Trade Show TalesBlog

The Experts at the Table: Word on the Street — March 31st thru April 4th

April 5th, 2014 Kevin 1 COMMENT
Experts at the Table

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

So, forgive me if you’ve seen this video after Seth Godin posted it. It quickly went viral. But, it’s just too good not to share in my weekly WOTS.

Have you ever been in this meeting before? And if you have, should I ask, “Have you ever been any of the ‘non-engineers’ depicted in this video?”

I HAVE! More than I like to admit. Our Designers, Project Managers, and Production Manager all are nodding their heads right now and yelling, “Yes He Has!”

Anyway, it’s a bit long. But it’s hilarious. And it points out the need to sometimes take a step back from those brilliant 2 am, sleep-deprived epiphanies and join the real world. :)

Hope you enjoy.

FYI — I have dreams that one day a red line can be drawn with a blue pen. Is that so wrong?

Be well.



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Sour Apple(s): Word on the Street — March 24th thru March 28th

March 30th, 2014 Kevin 1 COMMENT
Sour Apples

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Fuji Me Once. Shame on You.

I have long admired the folks in Cupertino for their innovative thoughts, ideas, product aesthetics, design intuitiveness, etc. Apple is a model in many ways of how marketing and product development should be.

When Apple is attacked by other brands and other brand lovers, I, like others, defend it. Sometimes it’s as simple as using the old phrase, “Look at the scoreboard baby!” meaning the facts don’t lie. Just look at the number of iPhones and iPads sold compared to other brands. The numbers don’t lie. It’s much more than the delectable taste of their Kool-Aid that draws its legion of followers and converts to evangelize their love for Apple. It’s their technology-driven solutions, designed purely for consumers, which match their every need as if the developers were thinking the same thoughts.

I am proud of my Kool-Aid stained upper lip and the following gripe will not change that.

In business, I agree that Apple may not be the best solution for all. Yes, I said it my fellow fruit basket dwellers. But, it’s true. I can defend the business applicability of Apple when needed, but that is not my point in writing this blog post. I only bring it up because the iPad (all generations) have become integral to trade shows and events — driving presentations, lead retrieval, on counters, stands, and handheld sleeves. iPads are EVERYWHERE.

We Love iPads

About three years ago, Classic Exhibits targeted this segment aggressively. We are proud of our success as THE iPad Solutions Provider in the Exhibit and Event Industry. No other company has more solutions and no one else engineers iPad Solutions specifically for trade shows and events. We specifically created  plug and play solutions,which meant included cabling in all our kiosks. Cool idea and the kudos we received for that simple add-on have been huge to be frank.

Well rewind to a few months ago. The long awaited and much anticipated iOS7 was released by the Cupertino-clan. As a user, I loved it! There were some little bugs, but they fixed those almost immediately. But overall a huge win from a user interface, aesthetic, and product development standpoint.

All good, right? Well . . . even the shiniest Apples sometimes have a worm in them, or best said, sometimes they are picked a little too early. This apple is a little sour once you take that second or third bite.

This is the sad case with a little known (at the time) hidden firmware change that Apple put into the latest iOS7 updates. Those with Apple devices running the new iOS7 know what I am talking about. Apple programmers updated the code to detect “non-Apple” branded charging cables. So the buzz and frustration all over the web has been, “My phone won’t charge now that I have updated to iOS7″ and “Is my iPad broken? It will no longer charge since the update.”

I am a capitalist, but the answer from Apple was sad to be blunt. Apple’s response was that they were protecting their market share. REALLY? Do you expect the average consumer and business purchaser to really think an 1M or 2M cable is a critical part of your market share? I guess at $19-$29 each (plug not included), which is the price Apple wants for a $.12 cable, maybe it really is a crucial part of your ability to pay your bills.

Anyway, I digress. My business frustration is this — iPad’s RULE the trade show floor market. RULE IT! But when you get out of the United States that is not the case. At EuroShop this past February, we learned that other tablets have an equal if not greater presence on the trade show floor. From a business perspective, as a company that has embraced iPads and their value in our space, this short-sided, money grab by Apple is a stinger to us all.

