Trade Show TalesBlog

Ghouls… Goblins… and CyberThieves!: Word on the Street — October 20th thru October 24th

October 25th, 2014 2 COMMENTS
Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Fall is here. The leaves are turning in the Pacific NW, the rain has arrived, and the temperature has dropped. All signs that Halloween is just around the corner.

Recently, I went on a family vacation to Disneyland in California. We spent the entire first week of October there. Part of the reason we went was that Disneyland does a Halloween Party 2-3 times a week during October. It was fun. All the kids and all the adults got dressed up in costumes, all “Disney-Safe” and fairly wholesome for the most part. Pirates, Ninjas, and more Princesses than you could ever imagine. But not criminals…or thieves.

Intellectual Property

Which brings me to the real reason for this post.

In business, we all rely heavily on our Intellectual Property. It’s the fruit of our hard work and the root of what ”Shared Success” is all about at Classic Exhibits and our proud Distributor Network.

We take great pride in and go to great lengths to make our shared IP available to Authorized Classic Exhibits Distributors. That IP, in part, includes our designs and our Exhibit Design Search images, along with our patented products.

Recently, we were directed to a website for an online exhibit company based in Southern California. We were informed that the online company was using our images, along with Classic kit numbers.

large-2014-031314 SEG 10x10_a

VK-1118 Portable Hybrid Exhibit

When I went to the site, I honestly saw something that I never expected to see. Entire galleries, splash page images, detail pages, text, etc. that had been stolen from either the Classic Exhibits EDS or from one of our trusted Classic Distributor Branded EDS sites. It was more than shocking. Mainly because there was not so much as a tiny bit of effort to hide the fact that they stole the images… even the text that indicated they were an authorized Classic Distributor. We have seen this before from overseas websites, but they were smart enough to only choose a dozen or so designs. Just enough to give the website “exhibit design credibility.”

You might think that is the worst of it…but there is more.  We also found, after receiving a call from an end-user, that they were selling exhibits as “Classic Exhibits built displays,” but delivering cobbled together versions using various products on the market, none of which were from Classic Exhibits. In one case, a client was so shocked by the abysmal quality that they called us to complain. In response, we did two things:  1. We explained to them that their display was not manufactured by Classic, and 2. We replaced the exhibit at our expense.


While my wish would be to share the link with you, there is a legal progress that prevents me from doing so. But I did want you to know. Often this happens under the radar. But unethical people who lack creativity often become cyberthieves willing to take your hard work and use it to line their pockets.

We all know that websites can present a much different company than really exists at the street address on their contact pages. And in this case, what appears to be a real professional business was nothing more than a thief with a laptop, mouse, and PayPal account. Sadly, this business has been operating “legitimately” in our industry in various forms for over 20 years. Truly a “trick” experience for unsuspecting customers.

I hope you and your families have a great and safe Halloween this coming Friday.

May the fall business rush continue. Be well.



5 Tips for Presenting to Senior Executives

October 24th, 2014 COMMENTS

bore the board

Making the Perfect Pitch . . . Low and Inside

Presenting to senior executives can be a challenge, even to seasoned professionals. When it comes to pitching your company, your services, and your design, you have to be perfect since you rarely get more than one chance.

The slideshow below, 5 Tips to Presenting to Executives, is informative and entertaining. It’s by Bruce Gabrielle author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business. Give it a quick look, then go back and study it carefully. You’ll be glad you did.

Here are FIVE TIPS to keep in mind to ace your next executive presentation.

1. Get to the Point in One Minute
Executives exist in high-pressure environments. With 80 hour weeks, emergencies cropping up, high stress loads and demanding bosses and shareholders. TIME is one of their most precious commodities.

So don’t waste it by arriving late, fumbling with the projector (“why won’t it connect?”), making long rambling introductions and so on. Get to the point as quickly as you can. Within the first minute, if at all possible. There’s a good chance the exec is itching to interrupt you and barrage you with questions so get to your main point before the presentation is derailed.

