Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for April, 2016

Farewell to Our Dear Friend Mike

April 25th, 2016 36 COMMENTS

Mike and Janet Swartout

Dear Classic Family,

Saturday was a tremendously sad day in our internal and external family. Sadly we lost our beloved Design Director Mike Swartout this weekend.

As many of you know, Mike has been battling cancer now for years, a very aggressive form of prostate cancer. And “battling” does not really seem to capture all that Mike has been doing for five plus years to be honest. He fought it. And fought it hard.

Sadly, Mike succumb this weekend while surrounded by his family. As sad as we are, there is a sense of peace surrounding this news. Peace that comes from knowing his pain is gone at long last.

But it does not take away the feeling of loss. And the tremendous sadness we all feel on behalf of his beautiful family — Janet, his wife, along with Rachel and Morgan his kids.

mikeMike came to Classic some 16 years ago this past March. I will never forget when we hired him. I and others in the company were very excited to add his talent to what we were doing. And from the time we hired Mike, he drove us into so many positive directions design-wise as a company. Admittedly… sometimes in uncomfortable directions. 🙂

But rather than talk about his work contributions that were beyond measure, Mike was also a great friend and brother to many of us. Myself included.

When you strive to create a team, what you really want is a family at work. And Mike was a part of that evolution at Classic. He lived and breathed Classic:  Classic Products, Classic Design, and more importantly the Classic Family.

He invested time, energy, and emotion into his co-workers as if they were his own family. And ultimately we all become his family. In and out of the office. For better and for worse as they say.

classic-exhibits_september_17His battle with cancer, which he referred to as the EEE (Evil Effing Empire), was beyond admirable. It was a battle he knew would not have a positive outcome for HIM, but instead of dwelling on the negative, he focused on creating positive outcomes for others. Mike willingly participated in several experimental studies. One of those was Provenge. Mike’s willingness to be a “Guinea Pig” meant that an immunotherapy treatment became available to others. All tangible stamps he was able to leave behind very proudly.

Personally, I loved Mike. He was my friend and a great one at that. Great friends are those who support you in everything — and call you out on everything And Mike was that for me and for many others in his personal and work life. He was never one to pull any punches. Instead he would tell you how it is. “Put on your big boy or big girl pants” he would say at times. And other times he would just listen and advise compassionately.

20151023_151647Over the past six months in particular, I have come to eagerly await our visits, back and forth emails, text messages, and conversations. They were rich! Rich in life lessons, rich in substance, and often sprinkled with some great humor. Usually poking fun at each other as “broken men blessed with outstanding wives and families” that both of us were sure we did not quite deserve.

I am going to miss that the most. Growing together as men, husbands, and parents. I am going to miss my friend.

Mike had so many close friends in this business. And he was impacted by you all.

Please do keep Mike’s wife Janet, daughter Rachel, and son Morgan in your thoughts and prayers as they traverse this time of loss.

Mike’s Family is going to be holding private services later in the year at their family cabin in lieu of a funeral.

Bless you Mike. You will be missed here on earth. I look forward to our next visit.

RSMGC Donation Fund

Many have asked how they can help. Janet, Mike’s wife, has requested that donations be make to the Randy Smith Memorial Fund. Several years ago, the Randy assisted the Swartout’s with medical expenses at a time when it was most needed. Please click this link — — and select the Mike Swartout RSMGC Donation Fund. Thanks.


Whiteboard? Charging Station? Bistro Table? | YES, YES, YES!

April 20th, 2016 COMMENTS

Trade Show Charging Stations

Doodles, Numbers, and Ideas

We love it when Classic Distributors think outside the box. Here’s a wonderful example. Start with the standard MOD-1432 Charging Table with (8) USB Ports and LED Perimeter Lights . Normally, the distributor would add a vinyl graphic to the counter top for branding. Which always looks terrific.

The Velocity Group decided to head in a different direction. They asked us to apply a whiteboard laminate to the counter top instead. At first glance, it looks like a ho-hum white surface. Not so. We’ve mocked up an example of doodles on the table so you can see how it might look on the show floor. Very smart idea!


Whiteboard Counter Top — With Doodles


Whiteboard Counter Top — Without Doodles

For more photos of the MOD-1432, see Past Five Days.

