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The Latest and Greatest Exhibit Concepts, Inc. News

Exhibit Concepts

Power of Creative Flight at Dayton Children's Hospital

Exhibit Concepts July 31, 2017

In Dayton, Ohio, flight holds major significance. Aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright developed and built their design for the world’s first successful airplane right here in Dayton. Inspired by that rich history, Dayton Children’s Hospital designed their 260,000 square-foot inpatient tower inspired by the power of flight. Not just aviation, but animals like birds and insects like dragonflies. It was a compelling, creative way to bring an element of wonder into the hospital environment.

“The theme of ‘things that fly’ is throughout the hospital in a whimsical, through a child’s eyes way,” Dayton Children’s president Deborah Feldman said. “We wanted to take out of that aviation history the sense that anything is possible, we believe in ourselves, and we believe in what we can do.”

Birds, insects, balloons, airplanes and even a super hero flying gerbil can be found throughout the hospital. Exhibit Concepts was brought onboard to produce a series of colorful artwork, graphics and murals located throughout the inpatient tower. The artwork was created in shapes like an airplane and hummingbird, using individual painted pieces that, when assembled, create an image.

“Working with Dayton Children’s Hospital has been an honor for our team,” said Michael Zehring, Project Manager for Exhibit Concepts. “When we were approached about helping to bring their ‘Flight’ theme to life in their facility, our fabricators and graphics department stepped up to create incredible light boxes, graphic panels, and three dimensional elements throughout the hospital.”

Each element was hand assembled in our facility, with two employees working together to add the painted pieces to the pre-drilled graphic substrate. After some time to prep the pieces, the team spent 26 hours assembling the dimensional elements one piece at a time. We captured the action on camera for posterity, which you can view below. 


Artwork designed by Rai Pinto Studio and Rubio Arauna Studio.
Curated by Distinctive Art Source. 
Graphics, lightboxes and murals designed by Carpenter Design

How to Take a Program Approach for Trade Shows: 5 Key Steps

Exhibit Concepts July 27, 2017

When you are relatively new to a pre-existing events team or program, it can be overwhelming to get a handle on all the different number of trade shows, show acronyms, venues, assets, internal and external partners, products, brands and sales professionals. Taking a “program approach” and organizing your shows and assets into tiers can help you stay focused, concentrate on your objectives, control spending and will probably help your peace of mind.

Step 1: Audit Your Show Calendar

Start by taking a 30,000-foot view of all trade shows that your company has attended over the past 3-4 years. It is important to look back over several years because some shows are only held every two or three years. Also, you may have attended a specific show in the past due to a product launch or acquisition but it is no longer on your current calendar, but if conditions change, it might be once again. These are just two common reasons for changes in the show calendar but there are MANY other reasons a company could modify their attendance at a show.

Step 2: Organize Shows into Tiers

With the comprehensive list of prior shows in hand, you can now start to organize them into similar categories or “tiers” usually aligned around size, scope and spend. Tier 1 shows – also sometimes called “strategic” or “major” shows – tend to be handled by or have Corporate Marketing involvement. These are typically larger island booths with multiple brands or products represented and an integrated marketing campaign driving activation. Install and dismantle for a Tier 1 show likely takes several days and significant man-hours with possible overtime. Tier 2 shows – sometimes referred to as “regional” shows, as the name suggests, can still be larger booth spaces but the attendee audience tends to be contained to a region or state. These shows are typically set-up by an install and dismantle team in a matter of hours. And finally, Tier 3 shows – commonly referred to as “local” or “sales” shows – are typically table top or inline booths that can be set up by a sales or marketing professional with very minimal effort.

Step 3: Identify Your Objectives

Identifying your objectives for each show may also help to organize your shows into the tiers or categories. You will also see commonality to the objectives that you have for each tier. Tier 1 shows tend to be about brand awareness and major corporate initiatives, product launches, etc. Tier 3 shows tend to be territory events managed by Sales for specific lead generation activities.

Step 4: Align Resources

There is a business maxim that touts the benefits of aligning resources and efforts to the anticipated payout and reward. You don’t want to over-invest or put all your resources against an initiative that is not likely to generate a commensurate return. And here is where technology, CRM, and automation can have a huge impact because there tends to be more volume in the Tier 3 category but lower return on each individual event.

