Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for August, 2014

Who’s Derek Nollman at Classic Rental Solutions?

August 29th, 2014 COMMENTS

Doesn’t He Look Friendly?

Introducing Derek Nollman

Derek has joined the Classic Rental Solutions team and is working directly with me (Jim Shelman) in rental sales. Derek’s still a young guy, but has over 20 years of experience in the trade show industry, mostly on the contractor service side, but also in show management where he sold booth space for one of the larger Portland shows.

Derek’s past experience (including many years with GES and some time with Freeman) offers a valuable new perspective while working with our distributor network on rental projects. First, he speaks our “industry” language, plus he has a full understanding of what exhibitors experience on the show floor. From freight, carpet, and furniture rentals, rigging, and I & D, you name it, Derek has been involved with it. Derek says “I always enjoyed the challenge of figuring things out for exhibitors and assisting them as they were experiencing one of the most stressful things they do, namely exhibiting in trade shows.” He’s a relatively quiet guy, but he’s always thinking of solutions and the best way to approach challenges.

Derek has already dived aggressively into the Rental Solutions galleries in Exhibit Design Search where he’s made hundreds of changes and additions. If you haven’t perused the Rental Solutions galleries lately, I encourage you to do so. So many new designs, accessories, and convenient graphic templates and dimensions. Nearly everything you need for a rental is now online.

This is a very exciting time for Classic Rental Solutions, as we’re growing at an amazing rate and introducing new programs such as Rental Rewards. The timing couldn’t have been better to add Derek to the team. We’re committed to beefing up our sales support in line with our significant growth.

If you haven’t already worked with Derek on a rental project, it won’t be long before you do. I have no doubt that you’ll be happy with his customer service. But I think you’ll really appreciate the extra effort he makes to help you find the right rental solutions for your customers.

I have included a few photos of recent rental projects.

Jim Shelman
General Manger of Exhibits Northwest Portland & Classic Rental Solutions


197 Miles of Painful Bliss! The Hood to Coast Relay

August 27th, 2014 4 COMMENTS

Photo Aug 22, 3 41 40 PM (1)Chief Wacko

On August 22, 2014 @ 3:30 a.m. 12 whackos and 2 dedicated drivers woke up to take on a challenge, one that they called FUN. I am one of those whackos — the Chief Whacko if you will.

The event is called Hood to Coast, aka …The Mother of All Relays. It’s an event in which 12 people with two support drivers and two vans run 197 miles from about 6000 feet on Mt. Hood to the beautiful Oregon Coast, Seaside, Oregon to be specific.

I have done this run before. This was actually my 13th year, but this year was truly different. Why? Because this year we ran for a purpose and with a purpose. Not just to finish but to help put a finish to cancer.

The Providence Cancer Research Center

This year our team, The Classic Exhibitionists, ran to raise money for The Providence Cancer Center, a leading research center in America. The Cancer Center focuses on the development of immunotherapy for cancer patients. Immunotherapy works in conjunction with traditional chemo and radiation therapies and has altered how cancer is being treated when compared to the treatment I received 14 years ago.

But this years’ Hood to Coast was way more personal for me and many others on the team. We also were running for and in honor of many family and friends — friend and family of ours and YOURS. Because of your generous donations and your trust and honor, we ran with the names of many of your loved ones on our t-shirts. As one teammate said during the event, “Yeah I am tired and I feel like crap, but I just look at that shirt and those names and I recharged.”

Photo Aug 23, 3 18 46 PMFor the Classic employees on the team, one name stood out on the shirts, Mike Swartout, our Design Director. Two of the game-changing therapies brought to market from Providence were as a direct result of the trials that Mike participated in as a patient at Providence Cancer Center. Mike is thankfully still with us four years after his diagnosis when he was told that he had only months to live because of his advanced stage 4 prostate cancer. Many patients now getting diagnosed are reaping the benefits of the work done in those trials that Mike volunteered for.

