Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘Trade Shows’

How to Excel at Marketing for Different Types of Events

February 21st, 2024 COMMENTS
Types of Events

BBQ is BBQ, right? Not if you’re from Carolina, or Memphis, or Texas, or Kansas City, or 50 other locations in the United States. Each region has their unique take not only on the sauce but also on the meat and preparation. The same could be said for exhibit marketing at different types of events like trade shows, conventions, conferences, or private events. No two audiences are the same, and how marketers interact with potential clients has a distinct rhythm and process. 

Mastering Marketing for Different Types of Events

At some point, you’ve heard the following terms, often used interchangeably:  

  • Trade Shows
  • Conventions
  • Exhibitions
  • Expos
  • Symposiums
  • Events
  • Webinars

Each represents a gathering of individuals or groups with a shared interest or professional connection. But there are subtle differences. For example, trade shows (also called trade fairs) frequently are large multi-company events where exhibitors compete to attract attendees on a floor packed with hundreds of other exhibitors. Conversely, conventions tend to be more education and meeting-focused with a smaller trade show component. 

A targeted marketing approach will depend not only on your products and services but also on the audience and types the events. In other words, it requires a plan specific to that show, expo, convention, or symposium. 

Types of Events & Marketing 

If you’re a marketing professional, you already know how to identify your objectives, your audience, the medium (event, expo, etc.), and your intended outcome.  The hardest part, especially if you’re new to face-to-face marketing, is understanding how to deliver your message efficiently and effectively at these types of events. 

Start by contacting the show organizer or association. Ask for guidance. They are motivated to help you for 3 reasons:  

  1. They want their event to be successful 
  2. They want participants to view the event as valuable. 
  3. They want to make money. 

Don’t be shy about tapping into their expertise. They know their customers and have years of experience. All too often, marketers will assume a successful promotion at one event will translate into an equally successful promotion at another event. Or a sponsorship will carry the same prestige and access to potential clients at all types of events. 

For example, at a symposium, a breakfast sponsorship may be a HUGE opportunity since it attracts the largest crowd and often features a keynote speaker. A convention, however, may have a strong education focus with classes, training, and certification seminars. Teaching classes brings credibility to your company, along with one-to-one interaction with potential clients. 

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask colleagues who have attended the event before for their advice. Nothing beats the advice from someone who has experienced the event in person. 

Strategies for Experiential Event Marketing

Experiential event marketing, also known as engagement marketing, live marketing, or event marketing, is a way for brands to connect with their target audience through immersive, interactive experiences. Instead of traditional marketing methods like ads or commercials, it focuses on creating memorable, hands-on activities that build emotional connections between the brand and the consumer.

Instead of telling people how great your products or services are, you let them experience it firsthand.

Key Points about Experiential Event Marketing:

  • Focus on Engagement: It’s all about getting people actively involved with the brand, not passively receiving information. This can involve workshops, games, demonstrations, product testing, or unique installations.
  • Emotional Connection: The goal is to create a positive and memorable experience that fosters loyalty and builds brand affinity.
  • Tailored to the Audience: Successful campaigns are designed specifically for the target demographic, considering their interests, preferences, and challenges.
  • Not Limited to Events: While often used for events, experiential marketing can also be implemented in pop-up shops, in-store activations, or other interactive experiences.

Benefits of Using Experiential Event Marketing:

  • Increased Brand Awareness: A unique and engaging experience generates buzz and gets people talking about your brand.
  • More Engagement: People are more likely to remember and be impacted by an experience than a traditional ad.
  • Stronger Brand Connections: Positive experiences create emotional bonds with the brand, leading to loyalty and advocacy.
  • Better Lead Generation: Events can be a great way to capture leads and collect valuable customer data.
  • Higher Sales: By showcasing your product or service in action, you can convince people to buy.

Examples of Experiential Event Marketing:

  • A pop-up shop where people can test out new products and interact with the brand.
  • A VR experience that allows people to explore a new destination.
  • A cooking class hosted by a food brand.
  • A music festival sponsored by a clothing company.

