Be Prepared!

August 25, 2018

It’s the start of trade show season in many industries, and the number of North Americans traveling to international fairs and events has grown considerably.

There are plenty of considerations when traveling to a foreign country, especially one where you don’t speak the language – and those elements are compounded when the travel is for business. Here are a few important tips and tricks for successfully navigating an international trade show.

Prepare yourself ahead of time:

  • Update your business cards if needed to suit the culture where you’re going.
  • Brush up on some of the etiquette prior to your departure, as you could come across as ignorant or offensive without intending to do so.
  • As someone who thought I was open-minded to food, I quickly learned that I may need to re-evaluate my seafood options. Tails yes, heads, not so much!
  • Be sure you have a medical exam prior to the trip and alert your physician that you are going to be out of the U.S. Find out whether any shots are necessary to travel to the particular destinations in your itinerary.

Download apps! Some good ones include:

  • Translation (this is especially good if you have special needs or food allergies).
  • The trade show app of the expo you’ll be attending.
  • Transportation (train, Uber, ferry, etc.)
  • Voice recorder (This is an extremely efficient way to take notes on products, exhibitors and speakers, so you can remain present and attentive.)

Ahead of time, research brands, trade associations (chapters), manufacturers, PR firms, media, influencers, etc., attending or exhibiting at the show, and see if you can be added to the VIP list.

Tip 1: You can often find out information by using hashtags on social media (#NKBAInsiders #designhounds #nameoftradeshow).

Tip 2: Map out two or three things to accomplish each day, and let the rest just happen organically.

Tip 3: Collaborate with your local trade associations, as it is highly likely someone from the association or the chapter is attending the same show.

Tip 4: Pay the $10 (average) on your cell plan to have internet access each day – it’s the best $10 you’ll spend! You may want to doublecheck your cell phone provider plan; most plans, however, give you an option to continue using your existing plan for a few dollars extra per day.

Going to an international show with colleagues is tons of fun, however, having some time to explore alone will allow for serendipitous opportunities. Explore the culture in an open way – you’ll make new opportunities for yourself and your company. Introduce and register yourself at booths that catch your attention.

Divide and conquer if in a group, and find a common meeting place later in the day. While navigating the show, it’s unrealistic to expect that everyone in your group has the same interests, even if you think you do. Meet new people for lunch; chances are you will have something in common with another attendee of the show, since you’ve all come together for similar reasons. Be confident in your ability to travel. Technology has made it extremely easy to explore, even for those of us who can’t find a way out of a child’s maze.

Every big show has big traffic, so plan accordingly, as it can take hours to get between events and venues, even though your GPS says it only takes 15 minutes. You may want to arrange for a private car, shuttle or bus transportation. Don’t close down the show to find you are late for an important event!

See as much as you can, get as many photos as possible – offload your photos or videos to make plenty of room on your phone for new images – and have fun! Although these experiences are educational and inspirational, take a moment to absorb the culture and explore something unknown to you.