Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for December, 2014

How To Entertain Yourself During Any Meeting

December 31st, 2014 COMMENTS


No More Boring Meetings

You’ve read countless articles about how to manage meetings so they’re efficient, informative, and productive. Unfortunately, no one ever suggests how to make the meeting more interesting. Not for the group but for you! It may be a group meeting, but that doesn’t mean you have to be bored listening to sales projections, productivity reports, or policy updates.

Here are some suggestions on how to entertain yourself during any meeting. It may be too much to expect your boss to appreciate your attempt to enliven the meeting. But, hey, it’s only a job, and you were looking for a reason to explain full-time employment, mortgage payments, groceries, and utilities to your kids.

Successful Meetings and Horshack

Animated Hand Raise

One of the all-time great television characters was Arnold Horshack (Ron Palillo), the braying geek on “Welcome Back Kotter.” Whenever Arnold had a question or comment, he scream “Oh! Oh Oh!” and raise his hand. We all know that animated hand-raising is fun. I prefer the exaggerated hand wave with some subtle finger movement. I strongly disapprove of the combination finger pointing/finger snapping hand-raising. It’s important to know the difference between being rude and being aggressively rude. You don’t need a catch-phrase, but a personal catch-phrase and a copyright could turn your meeting entertainment into a profitable business.

Taking Notes

You should be suspicious of anyone who doesn’t bring a pen and paper to a meeting. It’s just plain wrong. You, on the other hand, should take excessive notes. From the moment anyone begins speaking, begin writing. During any conversation, take notes. When there is a pause and no one is talking, keep writing. It’s a great way to stay awake during any meeting, plus you’ll be praised by your superiors for taking the meeting seriously and resented by your colleagues for taking the meeting seriously. It’s also a terrific opportunity to write a thank you letter to your Aunt Eileen for the $5 she sent on your 8th birthday. You’ll feel better and that’s all that really matters.


Remember the episode of Seinfeld where George had an eye twitch and everyone thought he was winking at them? Winking is fun, at least for the “winker” if not for the “winkie.” When your boss says something like, “We must cut administrative expenses by 20 percent this quarter.” Give one of your co-workers a knowing wink. When two colleagues disagree about an issue, give them both a subtle but separate wink. It says, “I understand and am on your side.” Oh yes, winking can also get you hauled into HR for sexual harassment, so use your power wisely. Every great power has its kryptonite.

WinkingName Calling

This takes a little more planning, since cracking into the company’s HR files is both illegal and immoral. Start by learning everyone’s full first and middle name. Some people will gladly reveal that information because they were never mocked by their family and classmates. All others were named after dead relatives, celebrities, places, pets, or moral aspirations and still bear the emotional scars. They don’t want anyone to know their middle name is “Ottermeirman” or “Saskatchewan” or “Freedom” or “Barrymore.”

Once you have that information, use it during the next meeting. Refer to everyone by their full first and middle name. Sue, for instance, becomes Susanna Sunshine and Frank becomes Franklin Graceland. After the initial shock, I’m sure everyone will be laughing, patting each other on the back, and singing. Disclaimer: I have not personally tested this so I can’t verify the “everyone will be laughing or singing.”

Bathroom Breaks

Any meeting lasting more than 15 minutes should have at least one bathroom break. Group bathroom breaks are even better since getting everyone back into the meeting usually takes an additional 10 minutes. Subtle background noise of a babbling brook or cascading waterfall should do the trick.


Staring like winking takes a little practice but once you’ve master it, the fun begins. Psycho staring, however, is unacceptable. How do you know when you’re psycho staring? Usually someone screams, there’s finger pointing, and handcuffs and someone in a uniform or lab coat appears. To stare without repercussions, you’ll want to pretend you’re thinking of something really, really important. In case some asks, you’re pondering. It just so happens that there’s someone between you and an epiphany. Another strategy is to stare until you get someone’s attention, then look away. Repeat. Then on the third stare when the hair on the back of their neck is at full attention, motion like they’ve got something hanging from their lip, stuck on their cheek, or caught in their hair. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness.

These are just a few of my techniques to make every meeting entertaining. You are welcome to use them and add your personal flair. I don’t expect any royalties or credit — just send me your entertaining meeting tips in return. If we wish really hard, perhaps there is a website in our future where we are a tight-knit community, or as my wife we say “an interest-specific sub-culture,” bonded by the joys of entertaining ourselves during meetings.

–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


Is Santa Real? Yes, For One More Year!: Word on the Street — December 22nd thru December 26th

December 27th, 2014 3 COMMENTS
Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

The Perfect Christmas Gift

We are a family of traditions from what we eat to where we go. Each year, we look forward to it. And this year was no different.

It all starts on Christmas Eve after church. We head to my Grandmother’s house where 30+ Cartys gather. It’s always fun and always VERY loud… and because my Grandmother’s house is nearly as old as she is (95) (no AC), it gets very hot inside.

