Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for December, 2020

Six Mistakes You Never Want to Make When Buying a Portable Display

December 22nd, 2020 COMMENTS
Symphony SYK-202 Portable Display

The proliferation of trade show display websites makes buying a portable display easy. Perhaps too easy. Most exhibitors, especially new ones, know very little about display hardware and graphics. They see beautiful images of displays with great prices and the convenience of point and click. What arrives, however, may not match the pretty picture or the online description.

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Sadly “putting the cart before the horse” is a common mistake when buying an exhibit. Displays buyers become fixated on size and price instead of asking the following:

  • What are our marketing goals for the show or shows?
  • Is this a short-term or long-term purchase?
  • Will we need accessories like shelves, locking storage, tablets, or monitors?
  • And who will be assembling the booth?

Once you’ve answered those questions, it’s time to start shopping. There are two options:  an online display website or a local provider. Both can supply you with similar products and prices. Much will depend on your short and long-term trade show marketing plans and whether a provider can support your evolving trade show program with products and marketing advice.

How to Avoid the Most Common Portable Pitfalls

#1. Too Good to Be True Prices.

Portable Displays

Otherwise known as the devil is in the details. We’ve all made this mistake. Many portable display websites show really low prices, which are merely the starting point. You then have to add graphics, accessories, cases, shipping which can increase the price by as much as 3X to 6X.

Not all portable websites are constructed this way so it’s important to compare the “build a bear” pricing with the “what you see is what you get” pricing.  

#2. Quality.

Portable Displays

Unlike cars or appliances or smartphones, there’s no Consumer Reports for portable displays. And let’s be honest, the rating system on most websites is suspect. Sure you can watch a video, which may or may not be helpful.

You might not like to hear this, but price is a pretty good guide. Higher-quality systems with a proven track record tend to cost more. They use sturdier frames, stronger connections, and better cases and packaging (but more on that later).

Always ask about the warranty and the return policy. Quality display products are backed by strong warranties and reasonable return policies.

#3. Assembly.

Portable Display Assembly

Assembly matters but probably not as much as you think. Some require tools. Others do not, which shouldn’t be the only determining factor when choosing a portable display. Is the assembly process intuitive? Are the parts labeled and numbered? How stable is the display when it’s done?

Remember… you will be assembling the display multiple times over months or even years. Each time it should be faster and easier to setup. If not, then the overall fit and finish may be suspect and/or the materials of questionable quality.   

#4. Graphics.

Trade Show Display Graphic

Most portable systems rely on fabric graphics for the larger images (like the main backwall) and direct print graphics for smaller images (for counters or headers). If you’ve shopped for a TV recently, you know the same size screen can vary in price, often by hundreds in not thousands of dollars. Graphics vary too. Low quality graphics are printed on older machines, using thinner materials, and use less ink per square inch. They may look fine until you place them next to higher quality graphics, like your competitor in the booth beside you.

Just as important is the fit on the frame. It must be perfect or near perfect. Too loose and the graphic appears sloppy and cheap. Too tight and the images are distorted and fitting them to the frame is like putting pants on a sleeping bear.  

#5. Replacement Parts.

Just assume you will misplace or break a display part at some point. Because you will. It happens. When considering a portable display, always ask the following questions:

  • Are replacement parts available? Is there a catalog with prices?
  • How long will it take to receive the replacement part?
  • Is the replacement part guaranteed to fit?

Some portable systems are considered disposable by the manufacturer. If you lose a part, then your only option is to buy a whole new display. With others, getting a replacement part to match your frame is nearly impossible.

Better portable displays are designed and manufactured with exact-fit tolerances and interchangeable parts. The parts are available via quick ship.

#6. Packaging.

Portable Packaging
Reusable Die-cut Foam Packaging

Very few buyers consider packaging when buying a portable display. A HUGE MISTAKE!

Poor packaging contributes to lost parts, damaged components, dirty graphics, assembly frustration, and overall long-term satisfaction with a portable display. The vast majority of portable displays are shipped using temporary packaging like shrink-wrap, paper, disposable foam, and tape. These are all tossed away at the first show. Then what?

Some portable systems use reusable packaging, like foam inserts, nylon bags, and heavy-duty corrugated boxes. Everything has a spot and every item is protected during shipping. This ensures that the display looks new for much longer and makes it easier to assemble since the components are organized and protected.  


