Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘Harold Mintz’

Finding My Way into the Trade Show Biz and My First Sales Call

September 25th, 2023 COMMENTS
Harold Mintz, Regional Sales Manager

I was recently asked to share memories of my very first sales call. I had to blow the dust off many layers of memories to find my way back to the early 80’s.

People usually find their way into our industry via two different paths: your family member owns an exhibit house in which you spend your youthful summers schvitzing away in a sweltering shop (I’m looking at you, Nick Carty!) or like most of us… you trip into it by accident.

For me, it was accidental. Please allow me to share some snippets from the early chapters in the Book of Harold.

First Job. First Big Mistake.

Fresh out of college, I somehow managed to get a gig as a copywriter at a local ad agency. I was writing 5 ads a day/5 days a week — TV, radio, newspaper. I wrote all the ads. Whatever the client or my boss asked for, I wrote it.

One day my boss says, “We have a new client (The Washington Times newspaper). They need to see some radio copy. Go write me five spots by the end of day.” As he was leaving my office, he tossed out one more instruction… “Don’t be funny. This is a serious client who is attempting to plant a serious flag. Don’t be funny.”

Sounds simple enough, right? Five ads before the end of the day. No funny. Gotcha. But here’s the problem. After doing my research on this new daily paper, I honestly felt they could use some humor to get people’s attention.

So after penning five straight (rather boring) radio spots, I decided to do one more… for extra credit. And it was funny. Really funny. Might have been one of the best ads I’d ever written. I was quite proud of it actually. So, when I went into my boss’s office that afternoon, I presented the five assigned “not funny” ads and proudly placed my extra credit copy right on top of the stack. MISTAKE!

This is the boss who showed me the door. Notice the hat? The Washington Times

He began to read. After a few seconds, he balled up the copy and tossed it into the trash can. There was no way he’d read the entire ad! My young and inexperienced emotions bubbled to the surface and before I could zip my lip, out it came… “FXQZ You!”

After he stopped laughing, he said, “Okay. You know you’re fired, right?” He continued, “And just a suggestion, it’s probably not a good idea to say ‘F You’ to your next boss.” 

My Next Job.

Harold Mintz
Who the heck would buy anything from this head of hair?

I was once again on the streets looking for a job. I sent out resume after resume. Bupkus. I even got my hair cut (at my father’s strong suggestion).

After a month of scouring the want ads, one of my buddies said, “Why don’t you go see my brother? He owns an exhibit house, and he’s looking for someone to write a client’s annual report.”

An exhibit what??!! Didn’t know. Didn’t care. I was out of work and needed money. I booked the appointment.

I was hired and after six weeks, I completed what I’m sure remains one of the world’s most boring annual reports ever written.

But during those 6 weeks, I noticed odd things around the shop and I had questions. Lots of questions.

“What’s that?”

“That’s a piece of moon rock. We’re making a display for the Smithsonian.”

“What’s he doing?”

“He’s a calligrapher. He’s illuminating (hand penning) diplomas for Mt Vernon College.”

“What’s he doing?”

“He’s a sign painter. He’s painting posters for the local department store.” (Listen youngsters — Vinyl machines didn’t always exist. Before Gerber made the first vinyl plotter/cutter, all signs were either hand painted or silk-screened.)

This all looked like great fun! So I asked if there was a permanent spot for me on the Blair, Inc Team. There was. In sales.

Sales? No kid that I know says, “When I grow up I wanna be a salesperson. Ewww!” But I needed the job. I didn’t know it at the time, but Scott Jackson, owner of Blair, Inc had just given me my first sales gig in the trade show industry. (By the way, Blair, Inc is still kicking butt in Northern Virginia, currently enjoying 72 years in business.)

So there I was — young, inexperienced, and probably not much more knowledgeable about trade show exhibits than my future prospects. Although I had tagged along on a few sales calls with my boss, I didn’t feel like I was prepared to go solo yet. Doesn’t matter. The call came in, and I went out.

My First Prospect

All I knew about the prospect was that they were an engineering firm and that they were a two-hour drive from our shop. I arrived about half an hour early. Always good to be early. But I screwed up the time. The appointment was set for 2:00 pmNOT 3:00 pm.

