Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for July, 2015

Deep Thoughts from the E2MA Red Diamond Congress

July 30th, 2015 3 COMMENTS

RDC_1I attended the E2MA Red Diamond Congress in Boston last week — my third time at this annual two-day conference. The RDC is a small, but growing, group of stakeholders in the event and tradeshow industry which includes show organizers, general contractors, associations, distributors, tradeshow managers, suppliers, and labor.

Like me, you probably interact with a subset of these folks over the course of a year. So attending RDC gives me a broader perspective of the challenges facing our industry. When someone starts pointing a finger at “the bad guys,” those “bad guys” are usually in the room to defend themselves. It makes for challenging conversations.

I wanted to share a few takeaways from several sessions.  This year’s theme was engagement.

Justin Hersh, Group Delphi, “Watch Out the CMO is Coming”

“We spend most of our time asking our exhibit or event client ‘what they want’ and then creating a ‘spectacle’ to fulfill that want and attract attention.” Think of a fireworks display. It’s mesmerizing, but we don’t want to see it twice.


We should be asking them, “Why they want it and then creating ‘wonder, awe, and connection’ which drives people to do something different.”

We need to resist the lure to create a mere spectacle. Instead we should create designs that motivate and inspire change.


Bruce Bolger, Enterprise Engagement Alliance, “Engagement Essentials”

“People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”

“People want to:  Be part of something bigger than themselves. Feel a sense of belonging. Go on a meaningful journey. Know that their contributions make a significant impact of difference.”

“How does Monday morning feel when you have a bad boss?”


Jack Myers, MyersBizNet, “Future Proofing the Business of Exhibits an Events”

“Our historic relationships are dissolving. What are the new relationships? Are you connecting vs. simply communicating?”

“We must learn how to build better relationships through technology.”

“Brands that create passion and engaged relationships win.”

Eric Schaumburg,, “Simplifying the Event Eco-system”

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Buckminster Fuller

“We are standing on the precipice of Events 2.0…. For all of us to participate and capitalize on this transformation, we will need to eliminate the proprietary and fragmented nature that has become synonymous with tradeshows, and align our goals with those of the younger, consumer-driven, sharing economy.”

“Millennials:  anti-establishment bias, belief in radical transparency, trained to sniff out inefficiencies or vulnerabilities, intensely idealistic, strong sense of right and wrong, philanthropic.”

“The Experience Starts Online First, Face-to-Face Second:  Set the expectation, Protect the Brand, Engage sooner, engage frequently, Make the F2F like coming home”

Simplifying the Event Ecosystem

Leonora Valvo and Joseph Carrabis, insightXM, “Engaging with Data”

“Without trust, marketing does not work.”

“People don’t trust you because you say they should; people trust you because THEIR FRIENDS say they should.”

“The experiential trilogy is — attention, engagement, and trust.”

Allison Graham,, “How to Leverage Events to Drive Business Outcomes”

“We don’t need everybody. We need to find the people we can be ourselves with.”

“Just showing up at an event is a very good way to become busy but not profitable.”


–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


When Technology Bites: Word on the Street — July 20th thru July 24th

July 25th, 2015 1 COMMENT
Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

I love technology! But sometimes, I fear, we miss the basics, the commonsense in our effort to make things more efficient and streamlined — like what makes sense. For example…

Last week I met with a transportation company, one of the well-known Big TWO. At the beginning of 2015, this carrier introduced a slick handing system in their sorting facilities replacing the old system that required someone to manually check measurements on larger packages.

This new system uses calibrated lasers to scan a case or package to take the dimensions. It’s way cool! And from a business perspective I appreciate the time it saves as opposed to hand measuring each large piece. But that is where the cool factor hits a glitch.

Measuring Roto-Molded Cases

Freight_2In our world, which includes portable, modular, and hybrid exhibits, we ship thousands of pop-ups, panel systems, counters, workstations, and component orders each year. Many ship in portable, durable, and reliable roto-molded cases. We know, as do you, that the first shipment better be perfect. You want that baby showing up looking new, case included. So many of us wrap those cases in heavy poly bags, heavy shrink-wrap, or some other protective packaging hoping the case looks as new as the exhibit it holds when the client sees it for the very first time.

Well, this week I learned of a big flaw in the transportation companies new process/flow system that uses those cool lasers. It’s so good at calibration and scanning that it catches the very outermost dimension possible. Let’s say you packed a case in a protective heavy-duty poly bag, then taped and or heat sealed it shut at the open end. Well look at the photo. See down by the floor how the bag, not the case, is sticking out? When you account for that, your 26″ wide case just became 34″ to the new/cool scanner. Or look at the other photo. Say your client is shipping this from the show floor after their fifth use. They do everything right, including pulling the case straps really tight. But the tail on the strap is curled up like the picture. Now your 9″ deep case just became 13″ deep by the lasers standards.

