International Trade Shows Are Worth a Visit

Trade shows with international buyers and sellers in attendance are often good venues for topping up order books.  They’re also good for learning about new products and trends.  You can of course attend a show, spend money and come back with nothing.  Here are ways to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Find the right show.  You may wish to screen shows according to the industry vertical you’re in.  Some shows are devoted to a mix of industries and shouldn’t be automatically discarded.  A web search will offer up a variety of shows that generally fit your criteria.  Their websites will explain further the benefits of attending, pricing and any assistance that they may offer.  It would be nice to get an attendee list ahead of time but that’s not part of the deal.  There will be an exhibitors list available beforehand, so you can contact companies and arrange to meet with them.

Speak at the show.  Many shows offer opportunities to make presentations.  Some are “pay to play,” where for a fee, usually not insubstantial, you’ll get a chance to give a dog and pony. Prospects are likely to be in the audience and may approach you afterwards.  When you finish, distribute your business cards before everyone disperses.

Find the media. The trade press, specialty media that cater to a particular industry, usually cover trade shows and offer an opportunity for you to track them down on the show floor and talk to writers and reporters about your company or product. They might even feature you in their social media reports uploaded that same day.

Attend receptions.  The shows generally turn into party spaces when the business is done for the day.  What were sober booths are suddenly adorned with wine, beer and other libations.  More lavish events occur elsewhere on the premises and it’s usually easy to score an invitation.  Don’t stand in the corner.  Steel yourself for the mix and mingle, even if your feet are killing you from walking around all day. Bring plenty of business cards and don’t leave until you’ve distributed them all.

Seek government help. Your government may recommend and staff certain shows as part of a trade promotion program.  In the U.S., visit They mostly support businesses that are selling things rather than buying, so they can help generate more exports.  So, if you’re selling, take advantage of these services which often include screening buyers before the show and bringing them round to see you; translation services if needed; pre-show and during-show briefings; post-show follow-up with prospects from different countries; visits to other potential buyers in countries where the show is held but who couldn’t attend the show for whatever reason.  Many U.S. states provide other kinds of support, particularly to their small businesses to encourage them to sell cross border.  Support can come in the form of grants to cover travel expenses to a show; help pay for exhibition space; printing of collateral in different languages and more.

Attend a show without exhibiting.  It can be prudent to go to a show just to take a measure of it.  Does it have the right people attending, meaning serious buyers and sellers, not the general, tire-kicking public? Is it worth your while coming the following year as an exhibitor?  Is the help described above available at this particular show?

To see how these international trade shows work and what attendees think about them, watch this video. I’m your host, and it’s a pleasure to show you the ropes

If you like what you see, consider adding attending an international trade show to your business plan during the coming year.

Doug Barry
Conover + Gould Strategy Group