Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for February 2nd, 2015

Don’t Pity the Pop Up Display

February 2nd, 2015 11 COMMENTS
Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful

Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful

Over the years, I’ve had a bit of an obsession with trade show pop up displays. I started my career working for a pop up manufacturer in the mid-nineties back when pop ups still elicited WOWs! and most fabric units sold for $3600.

Back then, I could talk about the idiosyncrasies of one frame vs. another frame, the strengths of one channel bar vs. the competitors, and the nuances of a magnet-to-magnet vs. a magnet-to-metal panel connection. Frankly, we were in a brutal pop up war based on features and benefits, and took delight comparing fiberglass to aluminum, skinny to square tubes, and my favorite, the difference between self-locking to connector-locking frames. Even the cases were part of the daily sales battle.

Those Days are Long Gone

Many customers are not concerned about the features and benefits of pop ups. They are shopping exclusively on price; they want it to last a few shows, and they are less concerned about all the bells and whistles or whether the frame has a lifetime warranty. But they should. Good pop up display systems are amazing. They are versatility, portable, durable, and offer remarkable graphic impart. However . . .

Treat Me with Respect. I've Earned It.

Treat Me with Respect. I’ve Earned It.

The pop up, once the pride and joy of any portable trade show program, has lost its luster. Where we once treated it like a dress from Saks Fifth Avenue, carefully hanging it in plastic and sending it to the dry cleaners, many now treat it like a skirt and blouse from Ross and wash it with our dirty underwear and towels. They wear it after it has faded. They wear it wrinkled. They wear it after it’s missing buttons. They continue wearing it because it’s comfortable and convenient, not because it’s flattering.

You still see pop ups everywhere, but they are often assembled haphazardly, showing their age, or leaning precariously like a hillbilly shack.

Frankly, seeing them saddens me because I know, as do you, that pop ups can be attractive and effective displays, particularly when combined with the right accessories, such as shelves, shadowboxes, monitor mounts, and headers. But it’s rare to see them with these accessories since the budget pop ups have all but abandoned them. That’s a mistake. No other display does more than a pop up for the price. No other affordable display has more accessories or more visual impact — dollar for dollar. However . . .

Walk on Any Trade Show Floor. You’ll See the Following:

1. The Flapper:  A good 50 percent of the pop ups have at least one end panel waving at attendees.  Apparently, attaching an end panel has become either too labor intensive for many exhibitors, or to be fair, something has broken making it impossible to attach them. And fixing it is too much trouble.

2. The Old Lady:  We are a society obsessed with youth, except when it comes to pop up graphics. Wrinkles, creases, and de-lamination are perfectly acceptable. I’ve seen graphics so battered and abused that I involuntarily looked away in embarrassment.

3. The Hurler:  The setup instructions for most pop up displays have apparently changed. You stand 6 feet away from the frame and toss the panels on the channel bars. Wherever they land, that’s where they stay.

4. The Barn Door: We all know the expression, “Your barn door is open.” You’re just one crossed leg away from giving everyone a freebie they don’t want.  In the past month, I’ve seen two pop up displays with missing front panels. When I asked one exhibitor about it, she said, “Yea, we lost it about a year ago and the owner doesn’t want to pay to have it replaced.”

4. The Muscle Shirt: Do you have a male relative who wears a sleeveless muscle shirt to every gathering, including Thanksgiving Dinner? This same “dude” was last seen standing in front of a pop up display without end panels. Yes, it’s an acceptable look for tension fabric pop ups like Xpression, but not traditional pop ups. It’s tacky.

5. The Cripple:  I know. I know. That term isn’t PC anymore, but we’re talking about a pop up not a person. These pop ups have broken connectors, missing channel bars, bent frames, and snapped hanger pins. Duct tape is visible. Plastic security ties are considered hi-tech repairs. If this was a loved one, you’d give it an overdose of morphine just to put it out of its misery.

6. The Creatively Confused: Now I can’t attest to seeing this, but a distributor told me about it last week. The exhibitor had managed to attach the pop up panels to the convex/reverse side of the curve frame. He then complained that the pop up wasn’t as attractive as the one he’d seen in the showroom. I believe his booth was next to to guy in the muscle shirt, who coached him through the setup.

Make My Day!

Make My Day!

7. The Just Passing Through: Every pop up exhibitor should purchase the case-to-counter wrap. They’re brilliant and practical particularly when combined with a graphic. But there’s always the booth with just the case . . . the battered, scarred, and naked case holding brochures, business cards, or a fishbowl. This person is so anxious to leave the show that even hiding the case behind the display or converting it to a case-to-counter unit is too much trouble. I’m guessing that Golden Corral once ran out of shrimp when he didn’t arrive by 5:15 pm after a show. Well . . . that will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN!

Perhaps, I’m simply getting sentimental, but I miss those days when pop ups were respected and coddled. I yearn for those exhibitors who carefully put their graphic panels back in the plastic sleeves, and whose eyes widen with wonder the first time they opened the frame.

I’m still in awe of pop up displays. They do so much, and the good ones, the really good ones, have the power to transform a simple 10 x 10 space with large graphics, shelves, and a monitor (or two). I still see them on trade show floors. When I do, I can’t help but smile, and invariably, I find myself stepping into the booth and complimenting the exhibitor on their display.

