Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘Optima Graphics’

A Groovy First Year Retrospective

July 9th, 2013 COMMENTS
First Year Retrospective

Lessons Learned by Jen LaBruzza

Lesson #56 – Problems Can be Opportunities in (a really bad) Disguise

Some might say “astounding.” Others may choose “astonishing.” I choose “G-R-O-O-V-Y”!

The past year has been, well, groovy. I’m imagining a few LOL moments from those who have spent time with me. This month marks my one-year anniversary with Classic Exhibits as the Western Regional Manager.

As a former teacher, I would be remiss if I didn’t pause for a little self-reflection on my first year. To those who have allowed me into your businesses and into your lives — “Thank You!” I am grateful for every conversation and every meeting. I realize that it’s not always easy meeting with a newbie.

Which brings me to the sometimes challenging part of my job:  problem solving and wheel greasing. You may recall Reid Sherwood’s timely blog post last year, What You Should Expect From a Manufacturer’s Rep. It was published just as I was heading out on my first trip and hearing a lot of, “Now what is your role with Classic Exhibits?” It was a great insight into the expectations for Regional Managers at Classic Exhibits and ClassicMODUL.

Did you lose my manuscripts?

It also brought to light a part of our job that we sometimes dread — Problem Solver. Having worn many hats over the years in this industry, this is still the one hat that drives me the most crazy. It eats up everyone’s margin on that “oh so easy” job. But without something breaking, without trouble that shakes up the normal course of things, there is no opportunity to introduce new and better solutions.

Ernest and Ezra

In the 1920’s, when Ernest Hemingway was working hard to perfect his craft, he lost a suitcase containing all his manuscripts. The devastated Hemingway couldn’t conceive of redoing his work. He could only think of the months he’d devoted to his arduous writing . . . all for nothing, he was now convinced.  But when he lamented his loss to his friend and poet, Ezra Pound, Pound called it a stroke of luck. Pound assured Hemingway that when he rewrote the stories, he would forget the weak parts and only the best material would reappear. Instead of framing the event in disappointment, Pound cast it in the light of opportunity. Hemingway did rewrite those stories, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Last year, there have been problems, ranging from “I need an extra length of cord cover for our customer’s extrusion” to the generic “This job has problems and I need you to fix them.” Recently, one of the latter took me to the show site.

The “opportunity” involved Classic stepping up to the plate and correcting some mistakes. They weren’t huge, but measuring mistakes depends on who has the ruler. The distributor requested that we send someone to the show site to assist their client. All was well until the final phase, when things were being plugged in and tested. The last SEG graphic was not going to work, not because of size but because the client was unhappy with the standard rear projection fabric. Did I mention this was on a Sunday?

I was able to call in the cavalry, a.k.a. Dave Brown from Optima Graphics who suggested an alternative fabric. He rallied his troops and got the new graphic printed and on a flight. Did I mention that the show opened on Monday at 9:30 am? For me, it meant waking up at 4:15 am to arrive at the airport at 4:30 to ensure that the graphic was installed by 7:30. This was clearly an opportunity waiting to happen and thanks to Optima, the new rear projection fabric worked perfectly.

A sure sign of a successful person or a company is how they tackle problems. Are they creative and innovative? Do they turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones. It’s often those hidden opportunities that can cement your relationship with your client and serve to make it stronger because you have weathered it together. As the saying goes, “Problems happen. It’s how you handle them that is important.”

Now go out there and focus on turning challenges into opportunities rather than into disappointments and problems. And most importantly, let me know how I can help.

Jen LaBruzza, Western Regional Manager
Classic Exhibits/ClassicMODUL


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions and engineered aluminum extrusions (ClassicMODUL). 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.


10 Totally Free Things to Do at EXHIBITOR2013

February 26th, 2013 COMMENTS

Classic Exhibits Distributors:  You didn’t stay in business this long by lighting cigars with $100 bills. Heck no! You want a deal.