I admit, the cables we provide are not bought from Apple. They are purchased from a manufacture that certifies them and sells them to many big box stores in the US. They are a safe product that we have chosen to buy in bulk as a benefit to our clients, clients who are buying iPads from Apple to use in our solutions.

Hard Apple Cider

But now, we find ourselves as a business and as consumers stuck with only ONE option for our Apple Juice. That does not sit well with me.  Maybe I am being hypersensitive. But it seems a little stupid and arrogant on the Apple folks part to tell me, “Yes Mr. Loyal Consumer, you do need to explain to your daughter that her Hello Kitty Charger is not authorized.”

Now that I have ranted, what does this mean for Classic Exhibits, the iPad Solutions Leader in the Exhibit Industry? Well, we’re going to be making a separate announcement that the cords may or may not work. So end-users will need to bring their Apple authorized charging cord with them to their show, (which by the way is TOO short), but that we will be including with each unit a USB extension cord that will allow them to extend the length of their Apple authorized cord.

Until, of course, Apple decides that extension cords are critical to paying for Sally and Billie’s dental coverage. Stay tuned.

Hope you have a great weekend with your families.

Be well.



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EXHIBITOR / GlobalShop 2014 Recap: Word on the Street — March 17 thru March 21st

March 22nd, 2014 Kevin 3 COMMENTS

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

My nose is bleeding, my eyes are burning, and I am exhausted! Yep, you guessed it, I was in Vegas for the past week. :)

Like many of you, the Classic Team descended on Vegas starting last Friday for both EXHIBITOR Show and GlobalShop. Since we exhibited at both shows, let me break this into two blog posts starting with EXHIBITOR.

EXHIBITOR 2014 was nothing short of spectacular for Classic Exhibits, Classic Rental Solutions, ClassicMODUL, and Eco-Systems Sustainable. I know that sounds a little “sales-ish” to say spectacular, but it really was one of the best, if not THE BEST, EXHIBITOR in my nearly 20 years with Classic.

Our “Sweet Solutions” exhibit was well received and showed WHO we are and WHAT we do. The main structure was a Custom Rental Solutions, a design that was up for an award in the Design Awards this year.

New Products

We were also showing several new products.  The new OTM Furniture debuted at EXHIBITOR. We had the portable tables and chairs in our booth as well as three other exhibits. The response could only be compared to that of the iPad kiosks we debuted two years ago. The OTM Table and Chairs are going to be a big, big hit.

We also introduced the SEGUE VK-1118 SuperNova Backlit Inline. The VK-1118 takes its cue from our very successful Visionary Designs iPhone and iPad inlines, two designs iconic to Classic Exhibits. The difference is the backlighting. While there were many lightboxes at EXHIBITOR, the VK-1118 and the 20 ft. VK-2959 are the only inlines on the market with storage, headers, standoff graphics, large monitor mounts, and accessory options. This is a game changer my friends. Inlines will never be the same going forward.

Across the show floor, we had a great presence of Classic designs. We built exhibits for PRG, EliteXpo, DS&L, Cort, Slim Furniture, and EXHIBITOR Magazine. In addition, there was a Sacagawea, a Magellan Miracle, and an eight year old Visionary Designs VK-1001 hybrid that looked brand new. We appreciate being a part of our key vendor partners look and presentation at EXHIBITOR. Thank you for trusting us with your brands once again.

The mood in the building was inspiring. There was a lot creativity, and a lot of new innovative products and services. As a whole, the industry should be very proud. Well done all. I felt a great sense of pride as I walked the show floor this year. In particular, there was more originality booth to booth and competitor to competitor. Which is not always the case.

There were a few lows, such as companies that would rather COPY than innovate through design. But I won’t dwell too much on that since a few four letter words come to mind that describe these iPad solutions copycats.

EDPA Portable/Modular/Hybrid Summit

On a personal note, I would like to thank everyone who attended the Annual EDPA Portable/Modular/Hybrid Summit on Tuesday afternoon. I really appreciate the insights by the audience. And a special thanks to the panelists — Greg Beach, Cindi Cody, Maureen Borzachello, Anita Mitzel, and Jocelyn Welles. Your perspectives we invaluable.

