Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for the ‘Mel White’ Category

Display History — Portable Pop-Up Displays

February 2nd, 2019 COMMENTS
A Brief History of Pop Up Displays

My first job in the trade show industry was with a pop-up display manufacturer in the mid-1990s. By then, there were half a dozen major manufacturers. To put this in perspective, the original pop-up display was introduced in 1975 by Ted Zeigler, who founded Nomadic Display.

The Pop-up Display War

At the time, there was a fierce sales battle based on the features and benefits of pop-up displays. It was war, and the side you took was fought with a take-no-prisoners approach. And lest we forget, those were the days when your salesperson would arrive at your office and demo the pop up with a certain theatrical flair.

This may seem a bit silly now. However, at the time, pop up displays, nearly all designed and built in the United States, were an amazing invention. They made life for trade show exhibitors in 10 x 10 and 10 x 20 spaces much easier (and they were fun to open and assemble).

They shipped in portable cases, greatly reducing drayage, and could be assembled quickly and with minimal instructions. Plus, you could choose between fabric panels with Velcro graphics or spend more and have mural graphics. Prices ranged from $3600 for a basic 10 ft. with fabric panels to nearly $10,000 with graphics, shelves, lights, and a case-to-counter conversion. It seemed like a bargain compared to traditional custom wood exhibits. And it was.

Quadro Pop Up Displays Made in the USA
Pop-up Displays with Mural Panels

So, what were the differences between the various systems that seemed so important at the time?

Aluminum vs. Fiberglass

Most pop up displays were made with aluminum. Some with round tubes. Others with square tubes. And even in the round tube community there was bickering about the quality of the aluminum (aircraft grade vs. non-aircraft grade) and the diameter of the tube. One manufacturer took a different approach and make their frame with fiberglass rods.

Self-Locking vs Connectors

There was no middle ground on the connector feature. The self-locking frame zealots included the original and most well-known brand. Anyone who demo’d it made sure to emphasize the “magic” when opening it. And frankly, if you hadn’t seen it before, it was pretty darn impressive. All other frames had connectors which gave the frames rigidity. The number of connectors varied — some having as few as six to others having as many as 15. Then there was the battle of which connector was easier and more durable, which was valid if often overstated.

Channel Bars

As if the frame differences weren’t enough, then there were the channel bars, which are the vertical bars that hold the fabric and graphic panels. This was a financial goldmine for intellectual patent attorneys as manufacturers engineered changes to address or negate their competitor’s perceived advantages. In short, the differences fell into three camps: individual channel bars, attached channel bars (using fabric or elastic), and folding or sliding channel bars.

In addition, salespeople would sing the praises of whether the channel bar was steel, aluminum, or plastic and whether the panel connection was magnet-to-magnet or magnet-to-metal. If you believed them, it really, really mattered and making the wrong (or right) decision could alter the course of your life.

Roto-molded Portable Cases

This came down to three distinctions:

  1. Does the 10 ft. pop up pack in two smaller (and lighter) cases or one larger case.
  2. Does the internal packing have all the bells and whistles to keep at the parts tidy or more basic packaging to save cost.
  3. Do the case(s) allow for a case-to-counter conversion option and how easy was the conversion to assemble.
Floating Graphic Pop Up Display
Floating Graphic Pop-up Displays

In 2019

Let’s jump ahead to 2019. Are there the same differences among pop ups on the market? Yes. But they don’t seem to matter to most exhibitors. It’s really about features, price, and whether the exhibitor wants to make a short-term or long-term investment in their pop-up display. Even that depends on how often they use it every year.

Fortunately, exhibitors no longer have to settle for a basic 10 ft. curve. There are now pop up frames with tension fabric graphics, backlighting, and even SEG, along with LED lights and robust shelving options. And as you can imagine, price points vary widely depending on features and quality.

It pays to ask questions even on the less expensive models, especially if the price seems too good to be true. We live in a find-and-click world, but a display purchase should always include a conversation or email/text exchange with a knowledgeable professional to make sure the display will fulfill your trade show marketing goals. Things break. Will the display last multiple years? Are replacement parts available? Where do you go when you need new mural panels?

