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Then and now: Catching up with the industry’s top 10 most influential people of 2001

ecn 20th badge_flatIn the December 2001 edition of Exhibit City News, a series of profiles were completed on the industry’s top 10 most influential people of the year. Selected by a panel of judges from ECN and the Exhibit Designers and Producers Association (EDPA), the winners were proven leaders and humanitarians who demonstrated forward-thinking strategies in servicing their clients. Special to ECN’s 20th anniversary edition, we caught up with these industry heads to see what they are up to these days, 13 years later.



Dan Cantor of Hamilton Exhibits
Dan Cantor of Hamilton Exhibits

Dan Cantor
Then: President, Hamilton Exhibits, Indianapolis, Ind.
Now: Owner and CEO, Hamilton Exhibits, Indianapolis, Ind.

Our industry has recovered nicely – at least twice – during the last 13 years, and is alive and well. Our clients still need us and appreciate what we do, but we are in a new marketplace that compels us to be significantly more innovative and efficient than we were years ago. Innovative in all aspects of our business – new materials, services, pricing models, budgeting systems – you name it. We are now focused less on building things in our shop, and more on the total event presence and experience. All of this is a good thing.

As long as our species is viable, face-to-face marketing will thrive but will always be vulnerable to macroeconomic shocks and calamities outside of our control. Most of us will still work too much, but our days together will continue to be more fun than not.



Alan Cordial

Then: Executive vice president, sales and marketing, Exhibitgroup/Giltspur, Roselle, Ill.
Now: Founder & partner, calan communications, Chicago, Ill.

Bill Haney
Then: Owner, president and CEO, Derse Exhibits, Milwaukee, Wis.
Now: Chairman, Derse Exhibits, Milwaukee, Wis.

Larry Kulchawik of 3D Exhibits
Larry Kulchawik of 3D Exhibits

Larry Kulchawik
Then: General manager, Derse Exhibits, Chicago, Ill.
Now: ‎Senior vice president, 3D Exhibit, Chicago, Ill.

Trends for tradeshow marketing in the future-

  • The world class companies of the future will all have worldwide marketing strategies in play.
  • World class companies are not averse to traveling in person to gain market share and are not afraid to set up an office/facilities abroad to do so.
  • Tradeshow suppliers must be fully qualified to assist world class companies globally. Tradeshow exhibit managers need to work with suppliers that recognize the different marketing components so that one marketing strategy is not positioned to be more important than the other. World class companies should not go it alone- partner with experienced suppliers with local knowledge.
  • The world of tradeshow marketing will consolidate and the model for management will be more similar in structure than different as in the past.
  • Technology will play a dominating role in how we manage and work a tradeshow. Creative applications will regularly be uncovered.
  • Face to face human contact will drive results faster than social media alone.
  • The Internet and social media should be fully exploited to feed greater results at a tradeshow event where the element of “emotion” can make a difference in a decision to buy.
  • Attendees will want more from their tradeshow experience. Figure it out. Different regions of the world may require a different strategy here.
  • Different world regions have subtle differences with design and engagement tactics. Know the differences for effective multi-country programs.
  • No one person and no one company is the tradeshow marketing expert for the entire world. Working with a trusted partner is key. Think global, act local!


Ron Malliet of KMK Industries Inc.
Ron Malliet of KMK Industries Inc.

Ron Malliet
Then: President, KMK Industries, Milwaukee, Wis.
Now: President, KMK Industries, Inc.

The past 13 years have been volatile with many peaks and valleys. However, the industry has survived and has recovered. In order to survive, there have been many changes made in materials used, size of exhibits, rental exhibits, work rules, etc. Some of these changes are for the better, some not so.

As to the future, I think the industry will remain at about the same level – no great growth. I think the exhibitors will grow tired of aluminum and fabric and revert to more custom construction.

Paul Willet of Czarnowski
Paul Willet of Czarnowski


Paul Willet
Then: Corporate director, Czarnowski Exhibit Services, Las Vegas, Nev.
Now: Director industry relations, Czarnowski, Las Vegas, Nev.

I remember the period of time around 2001 was very good for business in general. Most everyone was doing well – a lot of expansion and growth for our industry. And then by 2007, the entire economy tanked. Many companies that didn’t have the resources to sustain the downturn in the economy went out of business. The ones that made it through managed to reinvent their business and become diverse and lean.

As for today’s outlook, we can only go by the reports that CEIR publishes. That looks like a continual rise in everyone’s business. Some sectors are doing much better, but all seem to be very positive reports.


Morgan and Gene Winther, formerly of Expon Exhibits
Morgan and Gene Winther, formerly of Expon Exhibits


Gene Winther

Then: CEO, Expon Exhibits, Sacramento, Calif.
Now: Retired

I was president of EDPA at the time; we all were picked, and I was working on producing education materials and getting new members. From that work, I believe it bore fruit in that many companies were educated. Setting the ground work for producing great clients, a wonderful working relationship with them through knowledge and education. And they learned that sticking with their clients produced long-term relationships to this day.

And now I am retired! Having a great time, spending my time with our only grandchild, Morgan!

Exhibit City News was instrumental in shaping knowledge and quick read material that equipped everyone on how to handle clients, and give them the knowledge to work together.


Linda Winther of Expon Exhibits
Linda Winther of Expon Exhibits

Linda Winther
Then: President, Expon Exhibits, Sacramento, Calif.
Now: President, Expon Exhibits, Sacramento, Calif.

In the last 13 years, we have seen where clients are changing to different types of materials for their exhibits. They are concerned about their overall budget to get to the show floor. To get there, they are using smaller exhibits, lighter weight, using more dynamitic graphics or fabrics, and are upgrading old exhibits to meet their current needs.

Companies go through management changes, due to the economy, and then are hiring people with less experience. They are outsourcing to exhibit houses and their ad agency making continuity, effective messaging delivery near impossible.

The biggest single change in our industry has been the Internet. Where clients ask for a quote of a certain item then find it on the Internet for less, but without the experience of knowing what they are purchasing, are surprised as to what was delivered. Professional exhibit houses are the best way to get corporate America to the show floor, with less stress and deliver what was and is expected.


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