I walked in thinking I was 30 minutes early, but in reality, I was 30 minutes late. No time to visit the restroom to unload the 20 ounces of coffee I had been slogging down.

I was ushered into the conference room where there were seven men staring at me. Remember… I’m a rookie. Instead of starting by asking the questions I now know are critical to capturing a prospect’s needs, I proceeded to make my presentation all about my company, my team, and ME. After about 10 minutes of non-stop blabbing, I finally pulled out my newfangled “pop-up exhibit.”

Nomadic Display’s corporate headquarters was just down the road from Blair, Inc and they had recently given us some demo Instand frames to show clients. I popped open the frame and the room full of engineers went nuts. They immediately jumped up and said, “Do that again!” At the time, nobody had seen Ted Ziegler’s pop-up technology before. They were astounded and wanted to know everything about it.

There was time when pop-up technology was astounding to everyone who saw it. Revolutionary!

No longer nervous, I taught them how to open it. They were sooooo into it!

I told them everything I knew about “Instand pop-ups,” which took all of two minutes. But they were engineers and started asking me questions. Lots of questions…

“Can the shelves hold 30 pounds?” “Sure.” No they can’t. They don’t even HAVE shelves.

“Is it reconfigurable?” “Of course… Don’t be silly.” Liar!!!

“Can we get it by Friday?” “Absolutely.” Nope.

They couldn’t have been more excited, and I couldn’t have been more worried. I spent the return two-hour drive freaking out. Oh my gosh! What if they actually BUY this display and find out it that it can’t do ANY of the things I’d promised?!

I needn’t have worried. Never heard from them again. As impressed as they were with the technology, they had also detected my rookie-ness on display and had decided to go with a more seasoned (smarter, more knowledgeable) salesperson.

I wasted their time and mine. I crashed and burned on my very first sales call — badly. But I did learn some big lessons.

Lessons Learned

1. Get There Early – Never, ever, ever be late for a meeting. Get thereearly. Get their WAY early. But never be late. In Hollywood I learned this ditty… “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, you’re fired.”

2. Engineers – I know it’s stereotyping, but in my experience, engineers tend to like details. All the details. They also tend to want to put WAY too much copy on exhibit walls that nobody will ever read except maybe other engineers.

3. IDK — If a prospect asks you something that you don’t know the answer to, say “I don’t know!” Tell them you’ll find out and get back to them ASAP. And then find out and get back to them ASAP.

The Family Business

I mentioned up top about the two ways that people find their way into our industry: by family or by accident. While reminiscing about my early career, I realized that most of the companies that I’d worked for were all family houses:

Blair, Inc – son-in-law took over from father-in-law

Shy Greenspan, Founder of Blair, Inc and Scott Jackson, my boss and still the Owner of Blair, Inc.

Nomadic – daughter took over from father

Susan Mintz, Judy Watson (daughter) and Ted Zeigler (father and inventor of the Instand and the self-locking pop-up technology) and me.

HW Exhibits – son took over from father

Howard and Scott Walode

Last week, I was in Texas and had the pleasure of sitting down for a cup of coffee with Danny Kent/5D Show Services ( Danny’s dad, Rick Kent and industry icon Larry Crumlish started The Exhibit Store in Dallas many, many years ago. Danny shared with me how he spent his youth at The Exhibit Store learning from the ground up. It was emotional for both of us listening to him wax poetically as he reminisced about the early days and people no longer with us.

For all those who swam into our industry via their family’s gene pool, good for you.

And for all the rest of us who found it by accident… how lucky are we?

–Harold Mintz (

5 Tips to Hosting a Successful and Memorable Event

May 4th, 2023 COMMENTS
Louisville Slugger Invitation

“Let’s host an event in Louisville for our Distribution Partners during EXHIBITORLIVE.” Yes, please! Throwing unique corporate events is one of the most enjoyable tasks anyone can ask of me.

When someone says Louisville, you might immediately think Kentucky Derby. Or where 90% of the world’s bourbon is distilled. Not me. While they’re both iconic and associated with Louisville, they’re both just a bit too on the nose.

