Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for December, 2015

Custom Charging Station with Programmable RGB Lights

December 31st, 2015 COMMENTS

In this video, Mel presents two Custom Charging Stations with Programmable RGB LED Lights. The bistro-style tables include: (8) USB ports, two electrical outlets, and perimeter LED lights. Note the graphic branding on the counter top.

This is a custom variation of the MOD-1432 Bistro Charging Station. Are we shipping lots of charging stations? OH YEA!!!!

Why Are Marketers So Bad at Trade Show Marketing?

December 28th, 2015 COMMENTS


Some marketers will hint at it. Others will grumble. Then there are the ones who are honest. They simply don’t understand trade show marketing. That’s not surprising. It’s rarely taught on the undergraduate or graduate level. At best, it’s mentioned in passing in a textbook. I know. After earning an MBA, I went to work for an exhibit builder. On Day 1, I was clueless.

I’d love to say that trade show marketing is marketing but that’s not entirely true. It’s odder, less compact, and more unpredictable than other forms of marketing. And, depending on the company, it can be more difficult to measure results.

3D vs. 2D

Marketing has traditionally been 2D:  print and television, brochures, websites, etc. It’s also been static and somewhat controllable. Trade show marketing or face-to-face marketing is as much about human interaction as the message or the branding. It’s about creating conversations, before, during, and after the show. Then there’s the booth design. That’s outside most marketers’ comfort zone and the dollars involved make it even scarier. It’s easy to panic when the costs begin to hit six digits for even a modest island exhibit.

Variable Measurements

Unlike print, television, or web ads, there are no standards or no reliable source for subscriptions, ratings, or clicks. Counting leads works, but it’s a crude measurement. More sophisticated exhibitors track pre-show promotions, leads, and sales through the entire sales channel, but they are the exception.


SoYoungTrade shows are truly a competitive sport when it comes to marketing. It’s the one time you and your competitors are all in the same room, all vying for the attention of the same audience. You see what they’re doing… and vice versa.

Uncontrollable Variables

No one likes unpredictability when it comes to their marketing campaign and implementation. Yet, despite one’s best efforts, trade shows can be chaotic. Freight doesn’t arrive on time. Items are broken. Flights are cancelled. An exhibitor on the far side of the exhibit hall is giving away beer and sandwiches. The exhibitor nearest you has their music so loud you can’t talk to potential clients without shouting.


Most medium-sized companies participate in two to five trade shows per year. Some as few as one. That makes it challenging to become an expert quickly. Plus, each show may not only have a different audience, but also different rules, layout, and resources. Too often, when the internal “expert” understands how to maximize the company’s trade show efforts, that person is assigned to other responsibilities. Then someone new has to start fresh.

Sales and Marketing

PhiladelphiaCommercialBefore, during, and after a trade show, sales and marketing must be partners at dance. You’re a team. Face-to-face marketing requires sales skills and marketing expertise perfectly choreographed. And no matter how much sales and marketing claim to play nice, there’s always a wall at most companies. It’s that wall that dooms most exhibitors from fully benefiting from their trade show program.

So how do you become an expert at trade show marketing? 

  1. Go to trade shows as often as possible as an attendee. Ask questions and listen to what works and what doesn’t. Plus, be willing to take classes at industry events about trade show marketing, even if you goal isn’t to become a trade show certified manager.
  2. Rely on your local trade show professional. If they only know how to sell you a display, but not how to succeed at trade show marketing, then find someone else.
  3. Tap into industry consultants. These folks know how to avoid the potholes and the meandering paths so often taken by trade show exhibitors. You can find them in LinkedIn, Google, or by simply asking your local vendor.
  4. Plan to succeed. Create a comprehensive plan that targets pre-show, show, and post-show marketing and put specific goals in place for each one.