If you’re looking for a creative and effective way to connect with your target audience, experiential event marketing could be a great option. Just remember to keep your audience in mind and create an experience that is truly memorable and engaging.

experiential event marketing

Creative Trade Show Marketing Ideas

Trade shows are an excellent opportunity to be seen and make a lasting impression on potential clients. Here are some creative trade show marketing ideas to spark your imagination:

Pre-Show Buzz:

  • Run Pre-show Contests or Giveaways: Offer exclusive early access or discounts to generate interest and attract attendees to your booth.
  • Host a Virtual Event or Q&A: Use social media or webinars to answer questions, showcase your product, and build anticipation for the trade show.
  • Partner with Another Company: Collaborate with a complementary brand to share booth space, resources, and reach a wider audience.

Interactive Exhibit Design:

  • Create a Unique and Engaging Visual Experience: Go beyond the standard banners and backdrops. Use lighting, props, or even AR/VR to create a memorable atmosphere.
  • Offer Interactive Product Demos: Let attendees test your product themselves, rather than just watching a presentation.
  • Include Games or Challenges: Gamify your booth with contests, quizzes, or activities that encourage participation and lead generation.
  • Design a Comfortable and Inviting Space: Provide seating, charging stations, or refreshments to make visitors feel welcome and linger longer.

Social Media Integration:

  • Run a Booth Hashtag Contest: Encourage attendees to share photos and videos using your hashtag for a chance to win prizes.
  • Live Stream Demos or Interviews: Let people who can’t attend the show experience your presence virtually.
  • Offer Social Media-specific Giveaways: Reward attendees who follow your accounts or tag friends in posts at your booth.

Experiential Activities:

  • Host a Workshop or mini-seminar: Share your expertise and provide valuable insights to attract and engage attendees.
  • Offer Product Customizations or Personalization: Show the benefits of your product by tailoring it to individual needs.
  • Organize a Charity Initiative: Give back to the community and associate your brand with a positive cause.
  • Partner with an Influencer: Invite a relevant influencer to your booth for meet-and-greets or product demonstrations.


  • Target your Audience: Tailor your activities and giveaways to the specific interests and needs of your ideal customer.
  • Have Fun and Be Yourself: Let your brand personality shine through to create a genuine and memorable experience.

By thinking outside the box and adding a touch of creativity, you can make your trade show marketing leave a lasting impression on potential clients.

convention marketing

Crafting Effective Convention Marketing Campaigns

You may be wondering, “What’s the difference between a convention vs. a trade show?” Conventions and trade shows share similarities, but there are key differences in their aims, audiences, and activities:

Purpose: Conventions typically focus on community building, networking, and professional development within a specific industry, organization, or interest group. They involve educational sessions, workshops, guest speakers, and social events. Trade shows are more about promoting products and services.

Audience: Conventions attract members of a specific community or industry, often with shared interests and goals. Attendees might be professionals, enthusiasts, or hobbyists. Trade show attendees are primarily interested in making informed purchasing decisions.

Activities: Conventions offer a wider range of activities besides product demonstrations, including keynote speeches, educational sessions, workshops, networking events, social gatherings, and awards ceremonies. Trade shows may include similar activities but are usually secondary to product demonstrations. Sales meetings, and lead activations. 

Effective convention marketing strategies require a multi-pronged approach that targets both pre-event excitement and on-site engagement. Here are some key areas to focus on:

7 Convention Marketing Strategies:

1. Define Your Target Audience: Understanding who you want to attract is crucial. Consider demographics, interests, and pain points to tailor your message and channels.

2. Create a Compelling Brand Story: Go beyond features and benefits. Highlight the value proposition, uniqueness, and impact your convention offers.

3. Leverage Digital Marketing: Utilize various channels like:

  • Website: Optimize it for relevant keywords, showcase speakers and programs, offer early bird discounts.
  • Social Media: Engage with potential attendees, share updates, run contests, use relevant hashtags.
  • Email Marketing: Build an email list, send targeted campaigns with valuable content, and offer exclusive deals.
  • Paid Advertising: Consider targeting ads on platforms like LinkedIn or industry publications.

