Tradeshow and Exhibit Thoughtleaders
"The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge
and the dissemination of truth."

John F. Kennedy
 

 
 

Trade Shows from One Country to the Next.
Global Adjustment for Face to Face Marketing

An Interview with the Author, Larry Kulchawik,
by Barry Siskind




 
 

When you ask author Larry Kulchawik about exhibitions world wide his answer is, There is no right way, there is no wrong way, there is only a different way. He examined these differences and created a must-read book for anyone serious about improving their investment in exhibitions; His new book is titled Trade Shows from One Country to the Next - . Global Adjustment for Face to Face Marketing.

In his book Larry reviews venues, events, regulations, exhibit design, work rules, and cultural differences in 45 different countries from the point of view of working an international trade show.

Larry graduated from Southern Illinois University with a degree in Design when Buckminster Fuller was a staff professor. Fuller’s concepts influenced Kulchawik’s thinking and philosophy on design. Larry started as an exhibit designer/detailer and went on to management and sales with three of the largest exhibit supply companies in the USA. He served on the executive committees of OSPI (Octanorm Service Partners), the EDPA (Exhibit Designers and Producers Association), and was elected EDPA President in 1997. In 2004 he served as President of IFES (International Federation of Exhibition Services) headquartered in Brussels. He remains active on their board today. In 2008 he worked with the World Trade Center in Chicago to develop a program called “Global Connection”, whose mission was to help international companies market themselves in Chicago using local tactics.

Larry was given the highest honor at EDPA and IFES by being awarded the EDPA Hazel Hays Award, and the IFES Roger Taurant Award for service excellence in the exposition industry. He recently developed Larry Kulchawik Consulting to share his knowledge and to support his passion for the expo industry. 

Barry:
 
  What is the biggest mistake you have seen exhibitors make?
 
Larry:




 
  Over the years I have worked with many US exhibitors who participate in international trade shows. A company would generally send 4-6 people from the home office to work the show along with a few people from their regional office. In most cases, the people from the home office had never been to the country where the show was taking place and consequently spend too much time worrying about all the wrong things. What is the currency? How much do I tip the cab driver? How do I get to the show hall? How do I dress? What they really needed to focus on was- how do I communicate with the local audience to sell my product or services.
 
Barry:   Are there other common mistakes?
     
Larry:



 
 

One mistake is insisting and assuming that tactics that worked well in the U.S. will work in another country.

Another mistake is assuming local labor practices are the same. For example some suppliers are amazed at a 2- hour lunch period or delayed delivery time for rental computers and monitors.

 

Barry:
 
  How did you choose the focus for your book?
 
Larry:


 
  As a director of international services at three large US exhibit companies, it became obvious that there was no universal solution. I learned the hard way by not realizing the differences and challenges from one country to the next. I wish I had a guidebook to warn me.
 
Barry:
 
  A book this size must have required a great deal of research. How did you do it all?

 
Larry:








 
 

It took me three years to gather all the information from trusted partners and friends I met through organizations like IFES, UFI, and OSPI. As an American, I am very sensitive about my US point of view. I have tried my best to remain open minded in writing this book and to think like a citizen of the world. 

Each country chapter was created from twelve questions that were asked of each local expert. One of my first country chapters was the UK. I hired an editor to clean it up. The editor was excellent, but it proved to be an expensive process to use for 45 countries. From this first country edit, I learned what key information was needed and developed a template for each contributing expert to follow. 

By the end of the second year I had gathered data for 24 countries and was then determined to see it through. I worked with my publisher in New York who helped me edit and pull the manuscript together. This was a painstaking process.
 

Barry:   The way you have laid out each chapter is clear and concise. How did the template evolve?
     
Larry:
 

 

 

I started with the first 3-4 countries by asking a broad question: “Tell me the about exhibiting in your country?”  Result: Too many different answers! I then realized that a template with twelve questions needed to be created to build consistency for the reader.