Purchasing a trade show display, regardless of the size or price, is a sales and marketing investment. If you’ve ever walked a trade show floor and said to yourself, “Seriously dude?!” about someone’s display then you know the harm a cheap portable display can do to your image. Before buying a display, consider meeting with an Trade Show Exhibit Professional to discuss your needs and marketing goals.

–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

Super Match Game | Classic Rental Solutions

December 22nd, 2020 COMMENTS

Need a mental break over the holidays? Play this “Match Game” featuring pairs of Classic Rental Designs. Choose your difficulty level — from 20 to 2 matches using the drop-down menu. And share your time. Enjoy!

Match Game | Concentration

Up Your Game Newsletter — December 2020

December 18th, 2020 COMMENTS

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays from Classic Exhibits

You’ve probably seen the “Match Made in Hell” commercial by the Ryan Reynold’s creative team. The only thing missing was an empty convention center.

It’s been a tough year for the exhibition and event industry, as well as travel, food, and hospitality. With the release of vaccines, there’s a glimmer of hope for a healthier 2021.

It would be easy to pooh-pooh the holidays this year. To dismiss it and move on. And yet, neither you nor Classic has taken that path. During our Classic Conversations sessions in December, you’ve talked about what you’re grateful for. For example, how the pandemic strengthened relationships, broadened your skills, and allowed you to reassess your business. And how you have learned to embrace the present and are planning for the future.

The Classic Exhibits Family wishes you a Joyous Holiday and a Brighter New Year. Above all, we are grateful for your friendship and support throughout 2020.

PANTONE Color of the Year 2021

Pantone 2021 Colors of the Year

Introducing Cheerful and Dependable | The EXACT Opposite of 2020.

PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray + PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating, a marriage of color conveying a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting. Illuminating is a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warming yellow shade imbued withsolar power. Ultimate Gray is emblematic of solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation.


EDPA’s 2020 DOTY to KRZ

Katina Rigall Zipay, Designer of the Year

Please join us in congratulating Katina Rigall Zipay, Classic’s Creative Director, for receiving EDPA’s Designer of the Year Award.

The award was presented to Katina at the EDPA ACCESS Conference in San Antonio.
The Designer of the Year Award acknowledges a designer who works diligently to enhance the professional standards of experiential/exhibit designers, contributes their talents, creativity and personal time to bring innovation to experiential/exhibit design.

She was also recognized as a 2020 EDPA Future Leader. Congratulations Katina!

EXHIBITOR Portable Modular Awards

EXHIBITOR Portable Modular Awards

Earlier this week, EXHIBITOR announced the finalists for the Eighth Annual Portable Modular Awards. We are delighted to have five finalists: Greystar Worldwide, NuNaturals, Verity, Odyssey Foods, and GE Appliances. This is our eighth straight year of having multiple finalists. And, yes, we are bragging (a bit).

See all 40 of the finalists on the PMA People’s Choice Voting Page. You can vote for your favorite, once a day, until March 1. Classic has won the People’s Choice Award on several occasions, including last year (yes, a little more bragging).

We encourage you to vote and support the PMA’s.

Event Marketer Fab 50

Event Marketer Fab 50

Absolutely Fabulous! If you understood that reference, then you’re clearly over 45 and watched too much Comedy Central (or PBS) in the 1990’s.

Our thanks to Event Marketer for naming Classic Exhibits a Fab 50 company, their annual editorial listing of the industry’s top builders.

What’s even more exciting is how many Classic Exhibits Distributors made the list – 34 TOTAL. That just proves we are in good company.

This year represents our fifth year as a Fab 50 honoree. If you watch Saturday Night Live, you know the importance of being on the Five-Timers List.

A HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to all the Exhibit Builders on the Event Marketer Fab 50 List.

Classic’s Exhibit Design Search

Exhibit Design Search

Recently, we updated EDS on the Classic website to the format of the branded EDS sites. Over the past three years, we’ve made significant UI changes to the branded sites, such as larger gallery images, full screen optimization, hamburger menus, and a mobile-friendly format. Those upgrades are now part of the Classic EDS.

Please let us know if you see any issues or have questions. We welcome your feedback.

Some Good News: As we head into 2021, we’ve made the decision not to charge a subscription fee for your branded EDS sites for at least the first six months of 2021. It’s in everyone’s best interest. We want you to have Classic products on your website. AND, we both know you’re more likely to be successful selling portable, modular, custom and rentals with a branded EDS. It’s that simple.

