What you need to know about exhibiting at international trade shows
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
An interesting trend is happening this year. Several of my clients are making an effort to exhibit at international trade shows. They see opportunities to expand their presence abroad, but are not exactly sure how to go about setting up an international exhibit.
I have done my fair share of international exhibitions — from giant expos at the Messe and Congress Centers throughout Europe to smaller conferences with exhibits at hotel properties in Asia and South America. One thing I know for sure, building an exhibit outside the U.S. is a completely different experience.
Here are five things to think about as you research and plan to exhibit at an international trade show.
1. Labor unions
Probably one of the biggest differences is in how countries outside the United States handle installation and dismantle (I&D) labor. In the U.S., I&D labor falls under union jurisdiction, which means you have to work within the tight regulations that govern how union workers do their jobs.
Some of the things we experience with union labor in the U.S.: higher labor rates, unexpected overtime charged at time and a half (or worse double time) and four-hour minimums to name a few. Plus, you almost always have to use different unions for different jobs. Your electricity is installed by a different union crew than the one hanging the banner over your booth.
This is not the case in other countries. As a result, the hourly rates and the work performed is much more flexible. The exhibit house you hire to design and build your booth is most likely the one sending their crew to install and dismantle it at the show.
This means you have the opportunity to negotiate a fixed fee for all of the serves related to your booth. The fixed fee you pay to the exhibit house is locked in at the beginning of your contract, and no matter how many hours the I&D team works, your labor fees stay the same as negotiated.
2. Turnaround times
If possible, give yourself more time to work with your international exhibit house than you would normally give your U.S.-based firm. Time differences, work practices, international holidays and other factors may result in a slower flow of communication with your international exhibit house.
3. Cultural differences
Before you commit to an in-booth activity, raffle drawing or even your booth graphics, do some research on the culture and language differences from your U.S.-based events.
A lot of international exhibits consider English as the official language since it is widely spoken around the world as the "language of business." But don't make the mistake and assume that all of the attendees are fluent English speakers and understand the nuance of the English language.
Consider printing a piece of literature translated and printed in the local language. Your efforts to take the local customs and language into consideration will be appreciated. Trust me.
4. Cash is king
It might be difficult to believe, but in some countries accepting credit cards on show site for various services is not an option. Do your research beforehand to have a better understanding of what to expect when you walk into the exhibit center ... and know where and how you can get some cash should the need arise.
5. Learn to adapt
Adapt to your environment. These four words may seem obvious but can make a huge difference in your experience at an international trade show. Don't expect things to go the way they do when you put up a booth in Las Vegas. Be open-minded and patient as you work with the local vendors.
The opportunity to work internationally is something I love about our industry. It gives us the chance to meet new and interesting people and see some amazing places around the world. What's not to love about that?
Don't go blindly into this endeavor, though. Because each country is different and has different rules and cultural practices, give yourself extra time and pay close attention to the details to avoid disaster. No matter how well-traveled you may be, there is always more to learn.
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