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Marc Goldberg's Articles

Preparing Staff for Overseas Events

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Exhibiting overseas is not just exhibiting someplace else. Yet many consider international exhibiting an extension of what they do at home, and this includes
your exhibit staff. Preparing them to meet an international audience is a task you should tackle before venturing outside domestic borders.

Your exhibit staff should be open-minded, patient and tolerant of differences. Invite those who see international travel as an adventure, not an inconvenience,
and who understand that working trade fairs is hard work, not a chance to sightsee. 

The exhibit staff contributes 85% of the results, so the best personnel should be selected to represent the company and then trained. If you are going to conduct
demonstrations or present technical information, select your top technical presenters and train them also. International exhibiting is no place for novices. 

Select Staff with Positive Attitudes

This cross-cultural model defines the range of awareness and attitudes that can be found. Select staff members with the right attitude.

Negative Attitudes


There is no difference between our culture and theirs.



Just be yourself and everything will work out fine.


Superficial Differences

U.S. values and customs are constant around the world.

Positive attitudes to Succeed


We can work together if we are aware of each other’s differences.



You can explain the differences, and we will shift our frame of reference.



I’m comfortable in an international setting because we’ve integrated our cultural differences into our approach.

Know the Audience

Your staffers should be reminded that an international audience is different than a domestic one. Many of the attendees will have different customs and business
practices and will expect you to change your approach and communicate with them in their manner, not your own. Think about relationship first, then product.

Patience is a prerequisite when exhibiting abroad. Exhibit staff will need to be patient with differences in language, time frames and processes. The more casual and
relaxed “hook’ em, hold ‘em and sell ‘em” approach typical of North American exhibiting won’t work when venturing globally. Buyers spend three to four times longer
at an international show than at a domestic show and may or may not wear name badges. Qualification is therefore essential and may take longer.

Know the Objectives

To achieve success at any event and especially at an international trade fair, set objectives and share them with the staff. The objectives will influence every aspect
of the show strategy and provide exhibit staffers with a sense of ownership.

Know the Culture

Your staff will need to accept that the customs and business practices will be different and that changes should be integrated into the event. A little research can
provide tips on the appropriate behavior and customs.

They will likely have to adopt a more formal style of dress and manner. International buyers generally expect more formality. Attendees will expect you to dress
conservatively, ready to conduct business.

Remind staff that body language is a very powerful communication tool. In the international arena, it can work against you if unaware of local customs. Provide any
information on specific “taboos.”  

Make a Good First Impression

You only have one chance to make a good first impression. Train the staff to integrate the cultural differences into their style and approach. This includes greetings,
business card etiquette and acknowledgements. Have a bilingual staff member in your exhibit to bridge the language barrier.

If In Doubt, Ask!

In international exhibiting, don’t assume anything. If you have a question, ask, and tell your staff to do the same. Resources are available; ask show management.

Plan Follow-up Before the Show

Determine what is necessary to do business in the destination country. If the follow-up plan will require person-to-person contact after the show, plan to stay to make
those contacts. Doing so immediately may be more economic and appreciated by prospects. Share the information with the appropriate staff; appointments can then
be scheduled at the show. 

Make Your Local Representative a Part of Your Team

Your local representatives can be an effective part of the planning team, as an invaluable resource in understanding the local customs. They may provide assistance
expediting materials into the country, locating translators and determining strategy.   

Have a Pre-Show Briefing

Have a pre-show briefing with your local representative and staff to get everyone comfortable and ready to represent your organization. Review the show and cultural
information. Share the standards for staffing your stand.