This applies to all Classic Distributors with an active branded EDS beginning in 2020 or added EDS this year. We will re-evaluate in May for the second half of 2021. 

Safe and Stylish Safety Barriers for Hotels and Banks

December 14th, 2020 COMMENTS
Hotel Reception Desk Safety Divider

In March when businesses needed safety barriers, they installed simple solutions. That made sense. COVID was a temporary inconvenience. Nearly a year later, those flimsy barriers are still in offices, lobbies, and stores. At Classic Exhibits, we’re seeing an uptick in design requests for more permanent solutions.

Bank Teller Safety Divider

Safe and stylish are not incompatible. Done well, an elegant divider in an existing space can enhance the interior design.

These barriers are custom designed using existing structural materials which means they are more cost-effective than traditional architectural solutions. Plus, they can be installed in a day (often hours) rather than weeks. This market isn’t going away, even with a vaccine. It will continue to grow for hotels, banks, retail, and medical. For years.

Hotel Reception Desk Safety Barriers

We all want to be safe but how we get there matters. Just ask Randy from “A Christmas Story.”

Katina Rigall Zipay Named EDPA’s Designer of the Year

December 8th, 2020 COMMENTS
EDPA Designer of the Year Award, Katina Rigall Zipay

Katina Rigall Zipay was presented with the EDPA Designer of the Year Award at the EDPA ACCESS Conference in San Antonio on December. 2. The award acknowledges a “designer who works diligently to enhance the professional standards of experiential/exhibit designers, contributes their talents, creativity and personal time to bring innovation to experiential/exhibit design.

As the Creative Director for Classic Exhibits, Zipay has been challenged more than ever with designing solutions for not only tradeshows but also for corporate environments, retail settings and COVID-related projects. Most recently, she has been guiding Classic distributors and their clients through virtual exhibits as shows have shifted to online events.

Steve Deckel Deckel and Moneypenny

In the words of Steve Deckel (pictured right) of Deckel and Moneypenny and a Classic distributor, “Katina is unfazed by the bizarre project scopes and fragmented briefs in our industry; she looks beyond the surface of things and explores both the minute detail and the big picture.”

A Passion for Design

Zipay discovered a passion for experiential design 14 years ago. Her designs have earned awards at tradeshows and from EXHIBITOR magazine. As a creative director, she manages a team of internal and contract designers who have won numerous design accolades from EXHIBITOR magazine.

Zipay was one of the first graduates to earn an M.A. in Exhibition Design from the EDPA-supported program at the Fashion Institute of Technology. At FIT, she won the Department of Exhibition Design Medal, an honor reserved for the top student.

Speaking and Teaching Engagements

Over the years, Zipay has had numerous speaking engagements at FIT, Oregon State University and the University of Illinois, and has mentored design students. Other speaking engagements include appearing as a panelist (with expertise in design) at EXHIBITORLIVE in 2013 and a Women in Exhibitions panel in 2020. She also teaches Design Development: Domestic and International as part of the new EDPA+FIT Design Certificate Program.

As a member of the Society for Experiential Graphic Designs (SEGD), Zipay has volunteered her time at multiple SEGD conferences, assisting with on-site design tours, procuring sponsorship and gaining valuable continuing design education in this vertical market. She also served as the Education Chair for the Portland Chapter of SEGD in 2017, facilitating relationships between SEGD and local colleges.

Women in Exhibitions Leadership

Jen LaBruzza Classic Exhibits EDPA

Her passion for education and connecting people with resources to grow their careers led her to become the Lead Facilitator of the non-profit group Women In Exhibitions. According to Jen LaBruzza (pictured left), national sales manager at Classic Exhibits, “Under her leadership for the last six years, Katina has reorganized the bare-bones annual meetings at EXHIBITORLIVE into well-attended events with high production value, created a mentorship program, increased sponsorship and formed an advisory committee to further expand support for women in the industry.”

In 2020, the need for connection and education regarding new developments in the industry increased dramatically. Zipay reacted quickly to organize and moderate an ongoing series of well-attended WIE Zoom meetings featuring different experts each week, addressing current industry developments both related to design and the industry.

In addition to the Designer of the Year Award, Zipay was also name as one of 10 EDPA Future Leaders.

John Zipay and Katina Rigall Zipay
John Zipay and Katina Rigall Zipay