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Marc Goldberg's Articles

Getting the Most from your International Trade Show Experience

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Exhibiting internationally is not just exhibiting someplace else. Most domestic companies look at international exhibiting as  an extension of what they do at home.  Those that
 look at it as different; that needs more preparation, more planning, different personnel, special handouts, graphics and process will achieve their objectives and higher return
on their investment. Those who just show up most often are disappointed.  

The range of awareness can be best defined by a cross cultural model: 

Negative Attitudes


There is no difference between our culture and theirs



Just be yourself and everything will work out fine


Differences are only superficial

US values and customs are constant around the world

Positive attitudes to Succeed


We can work together if we are aware of each other’s differences



You can explain the differences and we shift our frame of reference



I’m comfortable in an international setting because we integrated our cultural differences into our approach

Plan First, Then Execute 

Before any planning begins, commitment from top management is absolutely critical.  An understanding of why the organization is exhibiting, the investment involved and the potential
for economic return must be fully comprehended and a commitment obtained to achieve complete cooperation from everyone else needed to make the event a success.

Here are the keys to your successful international exhibiting:

 1.  Know Your Audience


It is different than your domestic audience.  With different customs and business practices.  They expect you to change your approach and communicate with them in their
manner, not your own.

Patience is a prerequisite in exhibiting abroad. The  more casual and relaxed approach of “hook’em, hold ‘em and sell ‘em” approach of North American exhibiting
won’t work when venturing globally.  International buyers expect more formality in

Attendees may or may not wear name badges, so the qualification is essential and may take longer.

Have patience with language. Patience with understanding and patience with the time factors involved in the exhibiting and sales process.  Buyers will spend 3-4
 times more hours at an international show than a domestic show.

Think about relationship first, then product.

2.  Know Why You Are Exhibiting


To achieve success at any trade show event and especially at an international trade fair, you need to set your show and stand objectives early.  Everything that you do from
the stand design, layout and graphics to they type of literature that is used to reinforce your message emanates from the show objectives.

3.  The Culture in Which Your Are Exhibiting is Different


The most important factor is to accept that the customs and business practices are different and that you must integrate those changes into your event.

Body language is a very powerful communication tool.  In the international arena it can work against you if you are not aware of local customs.

Most international trade fairs are formal.  The visitors will expect you to dress conservatively, ready to conduct business.

Having your literature translated into the local language will be most appreciated by the show’s visitor.  A word of caution: Have it translated by one source and then
translated back into English by another source to assure that you what you want
to communicate has been accomplished.

4.  You Only Have One Chance to Make a Good First Impression 


Take a look at how you presented yourself in past exhibitions. Will that style and approach leave the good impression you need to make on an international
audience. So, integrate the cultural differences that you researched into your exhibiting event because you only have one chance to make a good first impression.

Since most international business is more formal than we experience in the U.S., greet a visitor using their surname and any title.  Using the visitor’s first name
without first obtaining permission or being invited to do so is a cultural faux pas.

Having a bilingual staffer in your exhibit that can bridge the language barrier also  goes a long way to show your commitment to understanding.

5.  If In Doubt, Ask!

     In international exhibiting, don’t assume anything.  If you have a question, ask.  If in doubt, ask.  Resources are available;ask your show management.

6.  Plan Your Follow-up Before You Leave the Show

    If your follow-up plan involves person-to-person contact after the show plan to stay a few days or a week after the show to make those contacts.  It is more economic
    and shows an intense interest to take the relationship to the next level if you stay to make follow-up visits after the show closes.

 7.  Make Your Local Representative a Part of Your Team

   Your local representative, employee or not, should become a part of the planning team to assure effective execution.  Your distributor, sales representative or local
   company representative can be an effective part of the team by identifying potential prospects and inviting them to an exhibition.  Understanding the local customs,
   expediting materials into the country, locating translators, determining what will work and what will not are just a few more of the roles that the local representative
   can play to assure a successful performance.  Your local representative will be a good source for professional interpreters, if you think it is needed. 

8.  Send Your Best People

 Your staff contributes 85% of your results.  Select your best personnel to represent you.  International exhibiting is no place  for novices.  If you are going to conduct
 demonstrations or present technical information, select your top technical presenter and train them to work the trade fair.

 Select staffers who are open minded, patient and tolerance of differences.  Invite staffers who look at international travel as  an adventure, not an inconvenience.  Bring
 staffers who understand that working trade fairs is hard work, not a chance to sightsee. 

Preparing your staff to meet an international audience is one of the most important tasks you have when venturing outside our boarders.  It is different and everyone working your
staff needs to know how to address the differences so they see you as tuned into their approach to doing business, not just your own.  Having a preshow briefing before your leave with
your local representative guiding you will pay big dividends when you arrive at the show and the staff feels comfortable and ready to represent your organization.

© 2010 by Marc Goldberg