At about 9 pm, my eight year old twins, my stepmother, and my uncle stepped outside to cool off from the sauna. About two minutes later, the four of them urgently called me outside. I quickly headed out to find them looking up and to the East.

What I saw next gave me a moment of pause. Up in the sky, approximately a mile away, was a sleigh flying through the air being pulled by reindeer with Santa inside. I AM NOT KIDDING!

What was it? I really can’t say and I really don’t care. You see my kids had started asking questions about the “reality” of Santa this year. Something every parent hopes never comes.

Whatever was in the sky on Christmas Eve — a drone or a small plane pulling a full-scale model of Santa, his sleigh, and the reindeer or something else — to my kids, it was SANTA. Their reaction was priceless and one that has solidified their belief for one more year. This is the note I found on my phone after my son asked to borrow it on the ride home.

Santa-ClausSanta flew over my head 

I saw Santa on his slay!!!!!

It was awesome.

I could not believe myself.

It was just so cool!!!!!

By Nick

Dedicated to Mr. Clause

I hope you had a magical Christmas and have a wonderful New Year’s celebration planned.

Look for my annual State of the Company Letter in early January. Possible topics:

  1. Rental Rewards and Rental Business
  2. Double Digit Sales Increase
  3. Custom and Custom Hybrid Orders
  4. Eddie Award
  5. Customer Service Department Changes
  6. Two Successful SKU’s
  7. Redesigned Classic Exhibits Website
  8. Growth in Retail Design Business
  9. OTM Furniture Success
  10. Portable Modular Awards, GlobalShop, Fab 50, EuroShop, Hood 2 Coast, Eco-Systems Sustainable Growth, Lightboxes and SuperNova Lighting
  11. Release of New Designs. Retiring Older Designs. Constant Evolution to Our Products Lines.

Be safe and enjoy your upcoming week. We’ll be ready for any last-minute gifts you want to send our direction. 😉



Excellent Surface Pro 3 Review at

December 24th, 2014 COMMENTS

MOD-1334_sur_aEarly on, we predicted that the Microsoft Surface Tablets would have “legs” (Yes, that’s supposed to be a pun). We designed a secure enclosure for the Surface and modified them with each release, including the Surface Pro 3. The enclosures fit most of the iPad stands and come with the patented Swivel Stop feature (portrait to landscape). There are currently over 30 Solutions in Exhibit Design Search.

Last week, I was in an electronics retailer that rhymes with “Vest Tie” and asked a salesperson about sales of the Surface. She showed me the in-store display which was almost empty and said, “We’re nearly sold out, and I’m not sure we have much left in the district.”

If you are unfamiliar with the Microsoft line, here’s a long-term review of the Surface Pro 3 by Ewan Spence at It’s an excellent summary of its strengths and weaknesses. Like most Classic Distributors, you are undoubtedly being quizzed about tablets by your customers — Apple, Microsoft, and Android. Let us know if you have any questions.


Download the Complete Tablet Solutions Product Brochure (unbranded version).

–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



“I’ll Know It When I See It” | Every Designer’s Nightmare

December 18th, 2014 7 COMMENTS


For the Classic Design Team, nothing is more fun than delivering a design that meets all the client’s needs:  functionally, aesthetically, and fiscally. Collectively, we have 24 years of industry experience designing trade show exhibits. We know most clients are not immersed in exhibit design, so the process can be challenging. But it doesn’t have to be. We are here to help!

Occasionally, we get an ambiguous request that requires us to practice Mind Reading. Which is understandable. We all come from different levels of experience, and learning how to pre-qualify takes practice. Thankfully, we are pretty good at addressing these requests before they become frustrating for everyone. But . . . that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few “Design Red Flags.”  Here are some we’ve identified over the years.

Design Red Flags

I Need This by Tomorrow (#1)

Good design takes time. Great design takes even more time. Think back to college. Did cramming for that psychology test result in an A? Probably not. There’s a process. Not to mention there are other design deadlines already in the queue. It’s not that we can’t do it if our schedules allow. And we want to, but we want to do it right.

high_fiveMy Client Wants Five Completely Different Options (#2)

Clients like to see options, and this can be achieved by showing them portfolio images, discussing their objectives, and defining a budget. In the end, the client is only going to buy one booth, one that matches their marketing goals and budget. One spectacular design is better than five OK designs, if it is on point and includes revisions. Choose a designer who can delve into the project and deliver exactly what the client needs.

If I Like It I’ll Find the Money to Buy It, So Design with an Unlimited Budget! (#3)

No client has a truly unlimited budget. They might have lots of resources, but there will be a limit. Our advice, throw out an exhibit budget number and gauge their reaction: $50,000 for a 10×10? Either they’ll nod and say “Go for it!,” or they’ll take a big gulp and reveal their actual budget — $8K, $15K, $25K. Perfect, now the designer can give the client the best 10×10 they’ve ever seen within their budget.

