Tricks to Making International Trade Show Displays Affordable
There are plenty of reasons a company might want to ship their trade show booths overseas. After all, we’re all living in an interconnected global market. You don’t have to be a huge multinational to benefit from having clients overseas. And for some major industries, the biggest annual trade shows only happen overseas – for example, the big show for the aerospace industry alternates every year between Farnborough in the UK and Le Bourget in Paris. So for some industries, international expositions are mandantory, for others they are potential growth paths, ways to grow into the international marketplace.
How can going international help?
Let’s count the ways. Setting up a trade show display at an international exposition can:
- Expose you to an entirely new market
- Expand your social media into foreign lands
- Suggest new ideas for innovative marketing
- Create a fun (and morale-building) working vacation for your staff
- Establish yourself as a brand with legs
- Impress visitors with your obvious ambitions
Unfortunately, displaying internationally can often be expensive, with a lot of “hidden” costs at the other end. At the very least, expect cultural differences, language differences, and even differences in support services, utilities, and available technologies. These can all create a powerful deterrent to those looking at global expositions.
A Real-Life Case Of International Exposition Woes
This isn’t just a hypothetical for us – American Image dealt with exactly this situation recently. One of our clients was looking to set up a trade show display at a Chinese show, but was running into significant bureaucratic hurdles.
They faced three main challenges:
- The combined shipping charges and import fees in China ruled out trying to transport materials from the US to China.
- The exposition hall charged punishingly high rates for on-site printing, undoubtedly due to the high expense of importation.
- The hall’s internal rules greatly limited what could be brought in, and how much could be hung on the walls.
This sort of situation is fairly common, especially at exhibition halls overseas that are accustomed to having a “captive audience” who has little choice but to play by their rules. However, we were ultimately able to overcome these constraints and create a solution that led to a highly successful trade show display!
Creating An Affordable Chinese Exposition Appearance
First, we knew that most exhibition hall owners are willing to talk about their policies, so after a couple late-night phone calls, a compromise was found over what got hung on the walls. Like many international show sites, the hall had pre-constructed booths and walls in place, and they limited what could be done with these existing trade show exhibits. But after some discussion, the hall agreed to allow sticky-backed Velcro tape to be put up on their walls, as long as our client promised to clean the tape residue off the walls afterwards.
So, with a bit of negotiation, it became possible to get around their size restrictions on items placed in the booth. This allowed much larger and more impressive custom graphics and banners.
Then, because we already have trusted contractors in China, it became relatively simple for us to locally-source the production of their trade show graphics – including the Velcro- and have it all shipped to the hall directly. When they arrived at the exhibition, packages were waiting inside their trade show booths with all the equipment they needed.
The result was a successful Chinese trade show display that cost far less than one would have normally expected.
Without tooting our own horn too much, this is also a great example of why partnering with experienced trade show equipment specialists can pay off for you. When an exhibition company has global partners and experience, they can quickly find these sorts of shortcuts for you.
Looking Into Local Sourcing When You’re Exhibiting Overseas
Even if you can’t afford specific consultation and help in exhibiting overseas, there’s no reason you can’t cut down some of the costs by yourself. These may involve spending time on the phone – potentially in the middle of the night – but can pay off in plenty of ways.
1 – Read the exhibition agreement carefully.
Remember that many foreign countries don’t have the same laws and regulations governing how their businesses compete. (This works both ways; try explaining “drayage” and union labor rules to European exhibitors!) As in the example above, it’s entirely possible and likely that local expo halls leverage their position in every way possible. So, knowing their rules is necessarily step one.
It should go without saying, but it’s absolutely vital to read the agreement/contract as the first step in planning to attend a US trade show. This applies even more when you’re planning to go international. When you’re exhibiting overseas, you are very much on their turf and must “do as the Romans do,” as the saying goes.
2 – Give them a reason to negotiate.
If you find something in the contract you want to change, you’ll need something to bargain with. Look for reasons that the change you want will benefit them as well. Simply threatening to not appear isn’t sufficient, if it’s a popular show that doesn’t lack for potential exhibitors.