4. Partner with Influencers and convention management: Collaborate with industry experts, show organizers, or relevant personalities to promote your convention to their audience.

5. Public Relations: Issue press releases, pitch stories to relevant media outlets, and participate in industry podcasts or interviews.

6. Offer Valuable Experiences: Host workshops, demonstrations, product showcases, or networking events to provide attendees with actionable knowledge and connections. 

7. Networking Opportunities: Facilitate networking events, receptions, or designated spaces for attendees to connect and build relationships.

conference marketing

Conference Marketing: Networking and Engagement

Conferences play a crucial role in facilitating knowledge sharing, professional development, and fostering connections within specific communities. It typically focuses on a specific topic or theme, bringing together attendees to share knowledge, ideas, and experiences. To be successful at conference marketing, you need to understand the key characteristics of a conference and how it differs from similar events. 

Key Characteristics of Conferences:

Formal Setting: Conferences are usually formal events with planned schedules, presentations, and activities.

Specific Theme or Topic: They revolve around a central theme or area of interest, attracting attendees with shared knowledge or passion for that subject.

Learning and Discussion: The primary goal is to share information, exchange ideas, and spark discussions among attendees.

Networking Opportunities: They offer dedicated time and space for attendees to connect, build relationships, and foster collaboration.

Varied Formats: Conferences can range in size and duration, from small one-day events to large multi-day gatherings. They often incorporate presentations, workshops, panels, exhibitions, and social events.

Compared to Other Types of Events:

Trade Shows: Primarily focused on businesses showcasing products and services to potential buyers, with less emphasis on community building and learning.

Conventions: Often cater to larger communities within an industry or organization, offering broader programs and social activities beyond product demonstrations.

Seminars: Smaller, more focused events usually centered on a single topic or skill development, with lectures and workshops as the primary format.

Conference marketing strategies encompass both pre-event and on-site efforts to attract attendees, generate buzz, and create a successful experience.

Here are Some Key Strategies to Consider:

Target Audience:

  • Define your Ideal Attendee: Understanding demographics, interests, and pain points helps tailor your message and channels.
  • Segment your Audience: Group attendees based on interests to personalize communication and offers.

Building Excitement:

  • Compelling Brand Story: Highlight the value proposition, uniqueness, and impact your conference offers.
  • Digital Marketing: Leverage websites, social media (relevant hashtags, contests), email marketing, and paid advertising.
  • Influencer Partnerships: Collaborate with industry experts or relevant personalities to promote your conference.
  • Public Relations: Issue press releases, pitch stories to media outlets, and participate in industry podcasts or interviews.

Engaging Experience:

  • Interactive Booths: Design an eye-catching space with activities, product demos, and networking opportunities.
  • Valuable Sessions: Offer workshops, panels, and presentations catering to diverse interests and needs.
  • Technology Integration: Enhance engagement with AR/VR, gamification, interactive presentations, etc.
  • Networking Events: Facilitate opportunities for attendees to connect and build relationships.

Lead Generation & Retention:

  • Data Collection: Capture leads through registration forms, contests, or interactive activities.
  • Social Media Advocacy: Encourage attendee content sharing using a unique hashtag.
  • Personalized Post-event Communication: Follow up with attendees and offer relevant content or opportunities.

Ultimately, conferences play a crucial role in facilitating knowledge sharing, professional development, and fostering connections within specific communities.

trade show marketing ideas for different types of events

Discover Our Exhibit Marketing Services! 

For 30 years, Classic Exhibits has been a leader in the exhibit industry, designing and building exhibits and sharing our knowledge of exhibit marketing with our Distributor Partners and their clients. As North America’s largest private-label exhibit manufacturer, we have the unmatched capability, capacity, and creativity to create 3D projects ranging from 10 x 10 inline displays to 60 x 80 double-deck islands. 