EXHIBITOR2013 is just around the corner. And, if you’re like me, you’re wondering, “What can I do at the show that won’t cost me any money.” Kevin will tell you that’s how I think 365 days of the year. Not true. Sometimes I wonder how I can pay even less, thereby making a little money. 😉

Click to download the PDF 10 Totally Free Things to Do at EXHIBITOR2013.” Print it my friend. This is information you’ll want at your fingertips while you’re in Sin City. Don’t forget to take the complimentary shampoo and conditioner home with you. If you hide them in your suitcase each day, you’ll collect enough to save you at least 50 cents. It all adds up. It all adds up.

–Mel White


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions and engineered aluminum extrusions (ClassicMODUL). 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.


Portable/Modular/Hybrid Summit at EXHIBITOR2013

February 21st, 2013 COMMENTS

The EDPA Portable/Modular/Hybrid Summit will be held during EXHIBITOR2013 on Tuesday, March 19 at 3:45 pm in the Food Service Area (far right of exhibit hall) of Mandalay Bay North Convention Center. There is no charge. This event is open to all industry manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, educators, and consultants.

Kevin Carty from Classic Exhibits Inc. will moderate. A panel discussion will follow with experts from exhibit design, graphics, distribution, and manufacturing, including David Brown of Optima Graphics, Greg Beach of Atlantic Exhibits, Chris Griffin of Trade Show Supply, Katina Rigall of Classic Exhibits, and Anita Mitzel of GraphiColor Exhibits.

The Portable/Modular/Hybrid Summit is FREE to EDPA members and non-members. To reserve a seat, please contact Melissa Nemitz: or (203) 899-8491.

We look forward to your participation in the summit.

Download the PDF flyer.



Randy Smith, Jim Shelman, and Cindi Cody

October 26th, 2012 COMMENTS
Shooting from the Hip (trade show tips)

Shooting from the Hip by Reid Sherwood

Randy Smith

I have been in Atlanta the past few days seeing distributors and playing in The Randy Smith Memorial Golf Classic. I am going to double up on this and talk a bit about both.

A few weeks ago, Rich Johnson (one of the founders of the RSMGC) asked me if I would serve on the board of The Randy Smith. Obviously I accepted. I have been a loyal fan and supporter for 11 years. The Randy is a non-political group of industry folks who provide emotional and financial support to other industry people who have fallen on difficult times.

It is the one day all year (and maybe the night before) where competitors lay down their swords and come together to raise money and help people. And this year was no exception. There were eight recipients. Every year I’m reminded of the same thing:  no matter what is going on in your life, no matter how bad you have it, there is always someone who has it far worse.

One of the recipients was the Mark Tate family. Mark and his wife have two daughters, age 13 and 10. They have both been impacted with life-threatening disease. Olivia (the 10 year old) was diagnosed with brain cancer at 2 years of age and has had numerous surgeries and treatments. Thank God she has been in remission for the past 4 years. Her sister, Elena, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2009 and has had chemo and was in remission until recently. She had bone marrow transplant this past July and continues to receive treatments.

Again, just when you think times are tough, you hear a story like this and realize that all in all, your life is pretty good.

Thank you to everyone who participated as golfers, volunteers, and sponsors. Without you, it would not be possible. And personally I would like to thank Rich and Ted Peterson for keeping this alive for 18 years

Personally, I would like to thank my team from the Randy this year. Bill Glasser from Exhibit Concepts, Cindi Cody from Xzibits, and Classic’s own Jim Shelman from Exhibits Northwest.

Jim Shelman

This was the first time I spent time with Jim without other Classic employees in the mix. He is a great guy, but he has his quirks. The day before the tournament, I had a couple of early appointments, but Jim and I were planning to play a round later that day.

I pick Jim up to go to the course, and he is complaining. Well, not really complaining, maybe whining and visibly distraught. All this because the place we were staying didn’t have the right coffee. Trying to be the nice guy, I hurry along, so we get to a gas station where he can get some coffee. It isn’t good enough — the pot is too empty and it is probably burned. Now he is borderline quivering. I am not a coffee drinker so I really don’t understand, but I try to be a good team player. We move on and he says, “Pull into McDonalds. They have good coffee.” I pull in and roll the window down and am ready to order, thinking to myself how glad I am that I am not a coffee drinker who needs that “caffeine boost” to get through the day. So he says, “Get me a Decaf!” REALLY??? But it all made sense later that evening when I saw him drinking a O’Doul’s beer.