 

Barry:
 
  Writing a book is a massive undertaking. Were there times when you wanted to give up?
 
Larry:

 
  I never once wanted to quit. I always believed that what I was creating was important and that through my writing I could help a lot of people.
 
Barry:   Who is your reader?
 
Larry:

 
  The intended reader would be exhibit managers, show organizers, and exhibit suppliers. Although its intended for trade show marketing, the content applies to anyone dealing with face to face communication when selling a product or service internationally.
 
Barry:
 
  What is your expectation for the reader?
 
Larry:


 
 

My objective is to help the reader acquire a greater awareness and sensitivity for different international markets.   

I hope that this book will continue to evolve and will never be completely finished. All facts and experiences will never be totally captured. I’m also hoping for feedback. I really want experienced exhibit managers to share their experiences. I want to include more of these real life stories in the second edition. I also hope that other exhibit experts will chime in with additional data and facts from their regions
 

Barry:   Who is your reader?
 
Larry:

 
  The intended reader would be exhibit managers, show organizers, and exhibit suppliers. Although its intended for trade show marketing, the content applies to anyone dealing with face to face communication when selling a product or service internationally.
 
Barry:   Of all the countries in the world, which has the greatest trade show differences?
 
Larry:





 
 

In my opinion, the model for trade show management began to develop in the UK and Germany and quickly became the European model. Many show organizers headquartered in Europe, Asia and other regions adapted a similar model. Some regions like Russia and the Middle East have their unique differences. However, of all the regions in the world, the most difficult to adjust to is the US model.  

As an American who grew up in the US system, I accept and understand it, but as an agent for international partners, I struggle at times to explain it. In particular, I’m talking about labor unions, labor restrictions, drayage, 1/3 depth rule, and show contractors. You don’t have to like these, but you try your best to understand and follow them.

     
Barry:
 
 

With the growth and globalization of trade show and event marketing, what are the greatest challenges for exhibitors?

Larry:










 
 

Exhibitor companies must determine the extent they are willing to reach beyond their borders. Some elect to set up a local manufacturing and sales office, while others elect to sell through an intermediate agent. In any case, the way they choose to present the face of their company is critical. 

Upon selecting a region for sales growth, trade shows become a valuable marketing tactic. Other than the rules, regulations, and fees at trade shows, the greatest challenge for exhibitors is adapting a marketing approach that is sensitive to the customs and expectations of the region. The show may be international, but the majority of attendees will be regional. How do they wish to be treated? What makes for a positive experience from their point of view? Many of the things I discuss in the book have to do with cultural communication and an awareness of differences. It is my hope to connect the world of trade through trade shows. In spite of our differences, global unity will be driven by a need for global trade. Establishing a consistent and common communication model for trade show marketing can serve to be a small step to building a spirit for global unity.

 

Barry:
 
  Why do you feel a book of this nature is necessary? Why not just trust the advice of your regional partners and show organizer?
 
Larry:








 
 

Great question!  Finding and trusting a regional partner is a good first step to keep from sinking in quicksand in an attempt to grow a business through an international trade show. Learning to engage with a regional audience at a trade show is of upmost importance to achieve success. We tend to focus too much on the logistical aspects of exhibiting like exhibit design, graphics, and set up logistics rather than working within the environment created. Logistics can be delegated to a trusted and knowledgeable local supplier. Engaging with the customer is up to the exhibitor. Beyond logistical differences, this book offers insights for cultural behavior and expectations. 

This book is only a starting point. It does not have answers for all circumstances, but it offers a good place to start. Some customs should be taken very seriously and followed to avoid embarrassment. In my opinion, the differences with exhibit architecture and design tactics are second to how well you personally communicate with a regional audience.


Barry:

 
  In some cultures customs like the handling of business cards requires care and finesse. Yet now business cards can be scanned with an I-phone. What effect does technology have on some of these customs?
 
Larry:




 

 

 

The use of technology has no boundaries. Each month some new form of technology becomes available on the market. The optimistic entrepreneurs who apply new technology for application in the trade show industry can win big. 

