10. October 2013 17:48
International exhibitions can present new and different challenges. Aside from the logistics there are also cultural differences to consider. To put your best foot forward at trade shows, it’s important to be informed before you travel abroad.
1. Think Global, Act Local
While English may be considered a universal language, you may benefit from having a translator present in your trade show exhibit or exhibition stand.
Although many business men and women converse in English, it’s important to provide trade show attendees with print or digital information in their native language. Potential prospects need to fully comprehend the benefits of your products and services. Many cultures seek technical details, so provide metric measurements and weights.
Bring plenty of business cards. Unless you have arranged for your toll free telephone number to be accessible from other countries, be sure to include a direct dial telephone number.
2. Don’t Assume, Ask.
While regions may share similarities, every country can be different.
The US uses 120v electricity and Japan uses 110v. Many European countries, Russia and China use 220v. Brazil uses 110v and 220v. So you’ll need to have adaptors and transformers for American lights or purchase or rent substitutes.
Drayage, delivering exhibit shipments from the loading dock to your booth space, is a common expense in US trade shows. That expense may be combined with other fees, or require no charge, in other countries.
Avoid surprises by inquiring about what materials and services are subject to VAT (value added tax) or GST (goods and services tax) - at what rate, and whether or how you may file for reimbursement.
3. Get help from experts
Consider working with an experienced exhibit company that has their own international offices. Customs can be a complex and lengthy process. Paperwork errors can cause delays that impact your budget. Exhibit plans often need to be submitted along with documentation to show management to verify it meets local electrical and fire safety regulations.
Nomadic has multiple offices in key trade show cities like Las Vegas, New York, DC, London and Frankfurt. This enables us to coordinate display design, production, rentals, graphics and logistical support from the locations closest to client events so we can save them time, money and headaches.
4. Basic Business Etiquette
Before you leave, learn as much as you can about the culture of your trade show audience. When in doubt, err on the side of formality.
In general, conservative business attire is recommended. Keep your hands out of your pockets and hand gestures to a minimum as it can be off putting.
Greet visitors using their last name until you are asked to address someone by their first name. Don’t rush through introductions. Age demands a higher level of respect in Asia, so address older people first. European business people often greet one another with a firm handshake, whereas Asian countries tend to avoid body contact. Asking personal questions of any kind may be viewed as inappropriate.
5. Take Your Time
You want to build new relationships through face-to-face contact. Many cultures attitude toward time is more relaxed and conversation more casual. Take time to get to know visitors before diving into a sales pitch. Refreshments encourage casual conversation so in-booth hospitality is often incorporated into the display design. Offer visitors comfortable seating, a hot or cold drink and light snacks.
In general, American trade show hours are shorter than in other countries. Adapt your booth schedule accordingly to incorporate frequent breaks for your staff. Jet lag combined with longer hours on your feet is a recipe for fatigue.
American exhibitors often hold brief conversations with many visitors and collect their information to contact them after the show. Exhibitions are used for in-depth discussions or to close business deals in some cultures. Lastly, don’t let a lengthy evaluation process frustrate you; some cultures don’t make decisions at a rapid pace.
Do you have others tips to share with our readers?
Gwen Parsons is the Senior Vice President of Marketing at Nomadic Display. She is a regular contributor to the Nomadic Display Blog and can be found at Google + and LinkedIn.