Step 5: Evaluate New Opportunities

As new opportunities arise, you now have a framework to evaluate the new event to see if and where it might fit into your overall program. Of course, it is also good practice to regularly evaluate the events that you have historically attended to make sure they are generating the results that you want and you are applying the appropriate resources to the opportunity. In some cases, you may decide to move an event to a lower or higher tier of investment and in other cases, you may decide to eliminate the event from your calendar altogether.

This program approach to managing your trade show calendar can also be applied to how you align your event team and can easily transition into other aspects of how you do business. At the end of the day, this process can help you stay focused on your objectives, manage your budget, and of course provide you with a little peace of mind along the way.

How to Budget for International Trade Shows

Exhibit Concepts July 20, 2017

So, you want to take your domestic trade show to an international audience. Or perhaps you’re already participating in international trade shows but you want to expand your program to additional cities. Regardless of the stage of your particular program, there is great value in understanding how trade shows operate internationally because it can be very different than in the United States.

There are multiple ways to approach international exhibiting – with advantages and disadvantages for each. But one of the first steps in creating a budget for an international show starts with defining your approach.

Understanding worldwide exhibit approaches will improve your ability to:

  • Negotiate more favorable rates and terms
  • Understand your options and the trade-offs
  • Manage contingencies
  • Stay within your budget

Ask yourself: do you need single use (rental) or multi use (purchase) options for your booth?

Creating a budget for an international show starts with defining your approach. When evaluating said approach, it is important to take a comprehensive look at the wide variety of options available worldwide:

“Build & Burn”: This is a popular option for trade shows held outside of the USA. There is more planning required for each show with this option, but there is no storage or refurbishments necessary. Build & Burn booths allow for increased flexibility and customization for each show. However, there is a higher potential for inconsistency of messaging, look and feel between shows because property is discarded after each show.

System Construction: Using modular, standardized fabrication materials; this option involves the assembly of exhibit property with systems like BeMatrix or Octanorm. These systems are almost always rented, but can be purchased, depending on your needs.

Hybrid Exhibit: A combination of custom and standardized elements is used to fabricate this type of exhibit. Generally, the system components are rented, and the custom components are purchased.

Portable Exhibits: Known as “pop-ups,” these modular exhibit structures with standard layouts, normally used for small exhibits, are most often purchased, but can be rented from some suppliers.

Existing Custom Exhibit: Another option is existing “used” property, which can also be rented or purchased. Used Exhibit Properties

Custom Construction: Commonly referred to as “multi-use,” this is a typical setup for trade shows in the U.S., and is designed / built to the exact needs of your brand. This approach generally necessitates storage, and may require refurbishment over time. There may be less flexibility for each show, and typically requires a higher initial investment. These properties can be used for a 2-3 year show schedule and is stored in wooden crates.

International Budgeting InfographicWant more information on how to choose the best booth option for your next trade show? Download our infographics, HERE.

How to Make Achievable and Appropriate Budget Decisions

When it comes to your budget, planning and careful thought are crucial to a successful international program. If possible, begin by analyzing past projects to understand the budget, actual expenses and results achieved. Then, compare ranges and prices per square meter from quotes. It can be helpful to utilize case studies for comparables until you are able to develop your own portfolio of past work. Finally, rely on experts in the field to offer guidance and help along the way.

Need help understanding the typical line items for costs around the world? It’s crucial to find a partner that understands the nuances of working internationally. For example, value-added taxes (VAT) are not an expense item in the US but are in Europe.

Have a Contingency Plan

Like everything else in life, it’s important to expect the unexpected when exhibiting internationally. The best way to ensure a smoother path is to minimize changes whenever possible, and have a back-up plan for each stage of the project, especially when on-site. Flexibility is crucial throughout.

Miscommunicating internationally can create many of those unexpected problems during the planning process. Using written documentation and standard (local) industry terms during communication greatly reduces the chances for misunderstandings. Don’t be afraid to use translators, photos and drawings in lieu of words; in this case they really are worth 1,000 words. Want an experienced partner for your international trade show program? Contact us to get started. Or, see our international resources, here.

10 Crucial Steps to Prepare for a Successful Trade Show - Part Two

Exhibit Concepts July 07, 2017

A successful trade show has many components and steps to ensure its success. In Part One of this series, we discussed many of the logistical planning issues you may encounter. Now you need to focus on what will actually happen in the booth during the event and that involves thinking about staffing and training. 