Our industry is good at copying new and clever ideas. Good ideas (exhibit design and technology) have no borders and are quickly copied. 

Many of these first time ideas are discovered and shared in our industry publications, electronic media, and at other trade shows-like CES. A good designer or marketer keeps a close look out for what’s new and has a willing spirit to give it a try.
 

Barry:
 
  Who are the regional partners?
 
Larry:



 
  Regional partners can be great source of local information. They are whomever you discover and trust to work with you on a trade show project. There are no anointed best partners. IFES is a good place to start looking, since they ask all members to sign a code of conduct and are then policed by each other. I am presently the chairman of the past presidents Council at IFES. Part of our duty as a group is to pass judgment on IFES supplier disputes regarding behavior
     
Barry:
 
  What regions do you hope to expand upon in the second edition of your book?
 
Larry:












 
 

When I started to write this book three years ago, I realized that some of the information would be outdated in time. I am presently working on the second edition and am seeking comments and input from other regional world experts. I am fully aware that no one person or company is an expert for the entire world. Much success relies on who you know and trust as you partner.

I hope to include some new regions including Portugal, Hungary, Ireland, Taiwan, New Zealand, Iran, Iraq, Cuba, and Central America. 

The truth of the matter is that five countries (Germany, USA, China, France, Italy) account for 60% of the exhibition space dedicated to trade fairs. Our information really needs to be strong here. As time goes on, other locations in the world will grow in popularity as destination choices for events and meeting sites. Big events like the CES, Paris Air Show, and CeBit will always be limited to facilities that can accommodate their show size. It’s the small and medium size shows where exhibiting companies will decide to consider destinations that they have never been to before. My mission is to be ready to serve my readers with knowledge and the local resources anywhere in the world
 

Barry:
 
  Who are the regional partners?
 
Larry:



 
  Regional partners can be great source of local information. They are whomever you discover and trust to work with you on a trade show project. There are no anointed best partners. IFES is a good place to start looking, since they ask all members to sign a code of conduct and are then policed by each other. I am presently the chairman of the past presidents Council at IFES. Part of our duty as a group is to pass judgment on IFES supplier disputes regarding behavior
 
Barry:
 
  Are there any other changes that you will be adding in the next edition?
 
Larry:
 
  Other than adding some new regions, I am looking to include the most accurate data for venues and top events.
 
Barry:

 
  For a company considering participating in an international trade show how long should they commit to a new market before they can expect profitability?
 
Larry:




 
 

After solid investigation to determine the best choices for international participation at a trade show, I feel that 3 years is needed to see positive results.

Many components for solid planning are needed as well as a clear understanding about the differences of doing business in any local market.

 

Barry:
 
 

What are some of the international trends that you see coming up that will affect exhibitors?
 

Larry:



 
 

As the world of trade show marketing expands across the globe, many of the best practices and design trends will be copied by show organizers and designers. Show organization (US vs. European organization model), system design vs. custom design, engagement tactics, lead management, will all one day be done somewhat the same everywhere. International trade show models will require consistency in how they are handled for the sake of the exhibitors. 


Barry:
 
 

What’s next?

Larry:









 
 

Other than updating the second edition of the book, I am working on a Glossary of Exhibit Industry terms to be translated into several languages.

As a part of an IFES initiative, a glossary of exhibit industry words and terms has been developed and are presently noted in my book. 

The terms are broken down by functional applications, and not alphabetical as most glossaries presently do. To date I have created a template with translations in nine languages for key expo industry words that are most frequently used. English is the official language of our industry, but English words do not always mean the same everywhere. It’s not what you say, but what you mean that really matters in a world that needs a quotation tomorrow. Time cannot be wasted asking questions about what you really mean when requesting or responding to a design and a price proposal.
 

 

Trade Shows from One Country to the Next is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.

or contact Larrykulchawik@gmail.com.


© 2015 by Larry Kulchawik