Meet the Experts – International Trade Shows with Larry Kulchawik
Hello Larry, welcome to The Exhibitor! Tell us a little about you and your professional journey.
While earning a degree in Design at Southern Illinois University, I had the privilege to study under Buckminster Fuller. Geodesic domes and Spaceship Earth influenced my thinking in so many ways he never thought to be relevant at the time. Starting as an exhibit designer, I have spent my entire career in the exhibit industry for the past 43 years.
I have worked for three of the leading exhibit companies in the USA in management and sales with a focus on international trade show marketing. I served on the boards of many industry associations (CEIR,OSPI, WTC) and as president for IFES (International Federation of Exposition Services) and EDPA (Exhibit Designer and Producers Association). As president of EDPA I assisted to launch the first masters degree program in exhibit design at FIT/NYC, and led a task force to create UL2301- Standards for Safety when building trade show exhibits with Underwriters Laboratory.
I have been awarded two of the industries highest honors- the Hazel Hays Award (EDPA), and the Roger Taurant Award (IFES) for my contributions to the exhibit industry.
At this stage of my life I wished to give back and share international experiences and uncover this exciting career we call trade show marketing. Being involved with IFES ( Global exhibit suppliers from 44 countries) I have met many trusted suppliers I consider as partners.
What should companies look at to pick an event over another?
Choosing the right event to attend is critical.
There are 13,000 trade show events in the US alone, many with overlapping market segments. There are company services who can help a company to select the right shows to attend. Depending on the product /services a company offers, it is best to start with a show that is specific to your specialty offering. There are many shows where your specialty offering can apply to different industries (ie: computer software, floor cleaning tools, automotive parts, healthcare, etc).
These kind of shows can be valuable to uncover niche markets. After finding the right shows, use the right kind of exhibit. Depending on the size of the space, dress correctly for the party. Wearing beach cloths to a formal wedding would make your company look cheap. On the flipside, wearing a tuxedo to a picnic would also make you look out of place.
Determine three levels of trade show stands
- custom display
- custom modular
Note that most shows in a hotel use portable exhibits.
What are the key similarities and differences from one country to the other?
Local exhibit events will have minimal differences in design and show organization.
When exhibiting abroad, do not assume that “one size fits all”. Trade show rules, regulations, and customs can be drastically different from one country to the next especially for events in the USA!
Work with a local partner to double check your exhibit strategy and your exhibiting approach for engaging with visitors to promote your product/services.
What are the most important things companies should pay attention to when exhibiting abroad?
- Work with a local exhibit partner for advice. Respect what is different!
- Arrange for exhibit to be rented locally to save on costs and prevent surprises like size differences, electrical differences, and safety/ fire proofing requirements.
- Arrange for a local reception / hostess and have business cards printed in 2 languages.
- Create a pre-show briefing session for your company representatives who are not from the event location. Local facilitators are often available to conduct such sessions that deal with cultural and business differences.
Exhibiting abroad implies a longer delay of prospects follow-up. myfairtool offers a solution to speed-up leads follow-up, do you recommend using such tool?
Yes. The local attendees who visit your stand expect the same quick response to questions and concerns regardless if your company is located accross an ocean.
Arrange for three things before the event:
1. Prepare a pre-show mailer to key visitors to advise them of your presence at the show.
What are the major benefits and value of your product service? Why should they care to visit your stand? Most visitors create a list of stands they wish to visit.
Get on their ‘must visit’ list. The goal should be to have about 50% of your time booked before the show — leaving the other 50% for setting up meetings during the show.
Creating a target company list:
- Existing customers/distributors
- Use databases such as the trade show exhibitor list, D&B (many libraries have
access), trade organizations — local and US domestic, personal networks, LinkedIn
- Create outreach content: email copy, brochures, website/landing pages – prepare English and local language versions.
- Hire interns with the local (fluent) language ability and have them call/email the hottest target companies and set up a meeting. Each country/city has peole resources do provide this. Choose one or two and learn about their internship process.
- Hire an independent contractor. Depending on your comfort level, it may even be possible to find someone in the local region (and time-zone) to make the calls and set the meetings. Both these techniques will take longer than you might expect, so get the process started way ahead of time.
- Appoint a Booth Leader who has authority and is responsible for performance at the show. If no one is in charge, it is easier for people to shirk their responsibility for making the show a success.
2. Prepare a list of three questions to ask visitors who visit your stand.
This helps you qualify and grade their level of value as a potential customer. Grade levels of value as A, B or C.
3. Gather visitor info electronically and respond immediately!
You are the author of “Trade Shows from One Country to the Next”. What message do you wish to convey?
My new book shares the venues, regulations, exhibit styles, and cultural differences for 45 countries. The info for each country chapter in the book was provided by local experts from the regions.
Recalculating your thinking when exhibiting from one country to the next is key to achieving sales success in each country. The theme of the book- there is no right way, there is no wrong way, there is only a different way. Being sensitive, and recognizing what is different, and why, will insure success and will keep you from unexpected surprises. Connecting the world with face to face business communication styles will cultivate our mutual desires for positive branding and increased sales on a global basis.
You read “The trade Show Chronicles“, a short novel written
for people attending their first exhibition. How close is it to your own experience at trade shows?
A very clever and entertaining read.
However, learning by doing is one of the best ways to learn what not to do, as well as, what to do. Being responsible to manage a trade show is an expensive task and should not be done by trial and error. Find and work with an experienced partner. Your expertise about the marketing goals and objectives of your company team is what is most important and cannot be delegated away. Communicate these goals with your partner and let your partner offer exhibit solutions within your budget. A partner will guide you through the steps and requirements to design a space that reflect your marketing needs. They also are most familiar with the local regulations that can eat up all your time to read and understand. You have more important things to do! Over time, you too will become the expert who will not need the partners shoulder to lean on as much.
Any additional tips for our readers?
There is no right way, there is no wrong way, there is only a different way. Understand and respect what is different and you will go a long way to have a successful event!