So we RAN. Nearly 32 hours later, we reached the beach and the beautiful Pacific Ocean. Along the way, we had nothing but fun. Van life is something you have to experience to really understand — the banter, the lack of sleep, and the SMELL! It was all great.  🙂

To our team, I am proud of you all. For several of you, this was the first of many Hood to Coast adventures. For others, this was yet another great year of which there will be more to come. For me, this one was THE BEST EVER. I had the great fortune of spending time with co-workers/friends, lifelong friends of mine, and family members such as my sister-in-law. But more than anything, this was my first first Hood to Coast that had purpose beyond a good time.

To Our Donors

I can’t put to words how truly blessed and honored we were to run with your names and the names of your loved ones on our backs and in our hearts. It truly was the fuel that powered this runner. So thanks so much once again. We raised over $13,000! Something, as the team captain, I am truly proud of achieving. And something that would not have happened without your support. THANK YOU!

Take a few minutes to review the photos. You can get a picture what it was like for us. You can see that while there was pain, the fun clearly outweighed it.

Be well.


You Can’t Fix Stupid — Material Handling

August 20th, 2014 1 COMMENT
Special Handling Charges? Really!

Special Handling Charges? Really!

Rising Drayage and Material Handling Costs

If you are a fan of the comedian Ron White, you know his signature line, “You Can’t Fix Stupid.” I was reminded of this line three weeks ago while attending a material handling session by Amanda Helgemoe from NuVista and Sue Huff from Medtronic at the Red Diamond Congress in Chicago. The presentation was based on a 2013 study endorsed by the Exhibit and Event Marketers Association (E2MA) Advocacy Committee.

In short, it’s disturbing.

The presentation consists of 50 informative slides, mostly case studies between 1996 and 2007, and an analysis of rising, comparative costs. I won’t summarize the full presentation because:  a) the summary would be longer than the study, and b) You’re not stupid. You can read it and draw your own conclusions. That said . . . I strongly encourage you to devote 20-30 minutes to reviewing it. Secondly, you need to share your concerns, opinions, and solutions with industry associations and show management.

Finally, if you work directly with exhibitors regularly, you need to encourage them to speak to the associations sponsoring the trade shows. I believe, and I’m going to be a little naive here, that they don’t fully understand the ramifications of their no-cost contracts with the General Show Contractors or Show Management. Costs are rising, in particular drayage, at a rate that’s unsustainable to our industry. Whatever your political bent, the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the foundational middle is crumbling in the trade show industry. This tainted concentration of power is doing what power always does – corrupts.


Some Highlights:

  1. Exhibitors are downsizing or cancelling programs, not because face-to-face marketing is ineffective, but because rising costs are squeezing their exhibit budgets.
  2. Exhibitors DO NOT KNOW 30% of their final costs headed into a show. No other marketing medium has the same cost uncertainty/surprises.
  3. Don’t blame labor. I&D costs have increased, but those costs pale in comparison to exclusive services such as material handling.
  4. At one show material handling increased 307% between 1997 and 2009. And there were two recessions during this time.
  5. Show Organizers are not doing their homework. There is often a wide variance in costs between similar shows in the same city within 6 months.
  6. Here’s how crazy it’s gotten (example): Drayage: $116.70/cwt, One crate = 1100 lbs., Drayage cost = $1,283.70, Associated GSC labor cost = 37 hours ($35.00/hour), NOW HOLD YOUR BREATH – That equals 1 person, working 4 ½ days for one crate.
  7. From 2009-2013, the Consumer Price Index increased 8.2%. General Contractor Labor Costs increased 12.56%. Drayage increased 121%.
  8. Material Handling has (purposely) gotten more opaque. In some situations, there are 24 material handling categories. Opacity makes it much harder for exhibitors to challenge drayage charges or make fiscally sound decisions when scheduling freight. This is not an accident.
  9. General Service Contractors are shifting costs to exhibitors who do not use them for non-exclusive services, resulting in uneven application of exclusive service charges. All too often, exhibitors are paying the drayage for the exhibitor right next to them when the GSC shifts expenses.
  10. Growing use of bundling by GSCs by offering discounts/rebates to win the entire corporate program, such as waiving material handling if client rents from the GSC. The EDPA and E2MA have gone on record as stating this practice (bundling) is unethical and anti-competitive.