Let us know if we can assist you with your next display purchase, whether it’s portable, modular, or custom. See the links for more information about the FGS and Quadro Pop Up Displays. Happy Exhibiting!

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

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Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, custom, rental 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 www.classicexhibits.com.

An Interview with Jim Shelman, GM of Classic Rental Solutions

January 5th, 2019 COMMENTS

Interview with Jim Shelman at Classic Rental Solutions

Trade Show Rentals have undergone a seismic shift not only in design but also in sales. And, this trend will continue in 2019 and beyond. This week, we chatted with Jim Shelman, the General Manager of Classic Rental Solutions. So what should you expect as an exhibitor or a Classic Exhibits Distributor Partner? More of the same, which is a VERY GOOD THING. 

Q1. You’ve been in the Rental Exhibits space for over 20 years. What’s different now than say 6-8 years ago?

A lot of things have changed, but there are two things that really stand out to me as major changes. One, is the implementation of customization to rental designs. Almost every order we produce includes some element of customization to provide specific needs that exhibitors request during the design process. Today, it’s difficult to spot a rental design, versus a purchased design on the show floor.

The other thing that stands out are the reasons exhibitors decide to rent vs. purchase.

In the past, the primary reason to rent had more to do with only exhibiting in one or two shows per year, and if you were unsure of your long-term show schedule. The thought process was to test the waters with a rental, see how it goes, and purchase once you’ve committed to exhibiting in multiple shows per year. Now, it has become more about design flexibility, and perhaps not wanting to be stuck with the same design show after show. Or, maybe not wanting to deal with storing, shipping, or repairing a purchased exhibit.

Today, many exhibitors approach each show as a clean slate by working with new rental designs that match their specific show-to-show needs.

Q2. Classic Rental Solutions sales have increased year-over-year since 2010. Nearly 20% in 2018. Why?

There are several factors. With the risk of sounding corny, I’ll credit our team of dedicated people, and our incredible distributors, but I also think it’s because of our business model. We understand how important it is to be flexible, and to offer customized design services, and continuously add new custom designs to our rental gallery through our Exhibit Design Search feature on our website. And we’re committed to adding inventory as needed, to fulfill new opportunities for our distributors.

Classic Exhibit Rental Rewards ProgramAnother key factor is that we have the unique support from our in-house manufacturing professionals that produce new exhibits for our 200+ Distributor Partner Network. All of our rental components are produced right here, and we’re able to make last minute modifications.

I like to make it clear that we don’t just offer rentals, but that we offer a complete rental program. From start to finish, we have detailed processes that are followed by our production team and project managers. Every rental project gets staged and photographed before shipping. The highest quality standards are strictly enforced. We include setup instructions, and staging and packing photos with every order. After orders are returned, we provide a complete check-in report to close-out the project.

Several years ago, we implemented our Rental Rewards Program, which offers a reward discount of 2% of the total rental and graphics order when your exhibit returns without major damage and/or missing components. The program also offers two annual prize-drawings, and other rewards for our distributor network.

Q3. What are your biggest challenges headed into 2019? Biggest opportunities?

The seasonal nature of the trade show industry is always challenging. Everything hits at once several times throughout the year, which makes it challenging at times, but we plan and adjust accordingly. I’ve been doing this for a long time, so it’s never a real surprise, but it can hit at slightly different times.

2019 should be an amazing year for us. I would say that our biggest opportunities will be to continue to work on larger island design projects. We’re doing larger projects all the time, and I expect that trend to continue.

Another big opportunity that I’m anticipating is doing more large quantity component orders. We do large quantity orders for workstation kiosks, monitor stands, iPad kiosks, counters, and charging stations. Our large inventory, and willingness to add more, allows us to offer quantities that others typically don’t have available.

Trade Show Island Rental Exhibits from Classic Rental Solutions

Q4. What do you think the typical exhibitor gets wrong about renting a trade show exhibit?

