8 Tips for Successful Global Exhibiting

By Lisa Shackelford

Exhibiting at an international trade show is a highly effective way to enter foreign markets. While the experience can be rewarding, attending international events can also be costly and challenging. Below are some tips to keep in mind while planning an international trade show appearance.

  • Either hire an interpreter or staff your booth with employees who can sell your products and services in the local language if necessary. In Europe, English is the accepted language of business, so an interpreter is not necessary. However, in other regions, such as Latin America, someone must be present who speaks the local language. If you are speaking English, use simple words and refrain from using jargon, slang or buzzwords to avoid confusion.
  • Use a translator who knows both the local culture and American culture when creating printed materials to avoid any translation mishaps. When Pepsi translated their slogan “Pepsi Brings You Back to Life” for the Chinese market, they angered many Chinese consumers. The literal translation meant “Pepsi Bring Your Ancestors Back from the Grave”.
  • Consider how potential foreign clients will perceive the colors you are using. For example, white is a color of mourning in Japan, but in Western culture is associated with peace and purity.
  • Be aware of numbers that may be considered unlucky or have a religious meaning in the local culture. For instance, in China, the number 4 symbolizes death, and the number 9 symbolizes longevity.
  • Plan for an ample amount of time to obtain the appropriate travel documentation. Obtaining a passport can take as long as eight to ten weeks. In some cases, it may be necessary to obtain a visa, which is a much lengthier process than obtaining a passport.
  • Book travel accommodations as soon as possible. International shows draw large crowds and designated show hotels fill very quickly. Since the amount of international flights available daily is very limited, booking ahead of time increases the chance of reserving a decent seat at a decent price.
  • Schedule time into your trade show plan to account for any possible shipping delays, such as items being held up at customs. Work with a logistics company that specializes in international trade show shipping.
  • Understand the rules of negotiation. In many cultures, socializing is considered essential to the negotiating process.  For instance, in Brazil, negotiating is a slow process and impatience is seen as a sign of weakness. Brazilians expect long-term commitments from their business partners, so relationship building is crucial. Be prepared to socialize more with potential clients than you would at domestic events.
  • Bring the correct international adapters for any electrical plug you will be using.  Make sure the adapters that you bring can withstand the voltage necessary to power the display lights, monitors, etc.
  • Become knowledgeable of the business etiquette in the host country.  In France, shaking hands is an expected greeting, but in Japan, bodily contact in public is avoided. Know whether to address clients by titles or by name and what is considered appropriate attire. In Germany, business dress is very conservative and people should be addressed by their full, correct title. Learn what body language may be perceived as offensive. For example, in Mexico, the American OK sign can be considered an obscene gesture.

Exhibiting at an international trade show is an excellent way to enter new markets and build global relationships with potential clients. A combination of careful planning and cultural sensitivity is the key to a successful experience when exhibiting globally.

Lisa Shackelford is the Marketing Coordinator at FB Displays & Designs, Inc. 

Works Cited

Todd, Brian. “EXHIBITOR Magazine – Article: International: Four Steps to Foreign Exhibiting, December 2011.” EXHIBITOR Magazine – Article: International: Four Steps to Foreign Exhibiting, December 2011. EXHIBITOR Magazine, Dec. 2011. Web. 30 July 2012. <http://www.exhibitoronline.com/exhibitormagazine/dec11/international-four-steps-to-foreign-exhibiting.asp&gt;.

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