Find success on the trade show floor with an exhibit that reflects your marketing message. For more information, see and explore Exhibit Design Search or request a meeting with a Classic Distributor Partner.

Trade Show Planning: A Step-by-Step Guide

November 17th, 2023 COMMENTS
Trade show planning

We all know the expression, “If you fail to plan, then plan to fail.” Which, if we’re honest, isn’t always true. Some projects don’t require much planning. Trade shows, and in particular trade show marketing and exhibition, do require careful and systematic planning to be successful.

Yet, there are companies that devote less time to their trade show planning than they would to a 4-year-old’s birthday party. 

It’s nuts… especially when you consider the cost of trade shows and the lost opportunities when trade show planning is handled haphazardly. But you’re not that person, right? You want your trade show program to be professional and financially successful, which is why you’re reading this article. 

The Importance of Trade Show Planning 

Trade show planning is crucial for businesses to maximize their return on investment (ROI) or return on objectives (ROO). A clear and comprehensive plan ensures that companies maximize their sales opportunities while minimizing costs (and stress). 

Any “live event” can be unpredictable and trade shows are no exception. However, what’s often described as “unpredictable” by some exhibitors, like shipping, labor, or show services, is more often the result of poor planning. Everyone and every company that provides services to exhibitors understands that communicating deadlines, pricing, timelines, and expectations makes everyone’s job easier. They don’t want surprises any more than you do. 

Regarding what size exhibit to buy or rent, as a general rule, a 10 x 10 booth is sufficient for a small business. At 100 square feet, you can accommodate at least four people at once, two staffers and two attendees. Consider a 10 x 20 for a medium business and islands for a larger business. The size of the booth, however, depends on your goals and products. At a trade show, size matters, but it should complement, not dictate your exhibit marketing goals.

Trade Show Event Planning: The Basics

Assign one person to be in charge of timetables and scheduling. Assign another person to draw up the trade show budget and define the marketing goals. This person will have to account for the cost of renting or buying a booth, the cost of accessories such as literature racks, as well as travel expenses. Travel expenses will vary depending on the location and duration of your stay. If you decide to rent, you should expect to budget:

  • 25% on renting your booth space
  • 20% on design and graphics
  • 15% on electrical, cleaning, and drayage
  • 10% on shipping materials to and from the trade show
  • 10% on press kits and pre-show promotions
  • 20% on staffing, travel, and other miscellaneous expenses

If you decide to purchase an exhibit, you will want to work with a professional exhibit designer. Most exhibit distributors have a designer on staff or rely on their exhibit manufacturer to supply design and rendering services. You will need to follow the rules and regulations on booth design for your particular show as well as observe basics such as fire, electrical, and safety codes and provide wheelchair accessibility. Rely on your exhibit designer who understands these requirements.

trade show event planning

Trade Show Planning Guide: Key Steps to Success 

By investing in comprehensive trade show planning, businesses can maximize their chances of achieving their goals, generating new leads, building brand awareness, and securing new business opportunities.

Define Clear Goals and Objectives: Without clear goals, it’s impossible to measure the success of a trade show participation. Thorough planning helps identify specific objectives, such as generating leads, increasing brand awareness, or launching new products.

Develop a Strategic Budget: Trade shows can be costly, so creating a detailed budget is essential to avoid overspending. Planning allows for accurate budgeting for booth space, staff expenses, travel, accommodation, and marketing materials.

Design an Engaging Booth: The booth is the company’s face at the trade show, so it needs to be visually appealing, informative, and functional. Planning ensures that the booth design aligns with the brand message and effectively attracts visitors.

Prepare a Pre-Show Marketing Campaign: Trade show success often hinges on pre-show marketing efforts. Planning allows for strategic campaigns to generate interest, drive traffic to the booth, and schedule appointments with potential customers.

Train Your Staff: Trade show staff should be knowledgeable about the company’s products or services and well-prepared to engage with visitors. Planning ensures that staff is trained on sales techniques, lead capture methods, and answering common questions.