Some of the newer exhibitors think that they are limited to standard designs, and they’re surprised when we start the design process and realize that we offer so much more than they were expecting.

Q5. What do you wish the typical Classic Distributor Partner understood about Classic Rental Solutions?

For those who aren’t aware and haven’t worked with us, I wish that they understood our full capabilities, and our design flexibility. And that we offer a complete rental program with nothing but high-quality “like-new” components. I want them to understand that we can offer something unique for their client base. Something that has proven to work successfully for distributors all over the country.

Q6. Have you seen more event-related rentals vs. trade show rentals? Are their more similarities or differences?

Yes, we ship a fair amount of event-related projects. In the last couple of months, we had multiple large quantity orders for charging stations. And last week we shipped (49) backlit counters to the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas.

Q7. How has the Gravitee One-Step System impacted your rental options?

Our Gravitee Modular System has been a great addition to our rental program. It works extremely well for towers and conference rooms, but also for entire island and inline designs. It’s super-fast and easy to setup and disassemble, so it’s used as much as possible to save on labor costs. We see a substantial savings in time during our staging process here in our shop as well. We have a large inventory of standard and custom panel sizes, and we’ll continue to add to it.

Q8. Assuming you’ll be at EXHIBITORLIVE 2019, what are the three questions you want attendees or Distributor Partners to ask you about CRS?

Yes, I’m planning to be there, and here are three of many questions that I would welcome during our conversations.

  • How can Classic Rental Solutions assist us with our current rental program?
  • How do we get started working with Classic for our rental projects?
  • What are your customization capabilities?

I’m looking forward to the show, and I’d be happy to schedule meetings during, before, or after show hours.

You can contact Jim Shelman at jshelman@classicexhibits.com or at 503-345-0525 ext, 103. 

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Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, custom, rental 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 www.classicexhibits.com.

Reflections on the Gravitee One-Step Modular Wall System

December 28th, 2018 COMMENTS

Two years ago, we introduced the Gravitee One-Step Modular Wall System, a radical approach to modular walls. No tools, no loose connectors, and no inventory of funky corners.

What have we learned in two years? We’ve learned that…

  1. Exhibit Designers love Gravitee’s flexibility. Its curves, graphic options, stacking, and backlighting.
  2. Distributor Partners praise its durability, ease-of-use, and rental possibilities.
  3. Exhibitors have embraced its simplicity, cost-effectiveness, and engineered elegance and beauty.

If we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that innovation is hard… and risky. Everyone gravitates (no pun intended… well, maybe a little) to the familiar. The easy path would have been for Classic Exhibits to introduce a “me too” product. However, that’s not how we roll, and our product history has always been one of being different and better.

As we all head into the New Year, we wish you much success in 2019, and we invite you to embrace the “different and better approach.” We are far from perfect, but we’ve had a pretty good 25-year run by not being like everyone else. Take the path less traveled. The scenery is more interesting, and you just might discover something new.

Gravitee One-Step Modular Wall System

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

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Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, custom, rental 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 www.classicexhibits.com.

The Truth about Renting a Trade Show Exhibit

December 10th, 2018 COMMENTS

Renting vs. Buying a Trade Show Exhibit

Over the past year, I’ve read quite a few articles about renting a trade show exhibit. Most are innocuous, some helpful, but others are just plain wrong. Frankly, that annoys me, but I understand why. Exhibit rentals are growing. Rapidly. And exhibit companies are positioning themselves based on their individual strengths.

“Positioning themselves” — what does that mean? In our industry, there are (1) person companies to (2500) person companies. Some build. Many do not. Some have large rental inventories. Others have little to none. Is their rental inventory metal, wood, modular walls, portable components? And how much of it is new, newer, or beat to hell? How does it assemble? Does it come with detailed setup instructions? What about design support?

These are the questions the average exhibitor never asks. Not because they don’t care, but because it would never occur to them.

I can’t answer all these questions in a blog post, but let’s untangle some of the most common misconceptions.