6. Staffing

The employees that work your booth during the trade show are a key element to your success. When going through the planning process, think about the number of staff you’ll need from each of the key departments in your organization. Salespeople are a key element, but what about other support staff? Consider members of the marketing team that can offer support and meet with clients along with company leadership.

7. Sales, Sales, Sales

Personal, face-to-face selling is dynamic and very effective when utilized properly. The members of your sales team rely solely on the success of their efforts, making the orders received and targets hit during a show incredibly important. Even those who are working the booth that do not have a sales role should always be thinking sales. This means looking at booth visitors as potential clients, knowing what to say and when, and gathering the proper information to ensure leads are vetted and notes are made. It’s all about adding value, solving problems, and of course, selling your product.

8. Leads Glorious Leads

It’s safe to say that not everyone who visits your booth will be an ideal lead. In fact, you might get traffic that isn’t even close to being a lead. For this reason, it is important to create a scoring system for every potential lead you interact with at a show. Whether you choose to rate them by letter (A, B, C) or temperature (Hot, Warm, and Cold) develop a consistent, fool-proof system and teach your salespeople what it means. Make the criteria for scoring leads as objective as possible. It is okay to start the rating system initially based on a “gut check” on how realistic the project seems. But over time, as you gather more information and are able to validate the subjective assumptions, you can be more data-driven in your lead scoring system.

9. Talk to Your Leads

There is a saying: leads are like fish; after a few days they start to stink. When a potential customer raises their hand and expresses interest in doing business with you, it’s up to your staff to respond quickly. In striking while the iron is hot, you could not only step in front of a competitor, you’re also showing the client that you are responsive, organized and interested in doing business.

It is a good idea to send a “Thank you” communication as soon as possible after making contact; ideally that same evening. And then, recognizing that trade show attendees are very busy and may miss your first communication, you should send a 2nd more detailed communication timing that for the day after they get back to their office.

10. Conduct a Start, Stop, Continue Exercise

Once the show has concluded, we recommend you conduct this formal exercise within a week or two post-show. You want the session to be held close enough to the event that memories are still fresh but with enough time passed that your post-show activities have been initiated.

The exercise, as the name suggests, is a guided way to think about what activities worked really well – these are the ones we want to Continue. Now that we’ve had a chance to reflect, are there things we should have done but didn’t – these are the ones we want to Start. And of course, there are things that just didn’t work out as planned – these are the ones we want to Stop.

Want to learn more about the importance of going through this exercise with your team? We walk you through the process and give you a free downloadable template, on our blog.

This is the second part of a two part series. Want to see part one? You can find it HERE.

10 Crucial Steps to Prepare for a Successful Trade Show - Part One

Exhibit Concepts July 05, 2017

You’ve made the decision to attend a trade show and you’ve allocated a lot of your marketing budget to the event. So, what steps can you take to make this a successful investment?  There are many variables and complexities involved in exhibiting so preparation is a crucial component of the overall process.

To insure your investment is well spent and your goals are met, there are many plans and considerations to work through. Here are ten key steps you should take in order to have a well-managed, successful trade show. We’ve broken the list into two parts; we’ll focus on the first five steps here.

These steps include:

1. Plan Early, Plan Often

Fail to plan and you can plan to fail, right? Planning isn’t just writing up a list of what you need to bring to a show or even how to staff your booth. We recommend you begin the planning process at least six months before a trade show and for major events; the planning can start over a year in advance. This means bringing in all the parties involved in the process to establish goals and objectives for the show. Once you are clear on objectives, you can turn your attention to overarching messaging and theming.

Then, you should walk step by step through products you plan to debut or display at the show, details and logistics, guidelines for those working the booth, and even details like how staffers will dress and how they will speak to visitors. This is all about getting marketing, sales, and management on the same page well in advance of a show. We recommend a creative brief to align your team during the planning process.

2. Establish Buyer Personas

Do you know what your target audience looks like? Creating a series of buyer personas will not only help you understand the pain points of your buyers, but to find innovative solutions to their problems. By understanding your audience, you gain insights into how they can be accurately targeting and pulled from the aisles and into your booth. When you are clear about the profile of your target attendee, you can then move on to attracting, meeting, and wowing these prospects during a show and well into the future.

