let’s change the tired “Over Promise, Under Promise” cliches into something more meaningful — “Make a Promise and Over Deliver!” True, it’s not as catchy, but it’s a real goal with real outcomes.

Be well!

–Kevin Carty


Be a Student of the People Around You

July 19th, 2012 COMMENTS

Lessons Learn by Jen LaBruzza

Lesson #1 — Listen

I’m the new kid at Classic Exhibits, which means I’ve been welcomed and gawked at, and then placed in situations where I feel instantly stupid. That’s what happens when you’re the new kid. No one’s been mean, except for Mel, but I’ve know him for over ten years so I expect it. Fortunately, as former teacher by profession, I am student at heart, whether I’m working with rambunctious 3rd graders or a cranky 42 year old.

Here’s what we all know but tend to forget as we age. One of the biggest components of being a student is listening. If I’m not listening, I’m not learning. On the flip side of that, if I don’t feel like I’m being heard, I’m not listening either.

So what does this have to do with trade shows? If we aren’t listening to our clients, we are probably on the 3rd maybe even the 4th design revision with no end in sight. We’ve made assumptions, or we half heard or half asked. When we listen to our clients, we extract those important details like the ever elusive budget. Let’s be honest. Everyone’s favorite topic is themselves. When we give people a chance to talk and we actually listen, then design, quality, and expectations have a better chance of being met. When the client feels heard, they listen to us and trust us. Let me repeat that . . . when the client feels heard, they listen to us and trust us. That trust serves as the foundation for further conversations and a solid, smart, and successful solution.

As Your Student

So, for me, as I embark on this journey at Classic Exhibits with you, I want to be your student. I will listen and we will learn from each other — Whether it’s a “Can you do this?” or a “Hey, I don’t like it when you do this!” I’m excited that I get to work with Classic Exhibits and learn from you, the distributors that I’ve heard so many positives things about.

If we haven’t had the opportunity to talk yet, I’m working on it. Listening takes time you know. In the meantime, you can always send an email to I’m looking forward to getting some face time with you in the fall as I head out on the road like Reid. Also, don’t forget that fall term for SKU (Shared Knowledge University) is September 24-25.  Send us an email if you would like to join us.

Class dismissed!

Jen LaBruzza, Western Regional Manager

Classic’s Town Call Meeting

July 18th, 2012 COMMENTS

Please Join Us and Voice Your Opinion

Join us on Thursday, July 26 at 10 am PST / 1 pm EST for an old fashion Town Hall Meeting. Kevin, Mel, Jim, and Reid will report on changes at Classic, industry trends, and product updates. You’ll hear what’s new and what to expect this fall.

Whatever questions you have, we’ll be there to answer them. This is your chance to voice your concerns or find answers to life’s most pressing issues. Well kinda. Click on the image below to register:

–Mel White


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions and engineered aluminum extrusions (ClassicMODUL). 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.

What’s Your Brand?: Word on the Street — July 9th thru July 13th

July 16th, 2012 COMMENTS
What's your Brand?: Word on the Street -- July 9th thru July 13th

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Feeling Inspired

I’m back from the inaugural E2MA Association / The Red Diamond Congress in Chicago. And, despite my initial misgivings, I am inspired.

Let me back up a little and explain. On Monday, I was in Chicago for the EDPA Board Meeting (Exhibit Designers and Producers Association). Like all EDPA Board meetings, it was productive — planning, industry discussion, and talks related to the growth and betterment of EDPA and the industry as whole. For anyone considering attending ACCESS 2012 in Palm Springs, it’s primed to be a stellar networking and educational event.

Tuesday through Thursday, I attended the 2012 Red Diamond Congress, an event associated with the former TSEA. It’s now an event organized and hosted by the newly formed E2MA (Exhibit and Event Marketers Association), an association with members from the former TSEA and EACA.

In quick summary, kudos to Jim Wurm and his team for putting on a thought-provoking three days of discussion related to the future of the new E2MA. My compliments to the educational seminars taught or hosted by Marlys Arnold, Justin Hersh, Tony Earping and Gary Slack (The Keynote) to name a few.

What I appreciated the most was the sense that Jim and his group used this time to truly gain a historical perspective from the two old associations and work to set forth a clear direction for the new E2MA. It’s not often that someone takes such a bold and transparent approach. It’s clear from what I saw that it will be inclusive, with a strong exhibitor and education focus, in addition to participation by show organizers, labor, general contractors, and suppliers.

You may be wondering, “Is that truly possible?” I’m optimistic. I left with a real sense that the association (and yet to be named board) will be digesting everything that was said during those three days and using it to chart a positive future for E2MA and our industry.

As with any meeting or show, I not only learn from the speakers, but also from industry colleagues. This week was no different. I would like to share an exchange I had that really stuck with me.

Seth Godin

During one of the morning sessions on Tuesday, I was sitting with Chris Griffin from Tradeshow Supply, someone I’ve know for many years. He’s a colleague, a distributor, and a friend. The Keynote Speaker, Gary Slack, was discussing the “Brand” for the new association. In that conversation, Gary referred to Seth Godin. I do not know a lot about Seth, except his name and his reputation, but Chris follows his daily blog and reads his books. According to Chris, Seth’s take on “Brand” is . . . loosely, “Your brand is not your logo or your tagline. It IS a set of expectations.” Take a moment and think about that.

I hesitate to say this, so please understand that this comes from a truly modest place, but the definition above really speaks to what we have striven for at Classic Exhibits regarding our “Brand.” Our Brand is not our logo or our tagline; it’s the service and the products you have come to expect from us.

Now, we are not Nordstrom or Apple. Their “Brands” speak to that very definition. And while their logos are instantly recognizable, it’s their product and services that really speak to what they represent to customers.

Make sure to subscribe to Seth’s blog. It’s daily and not time intensive. You won’t regret it:

The week left me with lots to think about and share in upcoming blogs. This week’s post would be four times as long if I shared everything.

Hope you all had a great week and an even better one to come.

Be well!

–Kevin Carty