The trade show landscape varies significantly between the United States, Europe, and Asia. Disparities from exhibition locations, exhibit construction, setup, and teardown labor to overseas vendor coordination make the process daunting. It’s important to understand the differences between U.S. and Global trade exhibitions.
Thankfully, there are dedicated bodies that facilitate international firms’ participation in U.S. trade shows and, similarly, aid U.S. participants in overseas exhibitions.
The Trade Group is a proud partner of OCTANORM Service Partners International (OSPI), which serves this purpose. OSPI, an amalgamation of 150 global exhibition service providers, exists to mitigate the challenges of international exhibiting. With OSPI, you can coordinate with your design firm, have your exhibit blueprint precisely constructed overseas, and execute all international exhibiting requirements efficiently.
Leveraging years of expertise in managing overseas events and its strategic partnership with OSPI, The Trade Group is adept at guiding exhibitors through the intricacies of domestic and overseas exhibiting, ensuring exhibit construction as per specification, timely delivery, and smooth running of shows.
The significance of working with a coordinating partner cannot be overstated. Even experienced event planners can face hurdles when venturing overseas. Your trade show plans could be jeopardized without adequate preparation for international discrepancies.
An Overview of the Shows
Trade shows in the U.S. are usually annual events, with multiple industry-specific shows occurring yearly. Hence, U.S. exhibits are designed for repeated use within a month or a year.
Many major international shows occur once every three years. As a result, they tend to be a more special affair than their U.S. counterparts. The exhibits for these shows are crafted to be eye-catching, single-use spectacles.
The Venue Divergence
In the U.S., trade shows predominantly occur in large, public buildings like convention centers in city centers. Accommodation and transportation are generally within convenient reach. These venues adhere to state and federal regulations and venue-specific rules. Hence experiences can vary even within a short distance. Always review all relevant documents, keep copies handy, and be prepared for potential labor union involvement in behind-the-scenes operations.
For many venues, all on-site work is performed by labor unions, meaning union employees perform almost every behind-the-scenes show labor. This includes installing and dismantling trade show exhibits along with setting up signage, flooring, lighting, sound and video equipment, other electronics, and more. These workers are paid hourly with scheduled lunch and other break times. So, keep track of when work starts and stops, or some surprise padding may appear on your invoice. Also, overtime rules are strictly enforced.
The preferred venue for international expos tends to take place on privately owned fairgrounds. These are often located on the city outskirts. These venues are rigid about contract adherence, necessitating complete pre-arrangement of all services. Constant communication and follow-up with venue representatives may be required to ensure everything is set up correctly.
Before you take one step on a plane, make sure that everything you need is in place. This includes all necessary show services, such as booth cleaning, electrical, etc., and have proof in writing…you will likely need it. If you are communicating with a venue and the representative is slow to respond to your requests, don’t just assume that what you need will get done eventually. It may require some persistence on your part to ensure that everything is completed appropriately.
The Exhibit Disparity
U.S. exhibits, typically constructed from aluminum and fabric, are pre-built at an exhibit house and designed for quick assembly and dismantlement. On-site major construction or painting is prohibited. There are usually height restrictions to avoid obstructing neighboring exhibits, and the venue’s appointed labor contractor assembles the booth on site. Verifying the venue’s electrical equipment policy is critical before bringing your own.
You can construct or rent a new display at the destination city or ship your existing exhibit for international exhibits. Building or renting ensures conformance to local standards, whereas shipping is time-consuming and costly. Also, it’s essential to get approval from a local safety officer regarding the stability and materials of your exhibit.
The height of international exhibits also tends to be taller than U.S. displays, often much taller with exhibits that feature second and even third stories.
Venue rules dictate the type of food and beverages distributed from booths. The venue’s caterer may demand a “waiver fee” if they perceive a loss due to food distribution from booths.
If the caterer is not an issue, booths can usually hand out water or sodas (often iced or at room temperature because getting a fridge in-booth is another set of hurdles) and cookies or small snacks. This service is informal. Usually, paper plates and plastic cups are used.
On the other hand, international exhibits have been known to have fully stocked bars in booths, complete with beer, wine, and liquor. In fact, some booths go so far as to host complete restaurants where the food and drinks are served on glass plates and cups.
Exhibiting overseas may feel daunting, but it’s something you can handle – especially if you partner with an organization that’s comfortable with the nuances of international shows. The Trade Group with our OSPI partnership, is here to help. Give us a call at 800-343-2005.
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