FreightI mention this up not as a complaint with the  new, highly-efficient system. I understand why they implemented it. But these “new” potential dimensions just doubled your client’s cost to move that case because the case became “over-sized” in the eyes of the new laser machine.

To their credit, the freight company sent a rep to review our concerns, and they are giving our client a credit. But there is no way around this in the future. So I was told “you and your customers need to be mindful of this on all shipments.”

Back to my original point, and again not complaining, but sometime the latest and greatest technology cannot replace the common sense that comes pre-equipped in a human with a measuring tape.

I would encourage you all to take some heed to this story. It’s much more than just a little extra charge here and there on some shipments. It can double the cost of your shipments.

After a little bit of research I have found that it’s not just the big TWO that are moving, or have moved, in this direction. Many smaller transportation companies and even some regional carriers are looking to adopt similar systems.

Have a great weekend ahead!

Be well!



Mid-Year Review: Word on the Street — July 13th thru July 17th

July 17th, 2015 1 COMMENT


Happy Summer to All!

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

I am writing this a few weeks late, but in fairness, there’s a lot going on at Classic Exhibits.

It’s been an exciting 2015, thanks to you, our loyal and creative distributors. Your projects have been ALL ACROSS THE BOARD — so let’s review the highlights, identify some trends, and share a few stories.

The year started with a bang. January set the tone after a busy late December. It was clear we were going to be in for a wild ride filled with growth, unique challenges, and a mixture of tradeshow, event, retail, and permanent install projects.

SuperNova is Shining a Bright Path

06_12_15_2_45240Lightboxes have been a shining star whether for tradeshows or retail! Our SuperNova LED lighting solutions have been designed into everything from freestanding lightboxes and iPad stands to comprehensive tradeshow builds and retail store interiors.

Lighting has been one of the growing pieces of “jewelry” in many designs that pass through Classic. It’s cost-effective and impactful on every level. And in 2015 it has been used to backlit and create dynamic graphics and as a featured design element. There’s a lot to know to do it right, and after four full years, we’ve got it down to a science. In short, we’ve gotten good with the glow.

Super-CHARGED Products

07_06_15_1_45596After the release of five new charging stations at EXHIBITORLIVE, our Designers and Project Managers have been inundated with charging station requests like “Can I add charging capabilities to that…or that…or that?”

In many cases — YES. We clearly struck a chord with the units shown in Las Vegas. Many of you took advantage of our charging station showroom promotion and are now  reaping the benefits. We have seen a HUGE increase in the number Coffee Table Charging Stations and Bistro Height Charging Tables ordered. In addition to other creative new changing station opportunities.

It’s easy to see why. They are practical, brandable, and of course functional. And a surefire attendee draw to any  exhibit space.

“Other Stuff”…All Things Outside the Tradeshows

Retail CabinetOver the past few years, we have shown you more retail, corporate environment, and permanent installation work. So far in 2015, this trend only continues on an accelerated pace. We have seen everything from full pop-up retail shops, to mall kiosks, to complete visitors centers, backlighting, and everything in-between.

Your ability to tap in the ClassicMODUL profiles, SEG graphics, and custom millwork has led to some amazing work. If you asked me 10 years ago if Classic would be doing these specialized projects, I would have said “probably not.” However, it all goes to show that those manufacturers and distributors who have been willing to adapt are growing and expanding their client bases.

This work has become a segment with its own Project Management team and Production Engineer. And its FUN! In September, we hope to share pictures of an exciting Interactive Visitors Center we are building. It’s a marvelous  collaboration of Exhibit Design, Graphic Design and a Custom Built App to drive the user experience.

More Pyrenees… Less Cobble Stones of Paris

Pardon the Tour de France reference, but it is that time of year.

I am speaking about the seasonal sales cycle in our industry. Historically we have always been able to identify the flat or slow times of the year — June, July and November.

With more business coming from retail, event, corporate environments, and of course tradeshows, we have enjoyed a more predictable sales experience month-over-month. Great peaks still but no real valleys (which are now mid-sized peaks). June is a great example. It was one of our largest months ever. In JUNE no less!

Mixed Nuts

Branded CrateThe diversity of tradeshow exhibit orders has been a joy.

The bread and butter orders — 10 x 10, 10 x 20, island kits, Sacagawea, P10, Magellan and Visionary Designs are all there and increasing. But the mix of custom hybrid islands, inlines and traditional custom wood builds is growing by leaps and bounds.

We often joke that Classic is the “Largest, Most Invisible Exhibit Builder” in the industry. And that’s not by accident. Our labeling program strives to build on your brand, not Classic’s. At your request, we brand the cases or crates, the setup instructions, etc. with your name. When I look at the shipping department at the end of the day, I see more and more exhibits leaving with your brands… not ours.