I’ll Know It When I See It — aka IKIWISI (#4)

Design is not a poker game where revealing your hand is a disadvantage. Most clients have an idea of what they want, or at least what they want to achieve. At a minimum, they know their product/service and how it should be presented. Every designer loves the opportunity to be creative, but a guessing game is the exact opposite of creative. Whether you are paying for design or not, there is a cost. The cost can be as simple as frustration, revisions, and unmet expectations.

The Client Wants a Rental, But I’d Like to Show Them a Purchase Option (#5)

re-9017-1We understand the motivation. A purchase is more expensive than a rental. But it’s not a very good sales strategy. It’s another way of saying, “I don’t really know what my client wants so I’ll give them multiple options.” See Red Flag #2 above. Designers like to design, but what often gets forgotten is that designers want their designs to sell. We want our work to mean something, to come to fruition. When our designs sell, it validates our talent and our efforts.

So what’s the exact opposite? Clear communication and specific goals. At Classic Exhibits, we want you to succeed. We know you don’t live in exhibit design every day, so the process can frustrating. We also know that your best path is to work with industry professionals and to tap into Exhibit Design Search for ideas. Exhibit Design Search is a terrific place to see ideas and price points.

Over the years, we’ve learned there are three keys to a winning design and a happy customer.

  1. Understand Your Trade Show Goals and Have a Budget in Mind.
  2. Work with a Trade Show Professional Who Can Guide You.
  3. Whenever Possible, Communicate Directly with the Designer.

Best of all, no nightmares . . . for you or for your very favorite designer. Have questions about exhibit design, give us a call or send us an email.

Mike Swartout, Katina Rigall, and Trina Broten
The Classic Exhibits Design Department


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


You Like Me, You Really Like Me!

December 13th, 2014 COMMENTS
Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned by Jen LaBruzza

EDPA ACCESS 2014 Notes – Palm Harbor, FL

Flying High! As I fly home from the EDPA ACCESS 2014 Annual Conference,  I’m writing this from 30,000 ft. But that’s not the only reason I’m “high.” As you learned in Kevin’s blog last week, Classic Exhibits won a major award this year.

We were recognized with an EDDIE Marketing Excellence Award for our online Exhibit Design Search tool. I have to admit as Reid Sherwood and I made our way up to the stage to accept the honor, I was thinking of several people. Mel White, Tony Bennett, Glenna Martin, and Sally Fields. Why Sally Fields? Well the moment was definitely one of those, “You Like Me, You Really Like Me!” moments. Not me specifically, but Exhibit Design Search. The sales tool of all sales tools received the recognition it deserves. It was certainly a proud and emotional moment as Reid and I accepted the award on behalf of Classic Exhibits, our strategic partners, and every Classic Exhibits Distributor who has a branded EDS on their website.

ACCESS was great in so many other ways too. The theme was “Band Together.” Shared ideas about our beloved industry was practiced throughout the seminar and speaker sessions. In addition, Jim Shelman, Reid Sherwood, and I participated in the Supplier Showcase where we connected with current and potential customers, vendors, and even other suppliers in a way that was low-key and comfortable.

Lessons Learned3.jpg“Bridging the Generation Gap” was a particularly interesting session. Amy Yag from Access TCA, Amanda Helgemoe from NuVista, and Pat Friedlander from Word Up! led a lively and engaging session about motivating millennials in the workplace.

The 5 Key Millennial Motivators:

  1. Culture – Being part of something bigger and building a community.
  2. Incentives — Beyond monetary values.
  3. Set Communication Standards – Clear expectations for internal and external communication.
  4. Clear Expectations and Consistent Feedback – A generation of structured learners thrive on this.
  5. Focus on Personal Growth – Opportunities for continuing education/training.

Other sessions and keynotes provided insight into customer service and industry trends. One particular trend that was discussed in many sessions was Cost Reduction as the “new normal,” creating more pressure for exhibit companies to provide value. In all, our industry definitely seems to be on the upswing from the recession based on discussions with distributors, suppliers, and other manufacturers.

Jim and Reid also participated in the golf tournament at the signature Copperhead Golf Course. Jim said, “The golf and the weather couldn’t have been better! Other than a couple of long putts, I wasn’t able to contribute much to our team, but it was fun to be out on a beautiful course on a warm, sunny day in December.” (Who’s been to Oregon in December? Enough said!)

RR_Hotel_Exterior_06Next year the conference will be held in Las Vegas at the beautiful Red Rock Resort, Spa, and Casino, a mere 5 minutes from my house in Summerlin. You know I’m excited about that!

Looking forward to seeing everyone at EXHIBITORLIVE March 1 – 5 at Mandalay Bay.

Still need to register? No worries, we’ve got you covered.Get your VIP Guest Pass ACCESS CODE (#4044) and register:

Jen LaBruzza, Western Regional Manager