I do have a challenge to my fellow competitors in the Portable/Modular/Hybrid segment. So many of you weren’t there. Why? Your perspective and input matters to the growth of our segment, whether you are an F, N, S, O, L, or one of other letters of the alphabet. You had distributors at the meeting . . . but not many of you came. So, hopefully, when we hold our next meeting at EDPA ACCESS, you (and you know who you are) will participate. Special thanks to ExpoDisplays, Octanorm, Highmark, and Classic Exhibits for supporting and participating in the session. Yes, we are competitors, but we are also a community. Don’t let others chart your future and the tone of our segment.

Exhibit Design Awards

The Inaugural Exhibit Design Awards ceremony was held on Tuesday night, an event near and dear to my heart. I could do a blog on just that. What a great event! Special thanks to the entire team from EXHIBITOR Media Group. Especially Randy Acker and John Pavek. I personally appreciate that you took one company’s suggestion, truly listened to it, and then ran with it. I know this event will only grow to be bigger and better over the coming years. But for a first time event, you need to take a bow for a job very well done. Our industry is led by design on all levels, and to spend an evening celebrating the designs that are shaping the industry was a pure joy for me and the team from Classic. Finally, my congratulations to all the winners in all the categories. You have a reason to celebrate.

GlobalShop 2014

GlobalShop 2014 was happening right above EXHIBITOR this year. It ran from Tuesday thru Thursday. GlobalShop is a very different show for Classic. Those who came by to visit our booth can attest. We are a bit of an outlier in that world, but it is a market that continues to grow  for Classic. And we are seeing more and more distributors join us in that world.

The show was great, and since we do not sell direct, we focused on gathering leads for our distributors and finding new Retail Design partners. iPad Solutions, Charging Kiosks, SuperNova Lightboxes, and the new OTM Counter and Chairs were the stars.

That’s all I will say at this point on GlobalShop. Look for a separate blog. I think there are more and more opportunities for us all in that market.


Overall, I want to say thanks to our entire team at Classic Exhibits. This past week provided huge challenges. Two shows to assemble/dismantle. Two booths to staff. Two clienteles to entertain (the easy part :) ) .But as you can imagine, two of everything makes it more difficult at the shop/office. So to those who stayed back and manned the ships — THANK YOU!! We appreciate you covering for us all.

And to the staff that came to Vegas. Thanks again for making me so very proud to be a part of this great organization. We have a terrific family at Classic, and I hear from so many during the events that our “family” atmosphere really shines through at EXHIBITOR.

To all my industry friends and partners, all I can say is I wish we could spend more time together. A busy show means you get less and less time to spend with your partners at the show. But we all agree that’s a good sign for the industry. So let me say this — Our partners are a big part of the success we experience at Classic. Without you and your partnership, we would not be doing as well as we are. So thanks to you all.

Get some rest now that you’re home and more importantly get some quality time your families this weekend. They and you deserve it.

Be well.




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Why EXHIBITOR Matters (But Should It?)

March 15th, 2014 Mel 2 COMMENTS

Each year, I have to remind myself why participating in EXHIBITOR matters. That may seem odd. After all, EXHIBITOR spends a mountain of cash listing all the reasons to attend. Who am I to argue with them. They know their audience. But, I still have to ask myself why should I attend? I’ve already gone at least fifteen times.

I’ve worked for three display manufacturers, and there have been years when I’ve questioned whether we should attend, let alone exhibit. I’ve seen competitors skip a year or two with “seemingly” few repercussions. Why should we build an exhibit just for EXHIBITOR and spend considerable cash at a show where we know all the players.

Then I remind myself (or Kevin reminds me), why EXHIBITOR matters to Classic Exhibits:

1. Our Distributors. We are a distributor-driven company. That’s how we sell our products. Yes, Reid and Jen visit our distributors throughout the year, and we hold Shared Knowledge University twice a year. That said . . . There’s no other event that brings more Classic Distributors to one place than EXHIBITOR. It’s our chance to see, learn, and share stories with them. My only regret, and I know many of you will groan when I say this, but I wish the hall hours were longer and at least one day longer. There’s just not enough time during those three days to spend quality time with each distributor. Inevitably, I leave the show knowing that I short-changed myself by not spending enough time with Distributor A, B, C, or D.