#1. Renting is An Option, Not THE Solution

Some rental-only exhibit companies are touting renting as the only solution. They say, “Why buy when you can rent? No more storage fees. You can change the display for every show. The cost is less.” It sounds attractive, and it’s a solid argument for many exhibitors. However, renting an exhibit, just like leasing a car, can be more expensive than purchasing. It depends on usage, lifespan, ongoing modifications, etc. It’s not as cut and dry as it appears at first glance. It’s important to run the numbers.

And, it’s not an either/or choice. Sometimes it makes sense to purchase a portion of the exhibit, say the main tower or overhead sign, and rent the components, like the counters, workstations, and charging stations. It depends on what you might want to change from show to show. But, again, you have to run the numbers and at least have a “general” vision of your short- and long-term trade show marketing goals.

Finally, sometimes it’s not about the numbers. Some exhibitors want to own their display. Others do not. Cost has little to do with their decision.

Trade Show Island Exhibit Rentals#2. Rentals Can Be Customized, Which Isn’t the Same as Custom

Whenever someone tells you your rental exhibit is “custom,” you might want to dig deeper on what “custom” means. It might mean the design is custom, but the components come from stock inventory. Or there are several custom elements which are unique to your exhibit and are being depreciated over multiple rentals, either yours or other future rental clients. Or you are basically “purchasing” the custom element, but everyone is calling it a rental since you won’t own it.

While it’s true, you can technically get a custom exhibit as a rental, there are always strings attached such as a commitment to multiple rentals or a higher price for the one-time rental.

In most cases, a rental exhibit is a “customized” display using stock components, based on a preexisting or “customized” design, and client-specific graphics.

#3. You Rent the Structure, But You Own the Graphics

Remember you are renting the structure, but you own the graphics. Each time you change the messaging, you are buying new graphics. Be realistic about how often you plan to update your graphics. Clients often assume they will reuse the graphics 3-4 times, but marketing campaigns aren’t like a pair of jeans. They change. Sometimes every single show.

#4. Your Rental Components May Be Used for Another Client’s Rental

Recently, I read a blog post where the rental exhibit supplier said that your rental property would never be used for another rental. If that’s true, it’s either the smartest or the dumbest business model I’ve ever heard. Now, in the real world, rental components are reused. That’s why rental exhibits can be less expensive. Duh?! Does that mean another exhibitor will have exactly the same design as you? Perhaps, but it’s very unlikely since every exhibit has unique needs and distinctive graphics. However, the modular aluminum wall used in Job ABC will get reused two months later on Job XYZ. And then again, until it’s no longer serviceable as a rental component. To pretend otherwise is disingenuous. 

#5. Size Matters. Inventory Matters. Design Matters.

Do you remember when I said that there are companies ranging from one employee to several thousand employees? Those companies all have different rental capabilities, either in-house or through a strategic partner like Classic Exhibits. No one has an unlimited budget to stock every possible rental design. Ask yourself this… Is the design guided by their limited rental inventory or by your trade show design requirements? Whatever rental company you choose, they should treat the process as if you were purchasing a display, and the final display should look visually indistinguishable from a new exhibit.

#6. Packaging Matters. Instructions Matter. Quality Matters. 

Trade Show Inline Exhibit RentalsHere’s the very sad truth. No exhibitor ever asks about packaging, setup instructions, or quality, particularly on a rental property. And aside from design capabilities and inventory, nothing distinguishes an OK rental supplier from an AMAZING one than packaging, instructions, and quality. Too often, exhibitors save money by renting an exhibit only to piss it all away during setup and assembly on the show floor.

You should expect detailed drawings, numbered or labeled components, photos (showing where the supplier pre-assembled it at their facility), jigged packaging/crating, and clean hardware. The hardware should appear new or newish, not like it just fell off the truck, rolled around in the dirt, and then was tossed into a crate. When you open the crate, it should make you smile, not cringe in fear.