2. Talk about Problems Winning in the Marketplace
Executives don’t care about today’s problems. That’s someone else’s job. Executives have their minds focused on the next three years and what it will take to beat competitors, reach new customers, hold onto existing customers and increase margins. So, talk to them about the problems they will have winning in the marketplace, and how your ideas will help them. If you can’t talk to them about that, you’ll get bumped down to some department head – and well you should.

3. Sell a Vision before Discussing the Details
This is especially true for sales people. Don’t walk into a meeting with an executive and start talking about your super-wonderful fully-guaranteed remote-controlled electronic bobbin. Execs will immediately focus on cost and product features, often ending the meeting with “We’ll get back to you” so they can have someone research prices.

Instead, focus on painting a vision of a better future – hopefully one that maps onto their three-year goals. Once they’re nodding at the vision – and ONLY after they’re nodding at the vision – should you talk about your product’s details. Cost is likely to be less of a concern now.

4. Lead with Stories, Not Data
Executives respect data and making data-driven decisions. But they are also realistic about what data can – and cannot – tell you. They’ve seen many projects fail despite the glowing research results. And they’ve seen boot-strap projects succeed despite the lack of any data to back it up.

Executives often trust their guts more than they trust data. They consider customer stories, quotes from their largest channel partners and competitor moves just as valid as data. So use that. Come to executive presentations armed with lots of stories and introduce stories first, then the data to back it up.

5. Don’t be Afraid of Executives; Be Afraid FOR Them
Because the stakes are high, and executives often shoot presenters for sport, people are naturally nervous presenting to executives. But this fear will only work against you and broadcast your lack of confidence. So, adopt a different mindset: be afraid FOR executives.

–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.


SEG Installation Video from Optima

October 20th, 2014 1 COMMENT

Side-by-Side Comparison

Kudos to our friends at Optima for their recent videos.  They’ve upped the ante on how to script and produce a professional educational video. Here’s a terrific one to share with your customer if they’ve purchased a silicone edge graphic display. Force them to watch it. It will save you a 9 a.m. call from the show floor that the SEG graphic(s) doesn’t fit. It does.

For more videos by Optima, go 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


How to Build a Small Wood Crate — Classic Style (video)

October 9th, 2014 6 COMMENTS

Over the years, we’ve gotten lots of compliments on our wood crates. I often joke that a distributor will call and say, “My client really liked their new display, but THEY LOVED THE CRATE AND PACKAGING!” Sigh . . . I’m never quite sure how to take that.

Our dedicated crate building team does an amazing job, so we thought we would show you how we build a small crate, often called a “coffin crate” in the trade. Expect a video showing larger crates in about a month.

Now if only someone could come up with a better term than “crate” — Reusable Cellulose Tradeshow Exhibit Containment System? Free Shared Knowledge University T-shirt to the top three suggestions. Reply using the comments tool.


–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


Why Distributors Enjoy Working with Classic

October 3rd, 2014 1 COMMENT

Shooting from the Hip Reid Sherwood

I’m asked this question a lot. New distributors will say, “What makes doing business with Classic Exhibits different from other manufacturers?” But, before I launch into this, a bit of a warning. I’m writing this from the hospital, hopped up on drugs before I have surgery. I’m in pain but I will be better in a few hours. So allow me a little latitude if this rambles.

There are No Real Egos

Mel and Kevin co-manage the entire company for a quiet owner. The invisible “Inc.” includes Classic Manufacturing, ClassicMODUL (our version of “Home Depot” of aluminum extrusion), Classic Rental Solutions (turnkey custom modular rentals), and Exhibits Northwest (a retail exhibit provider in the Pacific Northwest). Inside all of these divisions is other leadership. Over the years, we have all run into the prima donna sales person who believes without them the company would fold in a matter of days. Headstrong designers who are the creative world’s version of the prima donna sales person. And there’s always the CFO who someone, somewhere blames for always saying “No.”

Well, at Classic, our vision is based on Shared Success. We want everyone to succeed: Distributors, Vendors, Strategic Partners, and Employees. It sounds hokey, but it’s genuine. That’s not to say there aren’t a few potholes and detours, but the “Why we do what we do” is transparent. Every company knows “What they do.” Most know “How they do it.” But few know “Why they do it.” We do.