3. Select the Ideal Booth Size

Is bigger always better? Not necessarily. When it comes to selecting booth size, you’ll need to consider your target number of prospects and the bearing that will have on the amount of size your team needs to attain your goals and objectives. Think about what’s happening in your booth: are your salespeople giving presentations? How much space does that require? How long is each presentation? How many salespeople and support staff will be in the booth simultaneously? Likewise, you should be thinking about storage space, AV equipment needs and conference rooms. Adding all these answers together will help you determine the proper size- and consulting your trusty exhibit house is a great way to find a booth size that meets your unique needs.

4. Choose Your Location Wisely

It’s a question we are asked often: where is the best location for my booth? Taking a peek at the show floor can give you the best insight; you won’t be able to see the show floor ahead of time. When looking at the layout, think not only about your customer but also about the booths located near and around your potential space that could have loud, distracting noise. Carefully consider the location of large, obtrusive columns, low ceilings, and even the location of the bathrooms in the hall. This is about your business; choose wisely! Remember: this is closely tied to #3, the size of your booth. Just like in real estate, location is everything. All that to say: you may have to change the dimensions of your booth in order to get prime real estate.

5. Engagement is King

An attractive trade show booth is just one element of a successful show. The next step is to think about innovative ways to pull your clients from the aisles of a busy show floor and into your booth for a meaningful conversation. Engagement should spark curiosity, bring smiles, and fit your overall theme and messaging for the show and also for your brand. It should feel fresh and smart, not hokey or contrived. Make this step a key part of your planning process to capture the eyes (and eventually hearts and minds) of your top targets.

This is part one of a two part series. In this part, we've covered many of the logistical planning issues you will encounter. Next, in Part Two, we'll cover what will actually happen in the booth, including staffing and training. Read Part Two

The Vertiv Trade Show Program: an End-to-End Solution

Exhibit Concepts June 23, 2017

When the new Vertiv brand was unveiled to customers, it was crucial for the change to feel cohesive across all touchpoints. Amy Williams, an Event Manager for Vertiv, based in Columbus, Ohio, went through the process of updating assets for the company she knew she needed a partner to guide her and the rest of the team through the process.

Vertiv-0506 HI-RES-1.jpg

This is where Exhibit Concepts came in. Our team worked alongside the Vertiv team to create that experience, that we call an end-to-end solution. It was crucial for customers to understand the new brand and see all it represents regardless of how and where they are interacting with Vertiv. This meant the look and feel of all physical environments needed to be consistent, from their trade show program to their Customer Experience Center

By working with one company (us!) for each of their needs spanning across touchpoints, a consistent brand emerged. With vibrant shades of orange and deep shades of slate gray, the Vertiv brand is hard to miss—and you always know it when you see it.

We’re proud to offer this complete end-to-end solution for clients like Vertiv, from managing regional meetings to trade shows and their Customer Experience Center. Learn more about how we worked with Vertiv on their trade show program in the video below:

Want a consistent, end-to-end solution for your brand? Contact us. Or, read more about the value of exhibit house partnership from another client, Scot Forge.

Face-to-Face & End-to-End Marketing

Exhibit Concepts June 16, 2017

The old saying is true: You only get one chance to make a first impression.  These days, we also know from experience that good branding is important and goes far beyond an eye-catching logo. While branding is definitely about the visual identity of your company it also encompasses your verbal identity: how you talk and write about the company is crucial. For your reader (AKA current/future clients), this communicates your brand personality and what your company values are likely to be, should they choose to hire you. It’s crucial to consider the physical spaces your target audience is likely to encounter your brand, in the same way we think about logos, fonts, tone, and voice.

Perception is Reality

When marketers are first involved in brand strategy and brand identity work, they typically think about a brand’s positioning and promise. What perception do we want our target audience to have about our brand?  A lot of thought and effort goes into those strategy sessions, to craft a unique brand statement that resonates with our target buyers and differentiates us from competitors.

Who are You?

Once the strategy is clear, attention turns to the visual and verbal identity – specifically logo, marks, color palettes, fonts, and templates. Some call it a brand style guide or brand guidelines, but there is typically a formal document that catalogs do’s and don’ts with respect to the visual representation of the brand in a wide array of formats. Templates are created for business cards, letterhead, sales presentations, building signage, and literature pieces.

