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'We're Delivering Better Solutions,' says 3D Exhibit's Gene Faut

Mark Travers (EIA) spoke with Gene Faut, President of 3D Exhibits, and Nicole Genarella, Senior Vice President of Marketing, at the EXHIBITORLIVE Show in Las Vegas.


EIA: You’ve had impressive growth. Tell us about 3D Exhibits.


Gene: My partner, Bill Dixon, and I started 3D Exhibits in 1995. We wanted to create a customer-focused company that could really take care of its clients. We believed then that if we worked hard and provided a great product at a good competitive price, we would succeed. And that’s proven to be the case. We’ve grown from nothing in revenue to $74 million in 2014 – and from a staff of 12 at the start to over 150 people today.


How have you seen your business change over the last 15 years?


The ‘build’ portion of our business has become much more of a commodity and so, today, our focus is delivering better solutions. These solutions include international capabilities, interactive expertise, and systems that capture data and metrics. So we’re providing complete solutions for our clients rather than just exhibits. For instance, just looking at what’s here in our exhibit, anyone can build this particular counter. We happen to think we build it better – we’re biased about that – but our real focus is much more about what we can do for our clients to help them achieve their marketing goals and better utilize their spend.


The exhibit floor here at the show is awash in ideas using new technology. And you’ve showcased several technology-based ideas in your exhibit. Tell us about that.


Nicole: There is technology all over the show floor. But all the technology we’ve incorporated into our exhibit was done in-house at 3D Exhibits. We’re using ourselves to showcase to clients and prospects what they can do to make their exhibit environments more engaging and interactive – and also how they can use technology to collect data along the way. While we have a lot of fun and cool technology within our exhibit space, its real value is that it engages and educates our visitors while also collecting valuable information and data. We’ll use the data we collect to analyze our Return on Objectives: Did we get the return we were looking for? And we will also follow up with our prospective clients to ensure they have the information they want.


Gene: So you see it’s not just technology for technology’s sake. There’s a purpose behind all the education, entertainment and engagement – and so much of that purpose is measurement. Our clients are able to go back after their show, as Nicole said, and assess whether they’ve achieved the goals they set.


We’ve heard the word ‘engagement’ many times at this show. We’ve heard ‘solutions.’ We’ve just talked about measurement. The net result, though, for many exhibitors is ROI. ‘What did my company get out of this show?’ How do you turn ‘engagement’ into ROI?


Nicole: We have an entire group that focuses on that at 3D Exhibits. But the concept of ROI is changing a little bit in the tradeshow world. It’s going from Return on Investment to Return on Objectives. Clients are looking to make sure they’re spending quality time with qualified individuals – and not just talking to a whole lot of people who are there for their giveaways. To do that, we look at a customer’s program from an audit perspective. We also ask questions like ‘how do you perceive yourself?’ and ‘how does your customer perceive you?’ And then we use that input to create – and I’ll use your word again – an engaging environment that allows our customer to get the results they need. We also look at responses from exit surveys, questions like ‘what did prospects learn when they got here?’ and ‘what can we do differently to improve the experience?’ We take all of that data, maybe from 5 or 6 shows for the same client, and use what we’ve learned to develop their next program or trade show environment.


Which kinds of companies comprise your best customers?


Gene: The strength of 3D Exhibits is our diverse client base. We have representation across many industries and that’s a positive on multiple levels. Creatively, we’re able to pull ideas from some of the more cutting-edge, innovative business sectors like consumer electronics and gaming and apply them to some of the more traditional industries. But also, financially, if there’s ever a downturn in any particular market, we’re not so wedded to any industry that the downturn negatively impacts us as a company. So our diverse client base gives us both financial and creative strength.


From a macro, global perspective, where do you think the industry is headed in 2015 and beyond?


Gene: I think the industry is growing. I think the value of face-to-face marketing is as strong as it’s ever been. And now we’re able to measure, through technology, the impact of smarter exhibiting. Part of this is saying ‘Let’s not go to a hundred shows. Let’s go to 15 really good shows that make sense because there is a business case to be there.’


Do you have any new products, services or programs you’re launching in 2015?


Nicole: We’re refining what we already have internally. The programs that started growing for us in 2014 are going to continue to grow in 2015. A big part of that is the measurement and analytics portion of our business. We’re seeing a lot more clients and prospects who want to capture that information and assess Return on Objectives. And then there’s the interactive technology part of our business. Interactive for us ranges from lead generation systems to augmented reality, to games, microsites, as well as drill-down programs like the one you see in our exhibit here.


What are the one or two things you want readers to know about 3D Exhibits?


Gene: Our priority at 3D Exhibits is this: We put the client first. That’s been our philosophy, the bedrock by which we’ve grown. And we have the capabilities to provide everything our clients need. Our clients are well served, whether they’re spending thousands of dollars a year with us – or millions. All of our clients are able to take advantage of all of our solutions on some level. We help all of them succeed.



You can reach Gene Faut, President of 3D Exhibits, at and Nicole Genarella, Senior Vice President of Marketing, at For more information, visit or call 800.471.9617.


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