Cindi Cody

On another note, I did a trade show with one of our Atlanta distributors, Xzibits, and it was a huge success. Cindi Cody and her crew had an attractive 10 foot exhibit. The six hour show offered up almost 30 leads. One little tidbit of information. Cindi posted on her Facebook page that they were at the show. Instantly, a new start-up company wrote back saying that they couldn’t attend but made an appointment for later this week.

I’m always interested in what customers are looking for in this economy. Many are still looking at banner stands, but many are saying it is time to step up. No more pop ups. That puts Magellan, Sacagewea, and Perfect 10 in position to answer that call. I do have to pay a tribute to Optima Graphics and Xpressions. The show I was at was a business to business show. There were about 60 exhibitors in all. But out of 60 distributors, there were six Xpressions displays. That is an incredible number.

That’s all for now. I’m headed home in a couple of days. These ten day trips make me miss my family more than usual, so I am looking forward to Tuesday evening.

Till the next time,

Reid Sherwood


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions and engineered aluminum extrusions (ClassicMODUL). 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.


SKU …. Part Deux: Word on the Street — October 1st thru October 5th

October 7th, 2012 2 COMMENTS

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Teacher’s Pets

Two weeks ago, we hosted our second Shared Knowledge University training. It was a very successful educational and networking event with an outstanding group of new and veteran distributors. To the attendees, we loved having you here. The give and take, your humor, and your insights made it truly special. If there was an award for Teacher’s Pets, you would have all won.

The two day training was conducted at the Classic Exhibits facility and a nearby Courtyard by Marriott. We started the mornings at the Marriott covering topics such as Exhibit Design Search, ClassicMODUL, design, project management, and presentations by Optima and Eco-Systems Sustainable. We even reviewed Classic’s business philosophy and Bread Crumb Orders. Then after lunch, we headed to Classic for hands-on product training where the attendees toured the shop, learned about the rental program, and  spent about three hours each day disassembling products as well as learning the how, why, and when of the Classic product line.

We finished each day off at a unique Portland venue. Night one, we spent in a classroom of sorts as we had dinner at the Historic McMenamins Kennedy School. Great food and fun, all while the replacement referees in the NFL sealed their fate during the final seconds of the Seattle Seahawks Monday Night football game.

Tuesday evening, we gathered at Widmer Bros. Brewery, one of the founding craft breweries in the Pacific Northwest. I appreciate everyone’s patience with the small room. The close quarters meant we got to know one another a litter better.

Enthusiastic Attendees

The key to any event is attentive and enthusiastic attendees. It makes a big difference when people are plugged in and ready to learn. The SKU attendees came prepared to learn and be engaged. We really appreciated that! This event’s attendees came from Georgia, Virginia, NY, California, Tennessee, Oregon, and Washington. Great group!

Second key is content. I hope we achieved the goal of having excellent content. Thanks to our partners from Eco-Systems Sustainable and Optima Graphics. We appreciate your participation. I also want to thank the Classic Exhibits presenters who worked hard on their content and who’s participation made a big difference.

Mel took the role as Captain Stubbing once again leading most of the aspects of the training and doing yet another phenomenal job, all the while being two days out from separating his shoulder on the Club 815 ride. Very impressive. I on the other had once again took on the role of Julie McCoy planning all the evening and lunch events on the “Lido Deck.”

We welcome your feedback on improving the SKU trainings. So please, if you attended SKU, please share your comments and suggestions with us. We will continue to tweak the event to make the experience be the best it can be for all who attend. For those who want to attend the next SKU, please let us know. We are planning a spring session but would be happy to hold one earlier if there is enough interest.

Lastly, Class of September 2012, I am very proud of you all, but remember your pledge! I have no shame yanking your diplomas if I bump into you at my local grocery store.

All the photos are compliments of Ann Keys-Spencer from Exhibit Expressions. We SINCERELY thank her for her expertise and commitment to capturing the flavor of Shared Knowledge University. So many amazing photos!

Kevin Carty