How to get the most out of a trade show abroad

Trade shows can be an excellent chance to meet prospective clients and contacts in the industry face to face, especially when you’re doing business in another country – meeting your suppliers and getting some contacts in that country can be a huge boost. However, with stiff competitions and hefty fees (not to mention the price of travelling) it’s important to think strategically about how you go about it. Here are our tips.

Pick wisely

Don’t just pick a random country, or try and do them all. Focus your efforts on countries where you’ve already established that there’s a demand for your product, and focus on the best shows for you within this. Biggest doesn’t always mean best – you’ll be competing with more businesses. Think about what’s best for your specific niche. It might not be possible, but if you’re able to go out to the country for a few days beforehand you can scope out the venue and get a feel for the place. If you’re able to go as an attendee one year before committing, even better.

Look for support

There’s support out there for startups, such as the Tradeshow Access Programme, designed to encourage more businesses to attend  international tradeshows. It’s worth checking to see if there are grants your business could benefit from, or other opportunities that would facilitate your trip – check out the UKTI website for opportunities.

Have a great pitch

If you’re at an international tradeshow, there might well be a language barrier at times. To get around this, ensure your pitch or demo is eye-catching and simple. If you can demonstrate your product or service working in real-time, do so. Keep your pitch brief and catchy; think about the key selling points of your product or service and communicate these first, as effectively as you can. You should do this even at home, but in a situation where crossed wires or confusion could arrive it’s even more vital!

Have an objective

Don’t go into a tradeshow thinking that you just want to have a chat with people and scope things out – have a specific objective. Do you want to get 100 email addresses? 1000? Do you want to arrange 10 meetings with key people, or get a certain amount to sign up for a demo then and there? It’s easy to get lost in chatting to people and trying out new things, but stay focussed. Make sure you have business cards and that you get down everybody’s details in an orderly way.

Be culturally sensitive

Doing a bit of research beforehand on what sort of behaviour is acceptable in a business setting for different countries and cultures never hurt anybody, and could stop you inadvertently offending people or losing business. You don’t want to spend the whole time shouting cheerfully at people, encouraging them to give your demo a try, only to get home and discover you were being totally rude the whole time.

Pick the right people to go with you

If you’re going with a team, pick the right team. Think about networking skills, their industry expertise, as well as practicalities such as language skills (are they familiar with the country? Can they speak the language a little bit?) An international trade show isn’t a holiday, so don’t make qualities like amazing travelling #bants or the ability to find the best cocktails the key attributes (unless they’re relevant to your business, obviously.)

Follow up

When you get back to the UK, or before if you’re staying in the country longer, make sure to follow up any contacts you’ve made. Schedule in Skype meetings, calls, whatever you need to do to keep the lead warm. With hundreds or thousands of miles separating you it can be easy to let this slide – it’s easy enough to do when you’re in the same city – so be proactive!

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