2. Our Employees. We’re in the trade show business, but that doesn’t mean we attend trade shows regularly. We don’t. We’re designing, project managing, and building exhibits. Then it ships to a show, and we never see it again. More often than not, we never see it in its final state with the graphics, products, flooring, A/V, etc. We miss that feedback and that experience. Attending EXHIBITOR allows many of our employees to immerse themselves in a trade show about trade shows. They see how our solutions differ from other builders or service providers. They get the opportunity to meet distributors face-to-face, often for the first time after working with them for years.

3. Products/Trends. Classic Exhibits is in a constant state of R&D. It’s rare that a week goes by that we don’t create an innovative solution either by necessity or by design. If it’s really important, we devote a Design Monday to it or we send a dedicated email broadcast. But, we’re smart enough to realize that your days are information intense and expecting you to internalize each and every new innovation is impractical. EXHIBITOR allows us to focus on those new ideas or products that we want to share with our distributors. Year after year, distributors tell me that they attend EXHIBITOR for one main reason — to see what’s new. And each year, I make a point to ask them what they saw “new” in the exhibit hall. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Except for what Classic is showing, I’ve only seen one or two interesting ideas.” Honestly, I’m always shocked by this. Why would any manufacturer, builder, or service provider come to EXHIBITOR without NEW?

The Before Photo . . . In Progress

4. The Industry. This will sound sanctimonious. I’ve had conversations with suppliers, partners, or competitors who have told me they are not participating in the show. I could understand that if our industry had multiple shows each year . . . but we don’t. We have one. Then they’ll tell me that EXHIBITOR never really paid off for them. It didn’t create any new sales or find new distributors or identify any new suppliers. Folks, that’s clearly BULLSHIT or better yet, it tells me they don’t understand trade show marketing. You can’t be in the business of trade shows and not participate in trade shows. You can’t! Whenever a supplier, certainly one of considerable size and focus in our industry, tells me that they not only don’t exhibit at EXHIBITOR but they also rarely attend, then they are unlikely to win my business.

5. Social. Despite the long hours and the pressure, it’s fun. I always meet new people and see old friends. I get to hear all the gossip and speculate on this year or next year. The food is good. The parties are always memorable in so many ways. It’s always a roller coast ride of emotions, sights and sounds, and at least one experience that makes me happy I don’t live in Las Vegas year round. Our personal and business lives are pressure-packed and EXHIBITOR is (for me) an annual perk. It is work, but it never seems like work.

If you are attending EXHIBITOR, I’ll see you there. Get my attention if it’s during show hours. If not, let’s make arrangements to have a drink or a meal before or after show hours. For anyone not attending, we’ll do our best to share photos from EXHIBITOR in the blog.

Happy travels.

–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


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The EDPA Portable/Modular Summit: Word on the Street — March 3rd thru March 7th

March 8th, 2014 Kevin COMMENTS

News From the Trenches

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Happy March. Ready for Las Vegas? Ready for EXHIBITOR Show 2014? It’s only one week away.

There’s one event/meeting I would strongly encourage you to attend — The Annual EDPA Portable/Modular Summit. This meeting will be held at EXHIBITOR on Tuesday, March 18 from 3:45 – 4:30 pm right on the show floor. It’s free. Just head towards the Food Service Area (far right of exhibit hall) and look for the sign leading you to the meeting.

Learn about new trends and continuing trends in Design, Manufacturing, and Sales for the Portable/Modular/Hybrid segment. Hear what your peers are saying regarding design and build trends in their markets. Are there opportunities you are missing? What is selling within the Portable/Modular/Hybrid System segment? And learn some key statistics from the recent annual EDPA Portable/Modular and Economic Survey that are shaping what we all do. Expect a few big surprises from the survey.

Join me for this informative update on what’s happening. Chris Lake from Highmark and I will be moderating the session which will include a panel of expert representatives from design, graphics, distribution, and manufacturers within our industry, including Cindi Cody, Jocelyn Wells, Maureen Borzachello, Anita Mitzel, and Greg Beach.

This will definitely be a “discussion” of peers and industry leaders — LIKE YOU. So please come and be a part of the talks.

The Portable/Modular Summit is free of charge. So mark it on your calendar and stay after show hours on Tuesday. That first beer/cocktail can wait 45 minutes. :)

For more information, click on this link:

Hope you all have a great weekend with your families. Be well.



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