Establish Lead Capture and Follow-Up Systems: Effective lead capture is crucial for converting trade show interactions into future business opportunities. Planning involves setting up systems to capture leads digitally or on paper and establishing a follow-up process to nurture those leads.

Measure and Evaluate Results: After the trade show, it’s important to evaluate the results and identify areas for improvement. Planning facilitates the collection of relevant data, such as lead generation, booth traffic, and customer interactions, to measure the success of the event.

trade show planning guide

Trade Show Management: Ensuring a Smooth Experience 

Who is trade show management? It’s less straightforward than it appears. At most shows or events, there are three management teams, each with different responsibilities. Knowing who does what will make your life considerably easier if you encounter issues or simply need answers to questions. 

Exhibition, Convention, or Show Hall Management:  Every exhibit hall or event venue has a team that handles sales and marketing, schedules shows, maintains the facility, and negotiates contracts with unions, food vendors, and janitorial services. They are responsible for the management and success of the building. For smaller shows, meetings, or events, they may even serve as the show management. 

Show Management:  Whether it’s a local boat show or the annual trade show for the American Cardiology Association, the “show” is owned and managed by a company or an association. They are responsible for everything associated with the show without necessarily handling every activity. For example, they identify the location for the show and negotiate space and services with the facility management. They also contract with a General Show Contractor to handle drayage, electrical, pipe and drape, signage, labor, etc. However, the show management devotes much of their time to marketing the show, developing education sessions, scheduling speakers, creating social events, soliciting sponsors, and registering attendees and exhibitors. 

General Show Contractor (GSC); Most exhibitors interact primarily with the General Show Contractor and often confuse the GSC with both Show Management or Show Hall Management. As mentioned before, the GSC handles a variety of functions for exhibitors, depending on the show. These may include moving and storing freight, electrical services, cleaning, labor, sign rigging, rental furniture, and in some cases even renting exhibits. The GSC has a contract with Show Management and when an exhibitor hits a wall resolving a problem with the GSC, they should contact Show Management, who typically has a temporary office in the show hall. 

The Exhibitor Advocate:  The Exhibitor Advocate is a non-profit advocacy group that provides exhibitors with education, resources, and assistance with trade show challenges. They’re not show management nor are they at the show. Instead, they are a valuable partner who can help exhibitors address challenges and prominent pain points to ensure your events remain a valuable and irreplaceable marketing channel.

The Exhibitor Advocate’s mission is to amplify the voice of exhibitors to ensure the enduring success of exhibitions and events by collaborating with all stakeholders to promote and cultivate open communication, consistent standards, and industry best practices.

trade show management

Seamless Exhibit Planning with Classic Exhibits! 

Successful trade show marketing doesn’t happen by accident. There’s always a strategy and a plan. The key is identifying the right strategy and executing the right plan. For over 30 years, Classic Exhibits has been a reliable source of expertise for new and seasoned trade show marketers. 

The Classic Exhibits Distributor Network includes over 200 exhibit houses and display professionals in North America. Find success on the trade show floor with an exhibit that reflects your marketing message. For more information, see and explore Exhibit Design Search or request a meeting with a Classic Distributor Partner.

Classic Exhibits Products + Services Summary Sheet

November 6th, 2023 COMMENTS

For years, we’ve joked that Distributors often describe Classic Exhibits based on their last order. We build “custom exhibits” or “portable displays” or “charging solutions.” Or we’re a “rental provider” … Which makes Jim Shelman very, very happy.

It’s not unusual to hear, “I didn’t know you did fill in the blank.” Which can be as simple as iPad Stands or as comprehensive as Sustainable Exhibits.

Core Products + Essential Services

To address this, we created a downloadable Products and Services Summary Sheet. Does it include EVERYTHING? No, but it’s close enough for fill in the blank.

If you’re wondering why there’s not an unbranded version, the answer is simple. This document is for you (Classic Distributors), not end-users. Franky, we don’t care if they know what we do. We only care that you know what we do. And now you do.