In the example we gave above, this was relatively simple: Their concern involved protecting their investment into the walls and other supplies they were providing on-site. To do so, they had created rules and regulations that carefully controlled what could be attached to their walls. When we suggested a solution using custom banners that wouldn’t damage their equipment, they were willing to talk.
As a side note: Keep in mind that whenever you negotiate a perk like this, you’re also getting a leg up on the competition. Our client ended up with a trade show booth that had large custom banners, while most of the other attendees were limited to the regulation sizes. So it’s worth the effort, if you have a bargaining chip to use.
And obviously, you should faithfully follow through with any promises you make as part of these deals.
3 – Investigate Local Suppliers
If there’s one thing China doesn’t lack for, it’s local manufacturing concerns. However, virtually anywhere you might want to exhibit is going to have plenty of local industry. What really helped is that we had a pre-existing relationship with a local supplier, and knew they could be trusted to provide quality work, on time, for the budgeted price. That’s not always the case when you’re shopping online, especially internationally!
The key is the relationships; with good relationships in place, there’s rarely -if ever- a good reason to ship equipment overseas unless you’re talking about a truly custom piece of hardware that can’t be replaced.
This can also turn into a longer-term investment, if you think you’ll be exhibiting in that country again in the future. If so, look into renting a local storage unit and keeping your locally-commissioned materials in-country. That will eliminate shipping and customs fees to import them into the US, only to ship them back out later, and could easily reduce your total costs for exhibiting in your next international show.
Here’s another example similar to the Chinese trade show requirement mentioned above. We work with the top trade show manufacturers in the country and globally. Several of them, as in the Chinese example above, have international manufacturing capabilities.
One of these international partners is Nimlok, who has a manufacturing plant in the UK. Teaming with both their state-side and UK offices, we also offer trade show displays for rent and purchase in Europe. Our designers work with the state-side Nimlok facility to create your exhibit designs and custom banners, working in your time zone.
Then, your new trade show booth design is manufactured in the UK, to avoid the hassles and costs of international shipping. The Nimlok UK office offers storage, as well as install and dismantle services too, making an international trade show a full turnkey affair. These are ideal solutions for those US aerospace companies attending Farnborough or Le Bourget, as well as the many other industries that attend European trade shows.
However you plan on doing this, make sure to have a good trade show inventory before the show to help cut costs.
4 – Consider Local Event Staff
Airfare can quickly become one of the big deterrents to overseas exposition, especially if you’re looking at flying an entire team over. This is a situation where hiring local staff can be much less expensive than using your own people.
Additionally, if you’re exhibiting someplace where English isn’t commonly-spoken, at least some native event staff will likely be a necessity. Contact talent and staffing agencies to see what services they offer.
Remember, countries with a strong exposition scene will offer all the associated services. It’s mostly a matter of seeing what’s available.
5 – Get A Good Translator
Finally, we cannot stress this enough: There is probably no amount of money that’s “too much” when hiring translation and localization services. Uncountable companies have gotten themselves in trouble by misunderstanding local standards and customs, or using cheap translations that say all the wrong things.
If you have the budget, we suggest contacting local advertising agencies instead. While more expensive than a simple translator, they’ll have experience in turning English slogans and western business concepts into appealing local messaging.
Never assume your slogans can simply be dropped into Google Translate. It’s rarely that simple. You need native speakers to ensure you’re actually saying what you want to say.
Is It Time To Look Overseas?
Overseas trade show appearances may be more expensive than local exhibiting, but they don’t have to be that much more expensive. Given the obvious benefits of a global reach, affordable overseas expositions are a great investment. Be careful to start your planning well in advance; investigate the many differences that you need to work with, and then make a plan to succeed.
Whether you do the work yourself, or partner with trade show experts, it’s the perfect way to give your brand huge new exposure. If you’d like to investigate the ways we can help with international shows, don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know how we can help.
For more domestic ideas, check out our article on simple ways to cut trade show costs.