–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


560 Design Mondays… But Who’s Counting

December 18th, 2015 COMMENTS


Design Monday…. 560 Weeks

It’s been 10+ years, starting with April 18, 2005. This week represents the 560th weekly Design Monday with over 1300 individual designs. During that time, we’ve missed a week here and there — usually on a holiday — but only 3-4 at most.

It started at EXHIBITOR 2005. We had a binder full of designs in our booth, and Mike Swartout doing renderings for distributors on the show floor. Time and again, distributors would say to us, “Oh, I didn’t know you did [fill in the blank] — customization, modular exhibits, hybrids, counters, etc.” So we said, “How do we show distributors who we are, not who they think we are?” The decision was made to send new designs to the Classic Exhibits Network each week. We chose Sunday because we wanted the email to be one of the first things distributors saw Monday morning.

Over the years, the templates have changed, and Eco-systems Sustainable Exhibits was added to the mix about two years ago.

Frankly, our discipline has been impressive. Week in and week out, we’ve sent you 2-3 new designs at 12 noon PST (3 pm EST) each Sunday. Most Design Mondays tap into the skills of designers, project managers, graphic designer(s), Kevin Carty, our Production Manager, and me. Not every design is a winner, but we’ve done OK and it’s always been a wonderful place to experiment and get your feedback.

If this seems like we’re patting ourselves on the back — we are. And you too. Many of the designs showcase your design requests and your consultative work with customers. Some are presented “as is” in Design Monday. Others serve to push concepts even further. Not everyone gets built, but that’s OK as well.

We’d like to think Design Monday has accomplished three things:

1. It made us a design leader,

2. It’s been HUGELY instrumental to our consistent year-over-year growth, and

3. It has served to bind us all closer together, via the designs and the blog.

While you may not read/review DM each week, you always know we’re here to assist you on your next project.

Here’s to Design Monday 122115! Have a very Happy Holiday.

–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


EDPA ACCESS 2015 Recap: Word on the Street — Dec. 7th thru Dec. 11th

December 12th, 2015 COMMENTS
Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits


Happy December! Santa is almost here, we are constructing arks in the Pacific NW (rain, rain, and more rain), and I am still on an an energetic HIGH from the Annual EDPA ACCESS Conference. For those unable to attend, I wanted to share a recap of this event, an annual favorite of mine.

2015 EDPA ACCESS was held at the Red Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. First, standing ovation to the ACCESS team for choosing one of the top three locations ever — self-contained, great rooms, great restaurants, and a casino just far enough away from the strip.

The layout was perfect. Every session, social event or program was within walking distance… and no more than five minutes from your room. This (and much more) made the event location darn near ideal.

The sessions were great. Admittedly I was not blown away when I first saw the program. Not disappointed — just not blown away. But Wednesday and Thursday were off the charts good from an educational and a collaborative standpoint. Like in past years, I mapped out the sessions on my calendar, not leaving any openings. And I was glad I did. Some highlights…

The Management Issues Forum on Wednesday

The forum gave CFO’s, CEO’s, VP’s, GM’s and Sales Managers the opportunity to discuss pressing issues affecting us all. Not be talked too but to talk together about the real issues we face. Topics included the recent/pending NLRB decision about temporary employees/labor, design costs and fees (do you charge, do you not?), and hiring strategies/difficulties related to Gen X vs. Gen Y vs. Millennials.

As a business manager, it was comforting knowing that the same challenges we face at Classic are present at companies of all sizes.

First-timers Meeting

Near and dear to my EDPA heart is the First-timers session. Like past years, I was asked to serve as a mentor during this session. Some first-timers are employees of existing EDPA-member companies, but many that are new to the association.

Laura Marzella Fee and her team created a welcoming environment for newbies to EDPA, and I was able to co-mentor with Stacy Barnes, a long time friend from Eagle Management.

