Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘Exhibit Industry’

State of the Company 2021 by Kevin Carty

January 15th, 2021 COMMENTS

Click on the Letter to Download the PDF Version

State of the Company Letter by Kevin Carty Page 1
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State of the Company Letter by Kevin Carty Page 3

Is Your Display Supplier an Importer, an Assembler, or a Builder?

October 17th, 2015 2 COMMENTS

Trade Show Suppliers

An Alternate Approach

Recently, a distributor asked me about the capabilities of X, a trade show display supplier in our industry. We talked about X, which led to a conversation about A, D, and G. I realized after our call that the industry has shifted. The categories or labels we’ve always used to define exhibit suppliers/builders are no longer accurate.

Historically, we’ve talked about portable/modular, systems, or custom builders/suppliers, but those designations seem insufficient. For example, while Classic Exhibits has pre-configured and customized kits, we also build pure custom, corporate environments, and retail displays. Not to mention rental options. And we’re not alone.

So allow me to propose an alternative. It’s not intended to be definitive. Just one attempt to move the conversation along. What have I missed? [The stars do not reflect quality. That’s a whole different story. Rather an indication of capability and selection.]


blocksImports pre-configured portable displays. Little to no ability to customize displays, packaging, or instructions. Limited selection. Sells direct and through distributors.

  • Graphics: ★ to ★★
  • Hardware: ★ to ★★
  • Creative Design: ★
  • Problem Solving: ★★
  • Production Flexibility: ★
  • Rental Offerings: None


Works mostly with pre-cut metal and pre-installed locks on preconfigured kits. Basic machine shop tools. No CNC equipment. Minor kit customization if no engineering, bending, or CAD work is required. Some creative or problem-solving talent. Sells direct, mostly within region, or through a limited number of online distributors.

  • Graphics: ★ to ★★
  • Hardware: ★ to ★★
  • Creative Design: ★★
  • Problem Solving: ★★
  • Production Flexibility: ★★
  • Rental Offerings: None to ★


Exhibit SuppliersWorks within the framework of a display system. The system may be innovative, but the solution-based architecture has limitations. Because it lacks open-ended capability, the hardware, not the design dictates the solution. Has the same capabilities as assemblers (see above) with more external suppliers. Often resistant to solutions that require non-system solutions. Modest creative or problem-solving talent. Primarily sells through distributors, although direct sales are an option.

  •  Graphics: ★★
  • Hardware: ★★ to ★★★
  • Creative Design: ★★
  • Problem Solving: ★★★
  • Production Flexibility: ★★ to ★★★
  • Rental Offerings: ★★ to ★★★


Historically, wood fabrication talent. Ability to work with engineered metal. Excellent creative and problem-solving talent depending on the size of the operation, including technology services. May or may not have CNC equipment. Outstanding build capability on isolated jobs, but the facility and cost-structure are not designed for repeatable and/or customizable inlines and islands. Very good packaging and CAD capabilities on specific jobs. Show and storage services may dictate build designs. Sells direct. May work with Importers, Assemblers, Systemizers, and Manufacturers/Builders on projects that don’t fit their capabilities or cost structure.

  • Graphics: ★★★★
  • Hardware: ★★★ to ★★★★
  • Creative Design: ★★★★★
  • Problem Solving: ★★★★
  • Production Flexibility: ★★★
  • Rental Offerings: ★★★


rentA small but a growing category. Renters evolved from a another category such as Customizers. While they may build custom displays and/or sell kits from Assemblers, Systemizers, or Manufacturers/builders, they concentrate on rental and custom rental solutions for their clients. Strong creative skills within self-imposed and pre-defined limitations. Those limitations force them to be nimble and cost-effective in order to be competitive. Typically a limited number of solutions, which can be modify depending on the customer and the circumstances. Storage and show services vary widely.

  • Graphics: ★★★
  • Hardware: ★★ to ★★★
  • Creative Design: ★★★
  • Problem Solving: ★★★
  • Production Flexibility: ★★ to ★★★
  • Rental Offerings: ★★★ to ★★★★


Solid wood fabrication and engineered metal capabilities, including CNC equipment. Very good creative and problem-solving talent from tabletops to islands. Able to produce standard kits, customized kits, or fully custom displays within a predefined build schedule. Excellent packaging, CAD, and setup capabilities on well-defined systems and most customization projects. Not as concerned with show services or storage. Primarily works through distributors. May sell direct within region, depending on the business model.

  • Graphics: ★★ to ★★★★
  • Hardware: ★★★★
  • Creative Design: ★★★★
  • Problem Solving: ★★★★
  • Production Flexibility: ★★★★ to ★★★★★
  • Rental Offerings: ★★ to ★★★★

–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


RFP Certification Program: Word on the Street — April 7th thru April 11th

April 11th, 2014 2 COMMENTS

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Happy Spring! Hope your first full week of April was a good one. We are as busy as ever at Classic and continue to be very thankful for all the new opportunities.

