Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘Portable Modular’

Redefining the Custom Exhibit | Pat Friedlander

June 8th, 2016 COMMENTS

Custom Exhibits Redefined

Guest Post by Pat Friedlander

When I was new to this industry, I heard the word “Octanorm” bandied about as if it were the last ditch attempt for stingy exhibitors There was no design consideration — just how many panels and how many uprights.

However, on my first trip to EuroShop some 20 years ago, I was stunned when I walked into Hall 9 and saw the Octanorm corporate exhibit. EuroShop opened my eyes. U.S. was unique in advocating box-frame exhibits, exhibits that were crated and stored in warehouses around the country. It was apparent to me that US exhibits were different. They looked stodgy and boxy by comparison.

Systems and the Rest of the World

Between Dusseldorf and Chicago, I became a convert to systems. They looked cool, they allowed for fresh designs, and they were flexible — not hallmarks of box frame construction. Soon after, I invited my friend Kerstin Mulfinger from Burkhardt Leitner to speak at HCEA’s annual meeting about systems.

As various systems proliferated, bits and pieces started to appear on U.S. show floors. Yet the differentiation persisted that there were custom exhibits (i.e., box frame) and there were portable modular systems —  with “systems” viewed as a commodity.

What is a Custom Exhibit?

Custom Exhibits, as the industry generally uses it, is a relic. Today the distinction is anachronistic. Using the term “portable modular” ignores the fact that modularity is not limited to any one type of construction — portable, custom, hybrid, etc. Modularity is related to configuration, not to building materials.

VK-5148gAt an EDPA ACCESS 2015 session, I said, “It’s time to de-commodify systems and redefine what we mean when we say a custom exhibit.” It turned out I wasn’t alone. “Modular components and systems are no longer a commodity item,” said Jay Burkette, vice president, Expo Displays, “but represent building blocks, increasingly used by traditional exhibit houses as an effective way of helping design, manage, and maintain their client’s exhibit properties.”

According to Debbie Parrott, president, Highmark TechSystems, “Some designers are predisposed to think that modular systems should only enter their design tool kits when they are working with an especially cost-conscious client. For those designers, low-cost and creativity are mutually exclusive and systems limit their creativity. This short-sighted view shows a lack of understanding of the realities of our industry and the needs of program clients.”

“Large clients are program clients who benefit from exhibit designs that offer versatility, reconfigurability, fast installation and dismantle – exactly what modular systems address. This perspective also shows a naiveté about the design trends in the global exhibit marketplace where modular systems are used for exhibits that are stunningly creative, brand-distinctive, highly functional, and cost and time efficient. Designers in our industry need to be knowledgeable on this front, and the challenge for those who are modular system proponents is to educate and show designers both the inspiring possibilities and the compelling business case.”

How Do YOU Define “Custom Exhibit”?

Seems to me that we need to arrive at a new definition of “custom exhibit.” If the definition is not about construction methods and materials, perhaps it’s about marketing. What are the goals and objectives of the exhibit program? How does the exhibit fulfill and meet those goals? And about the exhibit:  Is it rental? Is it purchased? Should we differentiate? We plan to continue this discussion at EDPA ACCESS 2016, but in the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Pat Friedlander
pat@word-up.com
773-230-9989

Bio:

Pat Friedlander is a marketer, trainer, and writer in the exhibit industry. She has spent many days and nights on the trade show floor, and has lots of advice about shoes. She has received the HCEA Distinguished Service Award and the EDPA Hazel Hays Award. She lives in Chicago and often answers to Grandma Pat.


 

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.]

Importers

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

Assemblers

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 ★

Systemizers

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 ★★★

Customizers

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: ★★★

Renters

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 ★★★★

Manufacturers/Builders

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
mel@classicexhibits.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite
https://twitter.com/melmwhite

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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 www.classicexhibits.com.


 

Classic Exhibits Town Call Meeting — Q3 Recorded Video

November 12th, 2012 COMMENTS

Every quarter, Classic Exhibits conducts a Town Hall Meeting with the Classic Distributor Network via GoToWebinar. In this meeting, we review sales and and design trends, new products, rental program changes, and industry news. The video is approximately 60 minutes.

In this Town Call, we also share our 2013 predictions, as well as details about our new iPad Kiosks and enhancements to Exhibit Design Search.

There is a minor audio glitch with feedback for about 40 seconds. Our apologies. Every time we think we’ve figured out GoToWebinar, something new happens.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

Watch the video at YouTube at http://youtu.be/-XDIp51FY8U.

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

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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.