More than 10 years ago, I drank the EDPA kool-aid and have never regretted its sweet taste. So this was another opportunity for me to share why I like EDPA so much, and brag about all the good I see our association doing in our industry. EDPA provides college scholarships to industry members, assists financially and emotionally those who have lost loved ones to sickness or tragedy via the Randy Smith Foundation, and helps mentor college students at Bemidji State University and FIT in NYC.

Thanks to my group for listening to Stacy and asking great questions.

An Owner’s Guide to The Future

This was one of the keynotes, given so eloquently by David Zach, a futurist. David’s used real world examples of how each decision we make during each moment of our lives affects everything in our lives from that very moment. If you were there you know what I mean. SQUIRREL!!

The business decisions we make, and many we don’t, are a reminder to make a hard decision. Trust yourself. Delaying the tough decisions often do more damage in the long run than making a wrong decision in the short-term.

Some books to explore:

  1. The Pirate Organization by Rodolphe Durand
  2. Curious by Ian Leslie
  3. Zero to One by Peter Theil

Good stuff… and a terrific keynote speaker!

2015 EDPA Portable/Modular Summit

Moderated by Jay Burkette from ExpoDisplay, this year’s summit was one of the most interactive conversations we’ve ever had. A big thanks to those in audience who spoke up and kept the conversation rolling.

The best takeaway was that as a builders, designers, and producers that we are ALL building Custom Exhibits.

What??? did Kevin just say that?!?!? Blasphemy!

Let me explain how two EDPA members put it. Which was spot on!

Inside the industry, we focus so much on wanting to compartmentalize and categorize each business. You manufacture banner stands and pop ups, so you are a Portable Manufacturer. Over there you build and sell metal so you are a Systems Manufacturer. Then you over there, you sell metal mixed with some laminated components, so your are a Hybrid Manufacturer. And then you, yes you in the front row, you build everything out of wood, so you are a Custom Exhibit Manufacturer.

Those classifications do not work anymore. Look on the floor at your next tradeshow hall and try to make sense of the 20 x 40 build with a metal skeleton, surrounded by beautifully custom laminated walls that include tension fabric lightbox inserts. This island is surrounded by modular pedestals and workstations, all of which have been customized to the client’s needs.

For too long we have tried fit in our little compartments in an effort not to offend anyone or step on anyone’s toes.

I thank the group for their candor. It was a great conversation, and one that will continue to evolve.

In Conclusion

You know I am an EDPA fan. I am a proud member of the Board of Directors for EDPA. But I am also very proud of the continued conversations the association fosters and the education it provides us all. Especially each December at ACCESS.

If you are not a member but are interested in hearing more, please call or email me anytime. I would love to share more about how EDPA can help your business and you.

OK, time to get back to this Ark Building Project. It won’t build itself. And as I write this we are almost at 8″ of rain in 3.5 days with more to come. Anyone know where I can find two jackalopes? The Sasquatch couple is already standing inline waiting to board.

Have a great weekend with your families.



Portable/Modular Awards | People’s Choice Voting

December 9th, 2015 COMMENTS


People’s Choice Voting

Three years ago when EXHIBITOR announced the Portable/Modular Awards, we were delighted. These display categories deserved recognition for design excellence.

The first year we had two finalists. Last year, we had two finalists and won one. Our partner Eco-Systems Sustainable won as well. In addition, a Classic Exhibits Distributor was a finalist on two designs we built. This year, we are excited to have three finalists:  So Young, Philadelphia Commercial, and Nationwide. A sincere thanks to the Classic Distributors and their clients for allowing us to submit these spectacular entries.

EXHIBITOR encourages its readers to pick their favorites in the People’s Choice Voting. The rules are important. You can vote once per visit, so check back each day to support your favorite design(s). The finalist with the most votes will be announced at EXHIBITORLIVE. The PMA category award winners will announced at same time.

As the expression goes, “Vote early and vote often.” Bookmark the site. Put a reminder in your calendar. Hey… What else do you have to do in December, January, and February? Sheesh! For more information about the Portable Modular Awards eligibility and categories see this link.


–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