I wanted to take this week’s blog post to share what I think is one of the BEST PROGRAMS ever developed for the exhibit industry — RFP Certification. It’s proudly brought to you from the Exhibit Designers and Producer Association, an association that Classic Exhibits Inc. is a member and an association that I serve as a Board member.

EDPA RFP Certification Program

Gwen Hill from ExhibitForce and her team of dedicated committee members spent countless hours, days, and months developing a program to answer a “call to action” from the Corporate Exhibitor Community.

The EDPA RFP Certification program seeks to verify that certain items are in existence and that industry standards and best practices are met and adhered to, based on various benchmarks. Research conducted in 2012 with the assistance of Exhibit Surveys to Corporate Exhibitors proved there “was unanimous enthusiasm for the concept of an EDPA ‘Good Housekeeping Seal’ that would prescreen exhibit house vendors on the basis of business integrity and operational practices and capabilities. Such a certification would even be a consideration in RFP and RFQ processes.” In response, the EDPA RFP Certification Program has been developed!

EDPA members in good standing are eligible to apply for certification. If the criteria are satisfied, member companies are certified by IComply, a division of BPA Worldwide (all data submitted is kept CONFIDENTIAL). The certification provides written assurance that the company meets the standards and practices approved by the EDPA. To achieve certification, the member company submits formal documentation along with the application. Once a member receives the EDPA RFP Certification, renewal will be required annually to maintain their status in the EDPA RFP Certification Directory.

The EDPA RFP Certification assures others that the member company adheres to industry standards and best practices. If desired, prior to sending a RFP, corporations can access certified members through the EDPA RFP Certification Directory.


So, what does this mean for you as Classic Distributor? As a manufacturer that DOES NOT sell direct to the Corporate Exhibitor (end users), Classic Exhibits would not qualify to be certified. But, Classic Exhibits Distributors do qualify as the direct sales entity serving the Corporate Exhibitor community. And here are some stats we’ve learned from the EDPA ACCESS meeting in December 2013 and the most recent EXHIBITOR 2014 meeting

  • Average cost for RFP response is $6,300
  • Average RFPs cost is $252,700
  • Wasted average is $42,962
  • Even RFIs cost $3,343
  • 29% of Fortune 500 clients require RFPs, and
  • 52% of procurement for Fortune 500 are part of selection process

Now, we have all been a part of the RFP process. We know that even the “least involved/complex” RFP processes still can involve providing the same information over and over throughout the year to many opportunities you are asked to bid on. The Certification Program solves that problem in large part. For members that qualify and achieve certification, that data about your company that the Corporate Exhibitor client is looking for is captured, culled, and vetted. Meaning that your Certification is your “Good Housekeeping Stamp of Approval” at the beginning of the process. Saving time for the Corporate Exhibitor as well. Providing them with the ability to KNOW that the clients bidding on their project/program already meet the core qualifications they are seeking. Therefore allowing everyone involved to fast-track the process essentially and get to the meaty stuff! Designing and bidding on the client’s desired project/program.

Another way to view this is to think about when, as a business manager or owner, you are asked by a client for terms within the accounting process. As a responsible business manager/owner, you would likely do the necessary credit check on the client’s business. And if that comes back good, then you grant them terms moving forward.

This is not too different from that. The EDPA RFP Certification assures the Corporate Exhibitor Client that a Distributor or Exhibit House is who they present themselves as, that they do in fact provide all the services they say do, and that they do in fact have locations at all the places they list on their website.

For many of you, I can imagine how powerful this could be for you and your business when going into a competitive bid situation, especially if you are coming to the table with your certification in hand when others may not have that level of pre-qualification. You would likely jump to the top of the list in the eyes of the potential client.

Having watched the program develop and seeing firsthand the level of detail, thought, and work put towards making this program what it is, I would strongly suggest that those distributors who frequently complete RFPs at least see if you qualify.

It will prove to be a significant leg up for you and your organization when being considered for new projects/programs in the future

Kudos again to Gwen Hill and her team putting this program together, one that I believe is a benefit to all of us in the Industry and certainly the clients we all proudly serve daily.

For more information, please contact Gwen Hill, EDPA VP of Education, by email at or by phone at (713) 331-3325.

And…if you are not already an EDPA member, but are interested in learning more about EDPA. Call me anytime. I am happy to share with you why I think we need MORE distributors in the ranks of EDPA membership, and why I value Classic’s membership in EDPA so much.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend with your families.

Be well.




EDPA ACCESS 2013 Review: Word on the Street — December 2nd thru December 6th

December 7th, 2013 1 COMMENT

EDPA ACCESS 2013 Review

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Lots to Share My Friends

Marco Island was the setting and what an incredible setting it was. It was 20 degrees in Oregon all week, windy and crisp. But in Marco, it was in the mid-80’s and sunny. Not that I got to experience much of the sun. We had a jam-packed week of content rich sessions and enjoyable networking.