The Middle Matters

VK-1122mainRecently, a blog was written about the middle market for trade show displays. As a recap, most corporate trade show purchases are in the “middle.” For the most part, Classic’s products do not target the Slightly Better Than Cheap customer (SBTC). We could. It would mean sacrificing on product quality, accessories, packaging, and design. Instead, our products reflect features and benefits not found with SBTC displays. We offer great service, well-designed, high-quality products with world-class packaging, and set-up instructions all at a moderate cost. We’re very happy to move upstream on projects. That’s easy, whether in materials or design. We do that every day.

At the same time, we’re more than happy to pare down designs if the client has a tight budget. That’s different than SBTC. We’ll provide quality products but with a little less flair. One of the things we are most proud of as a manufacturer is our ability to CNC bend engineered aluminum. It’s not an art or guesswork. It’s manufacturing precision. Few manufacturers have this capability. If you doubt me, review their kits. But curves have a cost. More curves equals more cost, since it requires more labor and metal. But curves mean our kits are both unique and upscale without being expensive. That’s the middle.

Creative Thinking

The old cliche that we need to “think outside of the box” has been beat to a pulp. I believe thinking outside of the box can result in solutions that are cool but out-of-step with what clients want. Thinking near the edge of the box will give fresh ideas yet still keep everything in check. For example, thinking towards the edge of the box creates a way to make the best-looking backlit SEG lightbox in the industry. Thinking outside the box creates inflatable displays like a Halloween fun house!

SharedWe Enjoy Working with Our Customers

To put it bluntly, “We give a damn and it shows.” Classic understands its role in the process. We enjoy taking on a challenge from design, project management, and production/construction and providing you with a solution. Over the course of time, these wins turn customers into fans and fans into friends. The ultimate goal of making the exhibitor look spectacular at their show or event keeps creativity and problem solving headed in the right direction. And we look forward to doing it again and again. That’s the fun part.

We are Honest and Transparent

The only question we won’t answer is about our financials. Other than that, you can ask us anything, and we will answer you honestly. We will tell you if we screwed up. In fact, we will tell you that we are going to screw up. We are humans and humans make mistakes. If we do something wrong, we will acknowledge it and work quickly and diligently to correct it. We accept responsibility for our actions. On top of that, we will help you to the best of our ability if YOU make a mistake. We still feel a responsibility to be good and take care of our customers so YOUR clients are still happy with you. Which leads to the next topic.

We’re in This Together

We understand that you have options for portable, modular or custom-hybrid exhibits . . . . which is why we push our designers to create distinctive exhibits that are attractive, innovative, interesting, and affordable. If they aren’t, then they won’t sell.  That is why our project managers work tirelessly to provide well-engineered exhibits that your clients will love from the first show to the last. That is why our Production team obsesses about the details always trying to improve packaging and assembly.

Nike_Office5Like You . . . We are Nimble

No one survived The Great Recession unless they had very deep pockets or were extraordinarily nimble. For Classic, probably the best examples are the tablet kiosks and “retail and store branding” projects we’re building. That has become a nice piece of business for us. It is not a change in direction. It has broadened our direction.

We are Proud of Our Industry Partners

If you look at Exhibit Design Search, you can guess how much time, energy, and resources have been devoted to this since its inception nine years ago. We made it even better when we asked our industry “pals” to participate in it. We make no money from the sales from of those products. It is simply a way to create a “one-stop shop” for you and your customers. We are proud of our relationships with Optima, Eco-Systems Sustainable, Display Supply and Lighting, and Brumark. They are great companies.

We Haven’t Changed Our Focus – Period!

When Classic Exhibits was started in the late 80’s, we built a portable panel system and sold it through distributors.  Now, 20 plus years later, we have added many new systems and services, but we still sell them through a network of distributors. If there is anything I would like you to remember about Classic, it’s just that. We are a distributor-focused company that DOES NOT SELL DIRECT TO END USERS!

I am sure there are many other reasons. For whatever reason you choose to do business with us, we thank you.

Oh no!!! The drugs are starting to wear off. Best if I don’t proofread this. ;-)

Reid Sherwood