As you know, we encourage this practice. It’s one of our marketing strategies, i.e., helping you build your brand with our products in your markets. Shared Success!

Thanks for continuing to trust us with that.

Can I Borrow That?

05_07_15_3_RentalJim Shelman and his talented team in Classic Rental Solutions continues to amaze with their growth and resourcefulness. They design the most customized rental offerings we have ever seen.

Rentals are no longer an afterthought or driven by exhibitors with tight budgets. They are a viable and valuable marketing option for clients who want a unique look without being locked into the same structure or graphics from show to show. Rentals give them the biggest smooches for their marketing buck.

Internally, we often joke that we are now competitors on larger builds — Rentals vs Purchase. Which is a fun place to be. We are happy and proud to be able to offer your clients fresh, custom options whether your client chooses to own it or rent it.

The Nuts and Bolts


So much of what we build, our design palette so to speak, relies on ClassicMODUL Engineered Aluminum Profiles. That includes 10 x 10’s to Double Deck structures and all designs in the middle.

ClassicMODUL is experiencing an uptick in their raw metal sales to  distributors who build in-house or manage retail, graphic frame, or architectural accounts. These clients need metal, mostly cut-to-length, along with connectors. They don’t need assembly instructions or reusable packaging.

Tom and his team have done and will continue to do a great job delivering new and unique extrusion offers to meet the design changes we all face. With a great emphasis these days on creating solutions for SEG graphics.

Keep a close eye out for new exciting stuff from ClassicMODUL.

For me, well what can I say. The mid-year point bring two things to mind. In the Great Northwest, it has been exciting, but so hot! We have stolen all the 90 plus degree days from other parts of the country. And while it is nice, I have to admit I am eager to get a little Oregon Sunshine back… also known as RAIN.

The other is… the 1/2 year point always brings another anniversary for me at Classic. This year is 21 years! Thanks to those who sent me personal and LinkedIn messages of congrats. They’re greatly appreciated. An of course I enjoy the jabs and jokes as well, like having Beth from Accounting point out that when I started at Classic, Trina from Design was not yet even in elementary school. YIKES!!

It’s been a great first half of the year. And while we enjoy it, we don’t ever forget that it’s largely due to you. You are the ones who put food on our plates. So thanks as always for your partnership and confidence in our team/family. We greatly appreciate it!

Have a wonderful weekend with your families.

Be well!



Under $3K to $25K Display Brochures

July 14th, 2015 COMMENTS


I’m getting old, but not too old to learn from my mistakes. Over the past year, I’ve largely ignored printed sales collateral as a tool for Classic Distributors. That’s not to say we haven’t created high quality PDF’s (such as iPad and Surface Stands and NEO and Express Furniture), but they have been mostly promotional sheets, not product line brochures. My feeling was — It’s all online on the Classic website or in Exhibit Design Search.

Recently, we updated the “Under $3K” sheets. This 10-page PDF shows selective kits Under $3K, $6K, $12K, $18K, and $24K. I was surprised at the response. Distributors told me how much they love these for two reasons:

  1. It’s an easy, manageable introduction to kits within a price point range. Plus, it allows potential clients to quickly see designs ranging from table tops to custom-hybrid inlines. The PDF isn’t a replacement for Exhibit Design Search. Rather it’s a quick, easily-digestible overview.
  2. It’s a great piece to email or as a “leave behind” after a meeting. A client can save, print, and share it. Plus, it’s attractive and instructive.

We invite you to download the Unbranded and Classic version. It’s also available in the Distributor Section of the Classic website.


Over the next two months, we will create a series of one-page product brochures. They’ll be in Exhibit Design Search, shown as a thumbnail, as well in the Distributor Section. The Visionary Design version is finished. Expect similar sheets for Quadro, SEGUE, Perfect 10, Magellan, and several other lines.

So, this is my public mea culpa. I apologize… AND I’m committed to making it right.

–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



New Charging Stations — Q&A Video with Kevin and Mel

July 7th, 2015 COMMENTS


When we introduced our newest Charging Stations at EXHIBITORLIVE, we expected them to do well. Our definition of “well” should probably change to “Yowsa!” They’ve been a big hit. As with any new product, there are questions so Kevin and Mel sat down for a casual Q&A video about the charging stations. You’ll need to boost your volume a bit. That’s what happens when your production shop is also your studio. Sorry.


Since we’re on a Q&A theme, here are two recent print interviews:  (1) Katina Rigall, Senior Designer in Exhibit City News and (2) Mel White, VP in Tradeshow and Exhibit ThoughtLeaders

–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