Prior to the ACCESS event, as a member of the EDPA Board of Directors, I participated in a motivating Board Meeting with my fellow Board Members. We caught up on the association’s initiatives as well as spent a lot of time charting the continued course of the association, a course that includes a magnificent new EDPA Certification project that was launched at this year’s event. Gwen Hill from Exhibitforce did an incredible job laying out this certification process. Think of it as a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” for exhibit builders which will remove much of daunting detail gathering we all go through in the RFP process with customers. Exciting stuff!

The event started in the sun at the annual EDPA Golf Outing, proudly sponsored in part by Classic Exhibits. The weather was beautiful and the course was challenging. But, the really challenging part was all the freaking gators and not just little baby gators — 6′, 7′, and 8′ gators. A shot near the water’s edge certainly left you questioning whether or not it was really worth $5 to retrieve your ball.

The Golf Outing benefits the EDPA Foundation. Something I am truly passionate about. Proud to say that a lot of money was raised for the foundation and its future good works.

Later on Wednesday, the ACCESS event took off with the opening reception and opening of the Showcase (exhibit hall). More than 300 industry professionals descended on the Showcase to preview all the suppliers showing off their wares. Classic Exhibits was a proud participant showing off our SuperNova LED Backlighting in a 10 x 20 back wall. We were also debuting a great new counter and stool unit from OTM (On The Move). More to come on that in the coming weeks, but suffice to say, it was a real hit!

Thursday morning started with a breakfast meeting with the entire member group and a great welcome from then president Justin Hersh. After that, I was off to Speed Networking, an hour long session where you got two minutes to network with someone at your table, then every two minutes the tables shifted to another person. It was a great way for me to meet many new members and some old friends and get a feel for who they were and what they did. Truly a smart format for meeting a lot of people in the course of one jam-packed hour.

I attended many sessions Thursday but the other highlight session for me was the “Partnering With Contractors and Show Management” session. After more than 19 years of being in this industry, this was the first time I remember ever having the Builders, the Show Managers, and the General Contractors all in one room to talk about how we can ALL work together to fix many of the issues that end users experience when attending trade shows. I commend both Jay Atherton from Freeman and David Audrain from Clarion Events for their candor, honesty, and their accountability for some of the issues we see and hear about every day from our clients.

Friday was no different. I attended many sessions, even presented one myself — “Leveraging Your Partnerships with Portable/Modular System Providers.” The session went very well and was well attended. I thank all the attendees for their willingness to be active participants. Chris Lake from Highmark was my co-presenter. We used the platform as a way to help explain the benefits that many Custom Houses and Distributors recognize when they partner with companies like Classic to help design and build for their clients 800 square foot and smaller opportunities. Along with Trust, Quality, and a Delivery as key bennies, Margin Predictably was clearly a huge benefit most appreciate in their partner builds.

The event overall was a huge success. The “Not-so-Silent Auction” raised money for the foundation. And the student programs at FIT and Bemidji State University were highlights as well. We even got to see a film that included pictures of our own Trina Broten, who graduated from the Bemidji program. It was a proud moment.

For those who could not be there, you really need to consider joining EDPA. The professional development and professional connections you can make with partners and competitors alike is really well worth it.

This was yet another year where I left the EDPA Annual Meeting feel genuinely proud of my membership and participation on the Board of Directors.

To my EDPA family and friends, it was great to see you, and I want to thank you again for all the new insights you helped me realize at this year’s event and sessions. I always feel like I leave these events with more tools in my management toolbox that hopefully help me be a better leader and help Classic Exhibits be an even better organization to serve its distributors and employees.

Hope you had a great week and look forward to sharing more with you as we talk in the coming weeks. For more photos of EDPA Access, please see our Facebook page.

Be well.




EVOLVE! – EDPA ACCESS 2013 at Marco Island, FL: Word on the Street — October 28th thru November 1st

November 2nd, 2013 COMMENTS

EVOLVE! With Your Industry Peers at EDPA ACCESS 2013

There are only four short weeks until Thanksgiving. Can you believe it? Well, as soon as you drop your fork from Grandma’s apple pie and Aunt Susie’s overcooked yams, I hope you head to Marco Island. It’s time to join me for the 59th Annual EDPA ACCESS, the Exhibit Industry’s premiere thought leadership event on Dec. 4-6.

Better Yet — come as our guest and receive a $100 discount on your registration (code: Classic evip).

Here is the full agenda to wet your appetite.

Please don’t miss this opportunity to share ideas and network with your peers. I Hope I see you at EDPA ACCESS for three days of learning, networking, and growth.

Have a great weekend.