The Greatest Shows on Earth

May 1, 2009

Doug Barry is a trade specialist with the Trade Information Center. You can talk to him and his colleagues by calling 1-800-USA-TRADE.

Trade shows are one of the best ways to generate international sales, and some of the world’s largest are found in Germany. Why there? Two reasons: Germans have been organizing shows since the Middle Ages, and Germany is a relatively easy flight for business folks from elsewhere on the continent, the Middle East, Africa and the United States.

So, Germany plays host to all kinds of industry shows including pet products, books, musical instruments, medical equipment, IT and more. Americans go there to meet buyers from everywhere—without having to spend a small fortune flying everywhere.

Filling the Order Books

I recently attended CeBIT, the world’s largest IT show held each year in Hannover. I went to make a video on what U.S. companies need to know to make sales there, beyond having a good product. What I found at CeBIT were many small U.S. companies, which were filling their order books for the next year by engaging in best practices including trolling the show website for prospects before arrival; signage tricks to attract traffic; ploys for generating industry press; and book-length strategies for finding and scoring points at parties that start at 5pm everyday with German precision.

Horns of a Dilemma

Now, with world trade in the doldrums, you might reasonably ask, “Why bother?” One answer is that trade is showing signs of life—U.S. exports were up 1.6 percent in February and are likely to return to their record pace. Second, the chance to get in front of eager buyers from countries your frequent flyer miles won’t reach is too good to ignore. Third, the International Trade Administration, through the U.S. Commercial Service, can help you before, during and after the show—generating prospects, finding low cost space, tutoring on business culture and protocol.

Last point: see for yourself. Here are five videos covering the show; what the Commercial Service can do for you; best practices for making sales; protecting your intellectual property; and mixing business with pleasure.

Been to or want to go to an international trade show? Share your best practices and ask your questions in this space.