Louisville to me says baseball because it’s the home of the Louisville Slugger Museum and Bat Factory. Starting in 1884, Hillerich & Bradsby (aka Louisvillle Slugger) is the country’s oldest continually operating sport’s equipment manufacturer in the United States. Every kid who’s ever played Little League knows Louisville Slugger baseball bats. And as luck would have it, it’s a convenient ½ mile walk from the Louisville International Convention Center.

Hosting Your Event

Hosting a successful event is simple if you follow a few guidelines. Here are 5 tips to hosting a memorable event that your guests will remember for years:

1. Pulling the Rope – Why are you hosting the event? Are you trying to promote a new product or service? Are you presenting year-end awards? Just like designing a successful exhibit, the best way to accomplish any goal is to know it and share it with your entire Team. Pull the rope in the same direction at the same time.

2. I Want Buzz – We’ve all attended corporate events held during trade shows. Maybe it was a party sponsored by a client, a vendor, a publication. While I’m always thrilled to be invited, these events often end up being “okay” or “nice.” I don’t want nice. Don’t they all just sort of fade away into a hazy blur of sameness just as soon as you walk out the door?

If you’re going to host a party, make it memorable. I want buzz. I want people thinking about the event long after it’s over.  

3. Forget the Crudite – Hotel Ballroom? Trade Show Floor? There are reasons companies host their events in these spaces. It’s simple. But simple doesn’t usually lead to memorable.

Find unique venues. Look for a place where parties aren’t usually held. Throw more money into the location rather than the food being served. Guests will remember a unique space long after they’ve forgotten about that crudité.

I’ve thrown events in a stinky 90-year-old boxing gym, the bell tower of the National Cathedral, a wax museum, Cirque de Soleil’s private gym for their performers, the Kennedy Center. I once scouted the ballroom at the Russian Embassy in DC. The venue is EVERYTHING.

Once you’ve selected your unique venue, add layers. Did you know that you can rent the island of Alcatraz? You can! Thank you, National Park Service! For that party we hired an ex-guard and ex-prisoner to speak with attendees in the prison’s old chow hall. Memorable? Exclamation Point!!!     

Harold Mintz and Event Planning

4. It All Starts with the Invitation – The event doesn’t start at 5:00 pm. It starts about a month before the event when the invitation lands. That’s when you start building the buzz with an unforgettable invitation

  • Louisville Slugger Museum – An oversized vintage baseball ticket and a box of Cracker Jack.
  • Alcatraz – An oversized Monopoly Get Out of Jail Free card.
  • National Cathedral – A shocking postcard that demanded attention.
  • Boxing Gym – A cool, retro boxing poster.

Invitations offer an opportunity for some pretty serious pre-buzz, weeks before the event ever begins.

5. If You Build It, They Will Come – While there are lots of things you can stress about, getting your guests to show up probably isn’t going to be one of them. As a matter of fact, once your guests experience one of your parties, they’ll be on the lookout for next year’s invitation months in advance.

Wanna talk about planning unique, fun business events for your Clients? Give me a call. Happy to chat.

Harold Mintz, Regional Sales Manager

One Thousand Seven Hundred and Forty-one Miles w/ Harold Mintz

January 16th, 2023 COMMENTS
Harold Mintz on the Road for Classic Exhibits
Travels with Harold

The trip odometer read – 1741 miles. That’s one serious road trip. Just a few weeks ago, I traversed the Southeastern United States for two weeks to visit Classic Exhibits Distributor Partners in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Driving that many miles over 13 days gave me plenty of time to experience life on the road.

Yes. Go!

Most road warriors understand that business travel impacts others as much as themselves. Sitting at the top of this list is how your absence can affect your family life. The longer the trip, the more impact.

Me: “Dear, I’m starting to plan a business trip for early December. Looks like I might be gone for a few weeks. You OK with that?”

My Wife: “Yes. Go!”

Well, that seemed a bit too easy. Make a note to bring Susan back pecans from Georgia. Susan loves pecans.

Notes from My Trip

Driving in GA, South Carolina, and Florida

Sales Volume – Almost everyone’s sales were up in 2022. And not just up. Most distributors on this trip told me that 2022 was their best year ever (financially).

