Setting up your first international trade show may seem like a daunting task, but if you are well prepared on these 4 basic things, this looming logistical nightmare may just become an eye-opening, and well-rewarding experience.
The first priority when heading to a different country is to, well, prioritize. That means setting up a timeline or calendar to help you manage important dates including everything from getting your travel paperwork in order to determining the dates on which you'll need to ship items overseas. Many countries require a letter of invitation, which you can usually get from show organizers. Depending on the country, getting a visa can be very simple. Start by checking with the State Department online to see how long it suggests to allow for a visa.
When you made your timeline, you needed to decide if you were going to ship your domestic booth or have a custom-built stand constructed overseas. Both choices have their pros and cons, but for the first-timer, leaving your U.S. booth at home is probably the right choice. Hannah points out that without sometimes significant alterations, some U.S.-made booths don't meet foreign code requirements regarding height restrictions or fire safety. Also, the labor crew, whether you hire workers from an exhibit house or through show services, might have trouble with instructions setting up that booth you've shipped from America.
That said, if your custom exhibit has been designed to represent your brand in a way that a foreign exhibit house is unlikely to reproduce, or if your domestic booth is significantly cheaper to ship than it would be to get a custom rental property, you might want to consider eating the expense of shipping it overseas.
Follow this checklist to cover the basics of exhibiting abroad:
1. Create a timeline.
- Obtain a passport and/or visa.
- Book airline and hotel reservations.
- Transport your exhibit and/or accompanying materials.
- Add a 30-percent buffer to domestic timelines to account for time-zone delays.
- Contract for any necessary show services at your destination.
2. Develop a budget.
- Estimate hidden costs such as value-added tax (VAT) and raised flooring, if necessary.
- Ask potential vendors about all-inclusive pricing.
- Estimate the cost of currency fluctuation and consider prepaying.
3. Erect an exhibit.
- Determine whether you will ship your exhibit overseas, rent locally, or buy a build-and-burn booth.
- Establish a strict vendor contract with ground rules and deadlines.
- Familiarize yourself with foreign requirements for structures as well as international holidays that might impact your timelines.
- Hire an I&D crew if one is not included in your booth price.
4. Train your staff.
- Plan transportation routes for staffers traveling between your hotel and the show venue.
- Determine common languages and hire the appropriate interpreter(s).
- Learn local customs for greetings and business attire.