–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



Email Apocalypse — The Joys of Technology

April 15th, 2016 COMMENTS
Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Bunnies and Bounce Houses

As a Classic Distributor, you know — or can probably guess — that the past two weeks have been nothing close to Bunnies and Bounce Houses around here. Why? Because our entire computer server/network came to a loud crash around April Fools Day.

But the joke was not a joke. It really happened. Our systems puked. And while we were able to recover our Accounting and CRM systems quickly, our email system struggled. Actually, our email flat-out died. And as you can all relate, there is never enough adult diapers in the room to prepare you for a total loss of information and connectivity.

Gross I know. Sorry.

ServerDownREVSREVSWell, the good news is that we have a solid disaster back-up plan that enabled us to recover all but three days of email and communications. And along the way, through the implementation of various hotspot, working from home, and good old-fashioned handwriting solutions, we were able to press through the mess and complete orders and quotes. And through this painful email apocalypse, we implemented a significantly better solution for our network setup.

But man oh man. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time! It’s freaking April in the trade show industry! One of the three busiest months of the year for us historically. This year is no exception. But again, we are looking to the future now, and I’m not going to dwell on the evenings that I set my alarm to go off once every 90 minutes to check in with the IT folks to see how the recovery was going and answer questions that they had along the way. NOPE, not going to focus on that at all.


Happy Happy Clouds

We are officially a cloud-based communications business as of last Monday. Our Accounting, Purchasing, and Order Entry software will stay on local servers at Classic. But all our emails are now cloud-based, and we have implemented a better protocol for email, storage, etc.

So, our apologies and our thanks to you, our wonderful customers, for your patience over the past two plus weeks. I honestly did not get one complaint. Which was appreciated. And if you had complained, I would have probably left you a burning bag of poo on your doorstep. What can I say. I was a little moody. 🙂

And thanks to our staff for their patience. Once again, I am proud and impressed by your professionalism and perseverance.

So, back to work on our fancy and now very speedy and reliable network.

Hope you have a great weekend with your families. I know I will… finally!



28 Strangers That Touch Your Trade Show Exhibit

April 13th, 2016 1 COMMENT

Last year, TS Crew created 28 Strangers That Touch Your Trade Show Exhibit. It’s an excellent infographic because it shows graphically how many people “touch” your exhibit from the moment it leaves your exhibit builder’s dock. Simply start in the upper right-hand corner.

Now, realistically, a lot more folks handle your booth than shown, including the I&D team, but you get the point. Our thanks to TS Crew, an Exhibitor-Appointed Contractor, for allowing us to share this.  And yes, “that” should be “who,” but take a deep breath, move on, and enjoy the infographic.


–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


Show Your Work | Perfection vs. Good Enough

April 8th, 2016 COMMENTS

Helpful Hand

We all have our comfortable work routines, particularly in the morning. For me, there’s the mandatory cup of black tea and reading Seth Godin’s daily post. His ability to communicate timely, relevant advice in an engaging and digestible email is always inspirational.

A couple of weeks ago, he wrote Show Your Work, and I’ve found myself revisiting it again and again. I suspect that you struggle, as do we, with the challenge of perfection vs. good enough. How much longer do you finesse the design? When are the setup instructions clear and logical? Is the packaging more than sufficient but perhaps not a “work of art”? At some point, it’s time. You need to hear from your customers.

Over the years, we’ve learned that it’s OK to “release” if you’ve done your best under the circumstances. The mistake is not listening to feedback and making adjustments. And honestly, that can be so much harder for people and organizations because then it’s no longer about perfection. It’s about ego. I’ll spare you my rant about ego in the workplace. That’s a separate (and much longer) rant.

Anyway… Seth says it so much better than me. Enjoy.

Show Your Work (Seth Godin)

welcomeIt’s tempting to sit in the corner and then, voila, to amaze us all with your perfect answer.

But of course, that’s not what ever works.

What works is evolving in public, with the team. Showing your work. Thinking out loud. Failing on the way to succeeding, imperfecting on your way to better than good enough.

Do people want to be stuck with the first version of the iPhone, the Ford, the Chanel dress? Do they want to read the first draft of that novel, see the rough cut of that film? Of course not.

Ship before you’re ready, because you will never be ready. Ready implies you know it’s going to work, and you can’t know that. You should ship when you’re prepared, when it’s time to show your work, but not a minute later.

The purpose isn’t to please the critics. The purpose is to make your work better.

Polish with your peers, your true fans, the market. Because when we polish together, we make better work.

–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