The study proposes solutions beginning on slide 44, which I strongly encourage you to review. Those include Best Practices on slide 49. On a personal note, I cannot emphasize enough how much your voice matters to trade show industry associations, such as E2MA and EDPA. Let them hear from you. In addition, if you are an exhibitor, please voice your concerns directly with the association sponsoring the show and show management. I believe that associations do not understand how existing contracts undermine their ability to grow the shows they sponsor. Show management, however, does understand the impact of rising material handling costs, but (many) have not felt enough financial pain to recommend changes.

Thank you for your time, and I hope you share my passion and concern for our industry. Collectively, I believe we can fix stupid. We have no other choice.


–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


Dealing with Conflict. Are You an Elephant?: Word on the Street — August 11th thru August 15th

August 15th, 2014 2 COMMENTS
Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Is there an elephant in your office? If you don’t see one, it might be YOU!

An observation was recently shared with me. The context was leadership and dealing with conflict, and how leaders handle or don’t handle conflict in the workplace. The speaker said,  “Show me the leader that doesn’t confront conflict, and I’ll show you the biggest elephant in the room.”

And I have to admit, it made me think about my leadership skills and the leadership skills of those I admire. Handling conflict is a skill that I am still learning.

I am reminded of a situation that I knew was going to be ugly, because (sadly) it had gone unaddressed for a while. At the time, a friend said to me, “Your unwillingness to address this issue has not only allowed the issue to continue and negatively affect other employees Kevin, but it has cast a negative light on your leadership in the eyes of your employees.”

What I was not seeing was that other employees were looking at the same issue from a totally different perspective. They viewed me as a leader in the company, but as a leader who did nothing to curb/address/stop an issue that was impacting their daily work lives. Therefore, I clearly was not much of a leader.

It smacked me right it the face once I got out from behind my own insecurities.

We all seek leaders, professionally and personally, in one aspect or another of our lives. Be it our parents, our bosses, our government, our teachers, even celebrities. Each of us have people who look to us in the same way. You don’t have to be a boss or a manager at work. As parents, our kids look to us for direction and watch (very carefully) how we handle conflict. How we address conflict/issues shapes the way they act or react. It can either build trust . . . or erode it.

I don’t know about you, but I am pretty sure I am not in the minority when I say, “I hate conflict.” We all do. But it’s part of life. How quickly we respond to, and how specifically we address conflict in the workplace, is critical to how you and I will be perceived as a leader within our organizations. Conflict doesn’t have to be angry and confrontational. That’s a mistake too many people make.

Business Foundations are no different from Family Foundations. To be solid, they must be built upon leaders who have their employees and/or families trust in every aspect. We get confused and misguided when we think that a leader is someone everyone likes. It’s not. It’s gaining their trust through your actions, often in the toughest situations, that gains their admiration.

I know many great leaders in this industry, and I am fortunate to call many of them mentors and friends. I am thankful for those times when they have “smacked me in the face.”

Hope you all have a great weekend with you families.

Be well.


p.s. Not only do elephants eat a lot, but they also … a lot (and everywhere).


How Your Eyes Move on a Website [Cool Inforgraphic]

August 13th, 2014 COMMENTS

Single Grain designed this excellent infographic that explains:

  1. How our eyes move on a website or blog,
  2. How web design influences eye movement and interaction, and
  3. Proposes tips for creating an effective website design.

I thought this might be helpful to Classic Distributors redesigning their website. It’s a topic I hear almost every day since so many distributors have branded versions of Exhibit Design Search.



–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