Showrooms – Are they making a comeback? No, not from what I’ve observed. But one thing is obvious… those who have showrooms stand out and get noticed! Of the 17 offices I visited, only 4 (four) had showrooms. These four offices had impressive showrooms showing a wide assortment of products including double decks, backlit graphics, LED signage, interactive digital offerings, etc. And the showrooms weren’t just there “for show.” They also served as client meeting/conference rooms. Clients were surrounded by product and design offerings without being actively “sold” on them.

Petrol – I live in Los Angeles. As almost everyone knows, gas prices in California are stupid. At the height of the stupidity, we were paying over $7.00 per gallon. As embarrassing as this may sound, I do a happy dance in CA when gas is only “$4.95/gallon.”

On this road trip, I stopped to fill the rental car somewhere outside of Atlanta and gas was $2.39/gallon. Less than a gallon of milk. I texted my wife a picture of the prices, and her response was “Forget the pecans… bring home gas!”

Gray Hair – A question I try to ask all Distributors during a visit is, “What is currently giving you gray hair? Short term or long term… what do you need to work on or fix to make your business run more smoothly?”

Trade Show Exhibit Showrooms

When You Ask Questions, You Get Answers

Of the 20 or so times I asked this question, here are some of the most common answers I received:

  • Managing Staff (HR, employees new to the industry, and training)
  • Vendor Quality (no, not Classic, but discretion prevents me from speaking poorly about competitors)
  • Client Response Times are running like molasses in January
  • Still need more hands on-deck (specifically in the shop)
  • To Portable or Not to Portable… THAT is the question. It almost takes as long to sell a 10 ft. display as it does an island. Some are weighing dropping the attention paid to smaller booths.
  • Turn Times are Still a Challenge (they’re better than they’ve been but not “back to normal” just yet)

Customer Mix – New vs Existing – Another question I tend to ask is “What percent of your business comes from Existing Customers vs New Customers?” While I tend to get a variety of answers, the vast majority tell me that 75% of business comes from current/former clients while 25% comes from new contacts or referrals. (Looking for ways to tip the scales toward NEW Clients? Send me an email and I’ll tell you –

Just Like a Doorknob – I stayed in a different hotel just about every night. I’d check in, drop my bag off into my room then go out for my evening meal. When I would get back to the hotel, I head to the elevator and press my floor’s button. The elevator rumbles up to the 3rd floor and the doors open. I now have a decision to make – is my room to the left or the right?

Doesn’t matter… Whichever direction I choose is wrong! ALWAYS WRONG! It’s comical. I have the sense of direction of a doorknob.

Classic Exhibits Road Warrior Harold Mintz

In Closing…

Two weeks is a long road trip: Two weeks of bad coffee, loud hotel neighbors, and being away from home and family.

Our industry is filled with seasoned Road Warriors. I learned from the best — Alex, Dave, Reid, Jen, Tom, Hendrik, Lynn, Gina, Kevin, and Mel. So many folks who drive our industry forward. If you are a Road Warrior, regardless of your role, I feel for you and appreciate what you do.

Last but not least. Classic’s Distributors make this job easy to enjoy. You never cease to surprise and amaze me. Like when you:

  • Ask a question about my family or past health issues
  • Get excited to learn something about Classic that you didn’t know a few minutes before
  • Share intimate tidbits about your own personal lives
  • Finally, when I connect with a new salesperson who like a sponge sucks up everything I say. Thank you!

The exhibit industry really is a family. I appreciate the opened doors and the time you spent with me last month. Already looking forward to the next trip. But more on that later.

Harold Mintz, Regional Sales Manager,


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

Classic’s Annual BBQ and Watermelon Spittin’ Contest

August 22nd, 2022 1 COMMENT
Classic Exhibits 2022 BBQ

On Friday, August 19, the Classic Exhibits Family held our Annual Summer BBQ. The BBQ wouldn’t be complete without great food, conversation, drawings, and the Harold Mintz-inspired Watermelon Seed Spittin’ Contest.

To help wash away the “end of summer” blues, we remind ourselves that the waning days of August also brings the best fruit season of the year! Every weekend Farmers Markets all over the country are bursting with nature’s bounty – the juiciest berries, the sweetest plums, and succulent peaches.  