–Mel White
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite
https://twitter.com/melmwhite
mel@classicexhibits.com

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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.

What Smells? Top 11 Trade Show Odors

February 2nd, 2015 1 COMMENT

What Smells? Pleasant and Unpleasant Trade Show OdorsLike me, you probably attend two, three, or 30 trade shows every year. Trade shows are mesmerizing, not only for the creativity but also for the visual and auditory over stimulation. The larger the show, the more the sensory overload. It can be exhausting, but for most of us, it’s exhilarating for those two or three days.

It’s tempting to focus on the sights and sounds, but trade shows are about other senses as well, such as taste, touch, and smell. We don’t often think about the familiar “smells” of trade shows, but there are many, which we all recognize as  pleasant or unpleasant. Indulge me for a minute as I explore the olfactory sensations common to most trade shows and events. In other words, what stinks and what doesn’t.

The Top 11 Trade Show Odors

B.O. You knew this would be on the list. Go ahead, call me a brainwashed, overly-sanitize consumer of the antiperspirant consortium. I accept that label. But I don’t think I’m alone in being repelled by the acidic pungency of B.O. I can deal with mild, slightly sour B.O. but the clingy stench that leaps from the B.O.’er to your clothing in milli-seconds is totally unacceptable.

Peppermint. Mints are the 6th food group at trade shows. They are everywhere from standard star mints to licorice mints and from packaged promotional mints to over-the-counter mints. Thank goodness for mints. I am especially thankful for Altoids, the nuclear bomb of mints. One Altoids has the power to create a nearly impenetrable minty force field (with one exception – see #10).

Hangover. This smell varies from person to person. On a scale of 1-10, with one being OK and ten being gross, here are three examples:

#1 – Musky. This person got home late, had a few too many drinks, and may have been in a smoky bar.

#5 – Vodka sweats. Not only is alcohol still in their bloodstream, but they are perspiring booze. Whether you like it or not, you’re sharing every fancy martini they had last night . . . but with a hint of salt.

#10 – Vomit (mingled with the above). Enough said.

Propane Fumes. Most forklifts and hi-lifts at convention halls use propane as fuel. The smell isn’t necessarily offensive, particularly if it’s only momentary. It’s the combination of the smell and the heat from the exhaust at a summer show which can be overwhelming. I know they make electric forklifts. With all due respect to Hank Hill and the Strickland Propane Co, I prefer electricity.

Windex. This smell varies depending on the brand and the cleanser, but the unmistakable aroma of cleaning solvents permeates every show hall when the doors officially open. If you’re a germaphobe, it’s the equivalent of crack cocaine.

chocolate-chip-cookie_revisedFresh Baked Cookies. Fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies have become a trade show staple for many exhibitors. It’s a smart idea, but you have to be willing to feed not only prospective customers but also every other exhibitor within a 500 ft. radius Just writing about it makes me want to drive to the mall and purchase a half-dozen cookies at Mrs. Fields. Yum! (ditto — popcorn)

Men’s Cologne/Women’s Perfume. Before anyone corrects me, I know there is some hoity-toity difference between cologne and perfume, but I’m lumping them together anyway. Personally I don’t mind the scent of cologne/perfume, but I emphasize “scent.” It should be subtle. Recall my earlier observation about B.O. This applies to perfume and cologne as well. If your cologne causes someone to visibly wince in pain, then you may want to scale it back a gallon or two.

Feet. Your feet. Not others. Most of us are desk jockeys. We’re not accustomed to walking the show floor or standing for hours. We’re weak. I’m not saying your feet stink, but your may want to add a little Industrial Strength Odor Eaters to your shoes before and after the show. And don’t even think about wearing those socks more than once. Show some mercy.

Carpet and Visqueen Vapors. Visqueen is the plastic covering used to protect carpet from general abuse and tire marks during installation. Both carpet and visqueen give off vapors. New carpet in particular can be vapor intensive. Some folks love that smell. Then again, some folks love the smell of gasoline. I don’t get it frankly.

bad-breath-deviceBad Breath. Yikes. Combine alcohol, coffee, late nights, and a travel toothbrush and you have the perfect petri dish for bad breath. Mints help to mask the odor, but even mints can’t subdue halitosis that’s become a living, breathing alien organism. With family, you can hand them dental floss, a toothbrush, and Listerine, but with colleagues and strangers you pretty much have to gut it out. I once had a colleague hand a customer three Certs and then smile. Seriously. I’m not that brazen.

Desperation. Nothing smells worse than the exhibitor who leaves all the planning for the plane ride. No pre-show marketing. No review of the graphics. Incomplete forms faxed two days before the show. No scheduled meetings with clients. Four days later, the show is about to end, and there aren’t enough leads to fill a shot glass. If they are honest, they’ll regroup and do better job next time. If not, they’ll do what every lazy, worthless, sad-sack exhibitor does . . . blame it on the show and the ineffectiveness of trade show marketing. Now that stinks!

No doubt, I’ve missed some obvious trade show smells. I encourage you to share your smells . . . that didn’t come out quite right. Let’s give it one more try . . . I invited you to share your observations and stories about smells. What odors do you associate with trade shows. The Good. The Bad. The Really Ugly.

Let the comments begin . . . .

–Mel White
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite
mel@classicexhibits.com

*********************************

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.