But how often do brand guidelines cover the situations when clients and potential clients interact with your brand in a physical space?

Think about your corporate lobby: that place where you make a first impression. You must assume that a potential visitor (current client, prospect, supplier, or job candidate) has been to your corporate website. Ask yourself:

When they walk through your front door, does their first impression match their preconceived impression of your brand?

Does it match the impression you are hoping to make?

Is your intention to convey a warm, friendly, welcoming service-oriented business but your lobby is cold and sterile?  

For your company, this is it. The corporate lobby is an integral chance for your visitors to physically experience your brand and all that it represents. It’s a first date of sorts.

Take it to the Trade Show

It doesn’t stop there, however. Next, let’s think about your trade show program. Exhibiting at a trade show or conference gives you the opportunity to meet clients and prospects face to face, in a mutually convenient space. You are transforming your convention hall real estate into a physical representation of your brand.  This goes well beyond the signage and graphic panels where your logo is displayed, the entire structure of the booth, and the engagement you have chosen to draw people into the space. If your brand is about delivering customized, hand-crafted solutions, your space should communicate that message with a matching look and feel..

Hit the Road

Have you thought about mobile tours and events? If your customers can’t come to you, then you can bring your message straight to them. When taking your brand “on the road” either with a mobile tour or through a series of local events, these again are unique opportunities to communicate your brand identity well beyond the graphical display of your company name and logo. If your company’s image is one of southern hospitality, then sushi and techno-pop might not be the right choice.


Lobbies, showrooms, briefing centers, trade show exhibits, mobile vehicle tours and events are opportunities to showcase your brand identity visually and experientially. Your visitors are physically immersed in your brand and these are your opportunities to engage all their senses – sight, sound, feel, taste and smell to express your brand. Engagement at its finest.

Want to discover new ways to engage your audience? See how a Customer Experience Center Comes to Life and how a museum tells the story of the computer revolution.

Trade Show Timeline: The Recipe for Success

Exhibit Concepts June 12, 2017

How many different tasks and coordination points are there in a new trade show build? There are only two correct answers:  It Depends (our “unofficial motto”) and A Lot!

On the client side, there are many decisions to make and many constituents to consult along the way. These important choices include:

  • The decision to exhibit at a trade show
  • Booth location and size
  • Choosing products to showcase
  • Messages to communicate
  • Campaign theme

As you might imagine, this process is no easier on the exhibit house side. What are the client’s objectives? Our team works to source new materials, incorporate new engagement, designing and printing graphics, and even recommending which product to incorporate into the booth.

And the trade show is not going to wait.

So, how can you keep everything and everyone on schedule and moving toward a common goal? By developing and managing to a jointly-developed trade show timeline.

Whether you are working on a major new build or refreshing graphics on an existing booth property, adhering to the timeline you develop with your exhibit house reduces risk and provides peace of mind. It is a critical communication device that keeps all parties on the same page, especially with respect to deliverables and interdependencies.

A good timeline works as follows:

  • All critical deliverables are listed, especially those requiring approvals
  • For each deliverable, the responsible party is named along with the due date
  • Sign-off on the timeline indicates agreement to work diligently to meet dates
  • Regular reviews and reminders of upcoming deliverables

The benefits of a well-run timeline are peace of mind, project readiness, accurate and dependable delivery and an overall ROI for the client. A successful show experience depends on it.

Want more information on the importance of timelines? Here are 4 reasons your trade show needs a timeline.

Why Face-to-Face Marketing Needs Buyer Personas

Exhibit Concepts June 02, 2017

by Ellen Campbell-Kaminski

The concept of buyer personas has only been defined since 2002.  The practice of building a model representation of a typical buyer, defining their goals, understanding what drives their behavior, and how, when and why they buy is an incredibly valuable tool for marketers especially in the digital age. We create content based upon an informed understanding of who our buyer is and where she is on her buying journey.

How committed is she to finding a solution to her problem?

Has she created a short list of potential solutions and searching for information to help her differentiate and prioritize alternatives?

As marketers, we can then create content designed to help answer the questions our buyers face along their journey and we make that content available when and where they are likely to be looking for answers.