And then there’s the mother of all summertime fruits… the WATERMELON! When was the last time you spit a watermelon seed? Heck, when was the last time you ate a watermelon with seeds?

In Portland, we know a guy who knows a guy whose second cousin hooked us up with Hermiston, Oregon watermelons, the world’s best-tasting melons. And here’s the best part… he let us snag a few for Classic’s Annual Watermelon Seed Spittin’ Contest!  

You might be asking yourself how does one spit an award-winning watermelon seed. Simple…

  1. Select your favorite slice of red, ripe, juicy watermelon
  2. Find the most aerodynamically shaped seed 
  3. Step up to the line
  4. Place the seed on your tongue
  5. Visualize the seed arcing gracefully  
  6. Wait for any slight breeze to give way to still air
  7. Take a DEEP breath
  8. Curl your tongue like a taco
  9. And let ‘er rip!


  • Women’s Gold — Stefania Toscano – 12’-3 ½” 
  • Women’s Silver — Jessica Loss – 12’-3”
  • Women’s Bronze — Jennifer Carney – 12’-1 ½”
  • Men’s Gold — James Zuber – 35’-3”
  • Men’s Silver — Mel White – 29’-3”
  • Men’s Bronze — Jeff Garrett – 27’-9”

A Walk Around Natural Products Expo West

March 15th, 2022 4 COMMENTS
Natural Products West Expo

I joined Classic Exhibits in 2019 after a 10-year hiatus from the trade show industry. One of my first assignments was to walk Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim. I was tasked with reporting on how exhibit design had changed over the previous decade. As it turned out, I discovered that the basic rules of trade show design had remained constant — bright colors, bold lighting, and high contrast never go out of style.

Last week I walked the floor of Natural Products Expo West once again, and I couldn’t be more pleased to report that the place was jam-packed. Lots of exhibitors, lots of attendees, and lots of tasty little snacks to sample as I strolled the floor.

Attention Grabbing Exhibits

The first booth that grabbed my attention was a 10’ backlit booth (Rambler). I couldn’t help but stop and take it in.

Rambler Water at Natural Products Expo West

I LOVED how the backlit orange simply ignited the backwall. And the stacks of product along the sides of the booth showed their clean, crisp packaging while eliminating the need for significant storage cabinets – a serious challenge in a 10’ booth.

Bright colors kept grabbing my eyes demanding that I look their way.

Then I started noticing displays that put graphics against a black background. Anything on black jumps right out at you.

The same can almost be said for graphics with a white background. It’s hard not to look.

Lighting demands attention as well. Check out this booth. It’s hard to tell from the picture but the three lightbulbs shown as part of the “hanging lamps” are actually lightbulbs that have been inserted into the cut fabric. Bright lights, breaking the plane of the fabric. Nicely done.

Red Plate Foods at Natural Products Expo West

This one as well.

Vevan at Natural Products Expo West


I told myself that I wasn’t going to capture images showing examples of bad graphics at Natural Products Expo West. We all know when we see graphic designs that don’t work. No need to poke hard-working designers.

But wrinkles… wrinkles are not caused by designers. Wrinkles are easily fixable if I&D teams are prepared for them. And there is no excuse NOT to be prepared for them. I’ve done my best to crop out any identifying logos. I saw dozens and dozens and dozens of examples. PLEASE tell your I&D crews to be prepared. BOTOX YOUR BOOTH!

Wrinkled graphics at Natural Products Expo West

And lastly… This might just be the best booth I saw all day – MYNTZ

Myntz Breathmints

Harold Mintz (MYNTZ), Regional Sales Manager

Classic Exhibits has been designing and building solutions since 1993. We’ve been honored as an Exhibitor Magazine Find-It Top 40 Exhibit Producers and an Event Marketer Fab 50 Exhibit Builders multiple times. Along with numerous Portable Modular Awards. 

With over 200 Distributor Partners throughout North America, there’s a Classic representative closer by. Contact us today whether you need a durable hand sanitizer stand built to last, a rental display guaranteed to attract trade show attendees, or a custom 30 x 40 exhibit with all the bells and whistles. We’re not just different. We’re better.