Volume 36, Issue 10, October 2001


Trade Show Madness
        Choosing the Right Show For You
by Rene Bergero

Exhibiting at trade shows should be an integral part of any serious export development effort. As you have probably seen from reading this and other industry magazines, there is a bewildering assortment of trade shows in an amazingly wide variety of locations. I would venture to guess that you could probably find at least one show per month that is in some way related to your business. This excludes, of course, certain kinds of trade shows that have more to offer in terms of location and timing than anything else, such as, for instance, Aruba in mid-winter.

The Right Fit
Now that you’ve decided exhibiting is in the cards, the biggest challenge is identifying the right trade show for you based on your budget and objectives. The right trade show can be difficult to pick. Perhaps by example I can illustrate how to identify the best ones. Suppose you want to increase your market penetration in Latin America. By perusing past issues of USGlass magazine you will see that there were several trade shows in Latin America last year. Each listing will contain the basic facts about the show. Contact each of the show’s organizers and have them send you a copy of the show’s exhibitor list and, if possible, a visitors list. If this last item is not available, they should be able to at least provide you with visitor statistics and demographics. Analyze these materials. Were your competitors there? Your customers? Maybe someone known to you was there. Contact them and get their comments. Try to get as much detail as possible regarding the visitor profile. Attendance figures alone are not enough. I have been to many shows that build up their attendance numbers by allowing students in on the last day. Not that I have anything against students, it’s just that they are not prospects for me, and probably not for you either. Armed with this information you should now be able to determine which shows are relevant. 

Getting Ready
Now that you know the where, the next thing to do is determine the how. For those of you who have done this before, you know what comes next. If you are new at this, there are two ways to go about it. Jumping in with both feet is certainly one approach. This means you’re in charge of everything, from booking the floor space to handing out literature. Another approach is to consider joining forces with a partner. Several ideas come to mind in this regard. Perhaps there is a company that has a line of products that complements your own. Ideally, this company either has experience with trade shows or better still with the target market. Why not exhibit jointly? Or maybe you have that one good account in the country where the show will take place. You may be tempted to partner with them. This scenario must be approached with caution. My advice is not to proceed if you feel other potential customers will view your partner as a competitor. 

Any discussion regarding what makes for a successful exhibition is very subjective, and therefore will not be addressed here. Generally speaking, the more you put into the show, the more you will get out of it. So if you go to Aruba with only shorts and sunglasses, all you’ll come back with is a tan. 


Rene Bergero serves as export sales manager for Sommer & Maca Industries in Cicero, Ill. His column appears bimonthly.


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