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It's a Different Game for Trade Show Exhibitors Overseas

Question: Is it better for an American trade show exhibitor to rent a trade show booth abroad if the exhibit hall is in Europe or Asia rather than ship a trade show exhibit from the U.S.?

Answer: Yes. It makes better sense logistically and economically to rent a trade show display in a foreign country where it will be exhibited. Why? For starters, the savings on round trip international shipping and handling charges are substantial.

Also, it turns out that each country has a distinct set of trade show requirements due to the unique characteristics of that nation’s business styles. For instance, with storage space at a premium in Japan, it is common for the custom trade show booth to appear in only one trade show. In Japan, the trade show booth is often destroyed after the trade show, thereby eliminating the need for storage space. When exhibiting in other countries, this “build and burn” trade show booth concept is common because the exhibitor is often unwilling to store a trade show exhibit or have it shipped back to their country. Consequently, lesser grade materials are used on the one-time trade show display since the trade show booth will not be used again.

In Europe, trade show booths with fully functioning kitchens, dishwashers, four burner stoves, and full size refrigerators are customary at trade shows. This is due to the business culture of Europeans who expect hospitality in their trade show display arenas, according to Candy Adams, a San Diego-based independent exhibit-management consultant, trainer, speaker and writer known as The Booth Mom®. She says that the overseas exhibitor often hires local students to pick up the food, cook and serve it at the trade show. And, at a bare minimum at the American trade show booth in Europe, coffee, cookies and carbonated and plain water need to be served in order to comply with the unwritten hospitality code of European countries.

Adams advises that the U.S. trade show exhibitor needs to plan well in advance if they want to exhibit overseas. The American exhibitor needs to consider extra time for customs clearance, shipping, working in the metric system (rather than inches and feet), different time zones, language barriers and currency exchange rates. If you want to avoid fluctuations in price, Adams suggests locking in the amount of the trade show rental exhibit costs by paying in advance.

One of the biggest problems in international exhibiting is the lack of understanding the language, cites Adams. Be aware that some trade shows require all written materials and signage to be printed in the official language of the show. When you have translation work done, make sure that your words and meanings are translated correctly both into the official language as well as when the words are translated back into English. Make sure nothing is lost in translation, and that you properly convey what you mean to say.

Take into account the difference in trade show budgeting for Europe vs. U.S. In Europe, the trade show costs of shipping, material handling and exhibit set-up up are customarily handled by the European trade show exhibit house. It is just the opposite in the U.S., where each service provider is a different entity – from separate freight companies, drayage, installation and dismantling labor, etc.

The flip side is true when European or Asian exhibitors plan to exhibit in a U.S. trade show. They are confronted with a confusing array of new standards. The American trade show exhibit house, therefore, must act as an ambassador to help the overseas exhibitor learn the business model of U.S. trade show exhibiting. This applies whether the exhibit is at the McCormick Convention Center in Chicago, the Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland, the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the Santa Clara Convention Center, the San Jose McEnery Convention Center or other exhibit centers throughout the country.

About the Author: Dick Wheeler is President of Professional Exhibits & Graphics, headquartered in Sunnyvale, California with showroom in Sacramento. Firm is full-service premiere trade show exhibit, graphics and management services company.

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