11 Quick Tips for International Exhibiting

March 6, 2014

Are you joining the growing ranks of exhibitors who are being asked to take your trade show displays international?  Ja?  Si?  Oui?

Let’s face it; exhibiting internationally is a daunting task.  Trade shows are not easy to master, and with the added complexity of arranging your trade show booth in a different continent, language, time zone, and culture – well, it’s even harder.

But the opportunities are there, and your management is asking for you to make it happen.  So here are 11 tips, provided by Senior Account Executive Leslie Hopkins and Project Manager Julie Comfort of Skyline Houston, and Director of Development Philip Foust of Skyline Exhibits and Events, who have traveled around the world with their clients:

1.    When exhibiting abroad, you need more of everything: more time, more money, and more planning.

2.    It may sound obvious, but take the time to research before you go – about the country, the city, the people, and the show regulations.

3.    Learn about cultural differences, which transfer to how local attendees do trade shows differently.  What is considered polite and “politically correct” changes from country to country.

4.    Different cultures need different common phrases, even when you are communicating in English.  When emailing outside of the United States, it’s better to write “can you please?” instead of “will you please …”

5.    You have to remain flexible, even more so than domestically.

6.    Have cash in pocket!!  You find out that in some places you can’t use credit cards, but have to pay in cash, such as in Rome, where you pay cash to get electric.  Have cash for emergencies.

7.    You must let go of your usual expectations.  For example, there are no plug-in extension cords in Brazil– instead they wrap raw wire with tape!

8.    The exhibition venues can be so different – such as halls in the Middle East not having enough air conditioning.

9.    Getting a trade show exhibit through customs can be daunting.  Better to rent locally if you have a trusted source in country.

10.    Contact your cell phone carrier in advance and ask if you can use your phone overseas, and ask for one month international services.  But ask how much the calls, data, and texts will cost so there are no surprises.

11.    If your products or equipment are heavy and you need to ship them to the show, plan far ahead so you can ship earlier and cheaper by boat.  And yes, international shipping is harder.

It’s a big world, and someone’s got to exhibit in it.  When you are asked to take the plunge across the pond, take a deep breath and relax.  There’s a world of opportunity waiting for you.  Give yourself time to prepare, and go for it.

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