#7. Rentals are a Long-term Partnership with Your Exhibit Supplier

Depending on the rental schedule, you are going to see each other a lot. And, based on that ongoing relationship, you are going to flourish or falter. Exhibit rentals require a communication commitment. What’s your show schedule? Does the design need to change? Were there any issues at the last show? How about new graphics? Is your next show an inline vs. an island? When do you want to booth to ship and are there any services you need such as rental furniture, I&D, electrical, flooring, etc.

Rentals force both sides to communicate, often far in advance. It doesn’t take long to decide whether it’s a fit or whether it’s time for you to start seeing other people. But, when it does work, it’s a beautiful thing.

One final piece of advice — not all suppliers are equally good at both. Your current supplier may be a magician at designing a custom exhibit but lack the skills, interest, or inventory to pull the rental rabbit out of a hat. Being good at one is no guarantee of being good at the other. Ask the hard questions and be willing to work with someone else if anything seems amiss.

In the end, your rental experience should be no different from a purchase, whether during the exploratory and design process or at the show. Always expect the best.

Have questions? Give us a call or send us an email. We would love to chat with you.

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

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Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, custom, rental 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 www.classicexhibits.com.

Comparing “A La Carte” vs “As Shown” Online Prices for Trade Show Displays

December 3rd, 2018 COMMENTS

When It Seems Too Good to Be True

It’s the Holiday Season. Whether it’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or the local flyer, you are constantly being enticed by low prices, many too good to be true. And sadly, many are. Either because the price doesn’t tell the whole story or because of limited quantities. 

Many online display websites are masters at enticing buyers with crazy low prices, which on further investigation are not quite as “cheap” as they seem. Then, there’s quality, warranty, and customer service questions to consider as well. 

There are two types of online display buyers. Some buyers prefer the “a la carte” approach, which allows them to add only the features they want. Makes sense. Others prefer the “what you see is what you get” experience. No surprises. No hidden charges. 

Here’s an example of the a la carte approach with a very attractive price on a 10 ft. portable display. Note the $275 price

How to compare prices on trade show displays

 

Basically, the $275 includes the tubing and a soft carry case (no graphic). Let’s say you want a double-sided graphic. Now, the price is $975

How You Can Compare Prices on Trade Show Displays

After selecting the graphic, the next choice is the turnaround time. If you need it in less than 7 business days, there’s an upcharge. In this case, $200 for a three-day turnaround which bumps the price to $1,175.

The Best Way to Compare Prices on Trade Show Exhibits

Although the soft case is included, you want your new display to last more than a few shows. Plus, it makes sense to incorporate a hard case into the booth presentation by adding a graphic. You’re now at $1495 which is considerably more than the original $275 price. 

Two Methods for Comparing Prices on Tradeshow Displays

The final two steps are graphic design assistance and adding lights. Graphic design requires a quote, which is reasonable and fair. The lights? Who wouldn’t want lights on a trade show display? Duh? 

When Comparing Prices on Trade Show Displays

The final price, excluding shipping and any graphic design charges, is $1595.

Does this mean this isn’t a good value? Depends. It’s a basic tube-assembly 10 ft. display ideal for many businesses, particularly for local events. The graphics may be fine but there’s no way of knowing if the company uses 2nd, 3rd, or 4th generation dye-sublimation printing. Many low-end supplies used direct to surface printing rather than dye-sublimation because it’s less expensive. And, once again, that may be OK if you are only planning to use the graphic for a limited number of shows. 

My point, however, isn’t to question the quality of the display. Instead, it’s to demonstrate that online display websites use two different approaches, namely “a la carte” vs. “as shown.” There are merits to both, but it’s important to understand the difference. 

At Classic Exhibits, we believe that “as shown” prices are an easier method for exhibit buyers to compare designs and features. It doesn’t require you to “Build the Price” to see the final price. And since all our displays can be modified/customized to the exhibitors preference, drop-down menus can’t possibly list all the available options. That would be a nightmare for the serious exhibit buyer. 

Have questions? Give us a call or send us an email. We would love to chat with you. 

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

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Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, and custom exhibit solutions, including SuperNova LED Lightboxes. 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 www.classicexhibits.com.