Please take a moment to download it. Let us know if you have an questions.

Classic Exhibits Products and Services Sheet
Classic Exhibits Products and Services Sheet

For 30 years, Classic Exhibits has been designing and building creative custom solutions for our Distributor Partners and their clients. As the largest private-label exhibit manufacturer in North America, we have the unmatched capability, capacity, and creativity to create 3D projects ranging from 10 x 10 inline displays to 60 x 80 double-deck islands. 

Find success on the trade show floor with an exhibit that reflects your marketing message. For more information, see and explore Exhibit Design Search or request a meeting with a Classic Distributor Partner.    

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 (

If Hotels Were Run Like Trade Shows

July 10th, 2023 COMMENTS

A guest approaches the reception desk at a hotel and says to the desk manager, “Hi. I’d like a room for a week, perhaps longer.”

“Sure,” replies the desk manager. “Will it be a single, double, or suite?”

“A single is fine.”

“Great. For a week, the price is $17,000. You’ll have access to the room for 8-10 hours per day. ”

“Pardon me?” says the guest. “I don’t think I heard you correctly. I can only use the room for part of the day? What’s that all about? And what’s the deal on the price?”

“The price is the price. It’s non-negotiable. For security reasons, we limit access to your room. You wouldn’t want someone wandering into your room when you are not there.”

“Aren’t there locks on the door?”

“Oh no!” explains the desk manager. “You can lock your valuables in the dresser or closet, but the room doesn’t have a door.”

“Odd,” says the guest, “but I’ll take the room.”

“Do you have any luggage?”

“Of course. It’s outside. I’ll go get it.”

“That’s not allowed!” shouts the desk manager. “We have a contractor who does that. They’ll get your luggage, bring it to your room, and remove it when you leave. It will cost between $3000-$15,000 depending on how much luggage you have and how much it weighs. Please pay the contractor directly for this service. Not me.”

“Anything else?” says the guest. 

“Of course. Sheesh! It’s like you haven’t stayed at a hotel before. We have several contractors who specialize in unpacking and packing, including assembling your bed. You can choose the contractor you prefer. I’m assuming you’ll want electricity, a television, Internet, water, and cleaning services. Those are all separate fees from separate contractors.”

“So, the room doesn’t have a bed?” asks the guest.

Hotel Room
I’m assuming you’ll want electricity, a television, Internet, water, and cleaning services. Those are extra.

“Don’t be silly,” says the desk manager. “How would we ever know what type of bed you want? Only you know that. Although we’re happy to rent you a bed that’s been used by other guests for years. For all the services listed, you can expect to pay an additional $36,000.”

“To be honest with you, I thought this would be simple. I have a big deal to close this week, so I guess I don’t really have much of a choice. Does the hotel at least have a morning breakfast?”

“Absolutely. Here’s a menu and price list. Please note that bottled water is $8, a large cup of coffee is $12, and a sausage biscuit is $20. Also, if you bring any food to your room, we’ll charge you a fee.”

The sausage biscuit is $20 or two for $36

“Well, I’m here so let’s get started,” says the guest. “By the way, if I decide to stay another week, when do I need to let you know.”

“Well, that’s complicated,” responds the desk manager.

“We only rent the property for a week. Then another company rents it next week. It changes all the time. You’ll have to start the process all over again if you decide to stay longer.”

“To be honest with you,” says the guest. “From the perspective of the customer paying the bill, this seems like a crazy way to run a business. And insanely expensive! Why would anyone stay at a hotel more than once?”

“Habit mostly. Guests who understand the process start by creating goals and a strategy for making money while they’re here. Others, like you my friend, arrive without a clue and probably will never come back. Which is fine. There’s always someone who needs a room for a week, even if they don’t know why. May I have your credit card? You may want to give me two or three since we’re likely to hit your limit.”


Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufactures portable, modular, hybrid, and custom exhibit solutions, including Symphony Portable Displays. 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