What about Face-to-Face Marketing?

Buyer personas are a proven part of successful content marketing.  Just run a web search on “buyer personas in content marketing” and you’ll get over 6 million results. But I believe personas should have a starring role in face-to-face marketing, too. We are a people-centric industry, and it’s time we actively worked to understand customer behavior in order to best serve them.

In my over 20 years in business-to-business marketing, I’ve attended over fifty trade shows both as an exhibitor and as an attendee across a wide variety of industries, from an oil and gas industry show in Houston, TX to the National Catholic Educators Association in Toronto, Canada. Early in my career, I didn’t know about buyer personas nor did I implement sophisticated engagement techniques.  I just sent out a simple pre-show mailer “Come Visit Us at Booth # ___” and had a simple pop-up stand, table skirt, signage, fish bowl to collect business cards, sample product (or demo software) and literature. I hoped people would stop by and talk to me. I’m happy to say my strategies, objectives and approaches have advanced significantly since those early days.

The other thing that has advanced since those early days is my understanding and anticipation of buyer behavior and how to apply that knowledge to my trade show planning.  And that planning includes the development of the buyer personas most likely to visit our booth.

Here are some ways to start forming personas:

  • Understand attendee demographics like industry, title, and purchase authority by consulting resources like the Conference Exhibitor Guide.
  • Interview show organizers for deeper insights into attendee behavior and preferences.
  • Contact your sales partners for information about the visitors they have spoken with at prior year shows and the nature of those conversations and any pain points raised by visitors.
  • Find a colleague at another company who has exhibited at the same show you plan to attend for their perspective.

Armed with this information, you and your team can develop buyer personas for your next trade show. With those personas in hand, your pre-show marketing activities will perform more effectively, your messaging will be more on-point, and your sales people will be better prepared to handle the inquiries they are likely to encounter on the show floor.

It’s true that knowledge is power. In this case the more you know, the better your approach will be when it comes to attending the best trade shows that will resonate with your audience.

Want more ideas on how to engage your audience? See how Adwerx, a digital marketing agency for real estate professionals, created a smart, interactive trade show booth that produced big results.

Want a Winning Trade Show Strategy? Try Start, Stop, Continue

Exhibit Concepts June 01, 2017

You just wrapped a successful trade show event. You are back in your office.  All your leads have been distributed to the sales team. You are reconciling final invoices against your budget. But before you’ve had a chance to gather feedback from your sales partners about any opportunities generated from the leads, you are called into a planning session for the next event on your marketing calendar. 

Does this sound familiar? For many of us, we go from one priority initiative straight into another high profile project. And then next time we have any time to think about the just completed event is when we start the planning process for the next year’s show. Which usually means a minimum of six or nine months have passed.

The good news for those of us with a good marketing platform with integrated sales CRM is that we have record of the leads that were generated and what happened with those leads such as opportunities created and business that was won. You likely have a trade show strategy, but it’s time to take things a step further.

What’s missing is the more qualitative feedback about what worked and where things did not go quite according to plan. So as we sit down to complete a creative brief for the upcoming show, we have to rely on our memory and that of our colleagues, if we are lucky enough to have the same co-workers on the project.

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A better approach is to conduct a formal “Stop, Start, and Continue” exercise within a week or two post-show. You want the session to be held close enough to the event that memories are still fresh but with enough time passed that your post-show activities have been initiated. 

The exercise, as the name suggests, is a guided way to think about what activities worked really well – these are the ones we want to Continue. Now that we’ve had a chance to reflect, are there things we should have done but didn’t – these are the ones we want to Start. And of course, there are things that just didn’t work out as planned – these are the ones we want to Stop.

You can do this as a solo exercise but it is even more effective if you ask representatives from all the different departments that were involved in the trade show planning and execution of the show to participate. Have your team complete the worksheet independently and then bring the group together to discuss everyone’s perspective.  Compile all the feedback into one document and share across the team.

As you sit down to start planning your presence at the show next year, review this document before you do anything else. It will not only help you enter the process with a fresh perspective but also find yourself armed with knowledge from your experience.

 Ready to continue the planning process? We recommend creating a timeline. Here are 4 reasons your trade show needs a timeline.

The Latest and Greatest Exhibit Concepts, Inc. News