International Business and Technology Blog

Love and trade fairs...

Posted by John Worthington on Thu, Mar 05, 2015

Trade fairs are a wonderful export and international business development tool. When well-managed (from selection, to planning, through preparation, attendance and crucially follow-up) they can be hugely influential, highly cost-effective and a big generator of new, as well as extending existing, business. They can also bring unique opportunities to visit faraway places, meet friends, colleagues, competitors and start a whole new social life and fall in love. A few years ago, a French member of our business development team attended a hospitality trade fair in Paris. Being a vigilant young man, he spotted an intelligent, beautiful young Italian lady. Suffice it to say, I recall that the end of the 4 day event, during which time we saw very little of either of them, was a very sad occasion. As life’s rich pattern flows, so did they. Within 6 months, we had a team member based in Italy as he relocated to Milan. They are now happily married, with two children!  

Trade fairs are a vital part of every company’s marketing and sales mix, alongside advertising, public relations, direct and indirect selling, in and out bound marketing, and most importantly in today’s online world, the digital business development strategy. For every trade fair travel is, by definition unless the event is unluckily in your hometown, an enforced, inextricable and hugely important part of the process. Depending upon one's outlook, this is a blessing (get out there, explore, see and enjoy the world, make new friends, even lovers and spouses) or a burden (can't leave home or the office, for a multitude of personal and/or professional reasons). Europe offers >12,000 trade fairs annually; let’s take a look at some of these events and how to get the most out of them, from both a professional and personal perspective. The chance to enjoy London, Berlin, Paris, Milan and more as a part of the deal. Sounds good?

How many inbound communications (texts, emails, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) do you get from friends and colleagues all over the world with messages such as "I’m at a trade fair in……(London, Paris...), out and about seeing the's great!"? Usually coupled with an amazing picture/selfie of said colleagues posing in front of an iconic background (Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel Tower...) , in places you would never get to on your own. So that is it, the real story of trade fairs! They are both professional business occasions and, at the same time, should be a personal pleasure. And there is nowhere better to benefit from both than in Europe. Edit this article, forward it to your boss and get yourself out to European trade fairs for those business opportuniies and the chance to visit a few EU countries of your choice.

The Internet is the most efficient way of identifying and ranking trade shows. There are numerous portals where you can sort trade shows by criteria: Date, Industry, Event name, Location….. A full list of trade show portals can be found on These web sites give access to huge amounts of information on the >12,000 trade shows in 42 European countries, from Albania to United Kingdom. In the global trade show business, Europe hosts >90% of the leading international (where >50% of the exhibitors are from outside of the host country) trade fairs. Germany takes top position, as those of you who frequent such events well know. Germany is home to 100 of the leading 150 trade shows globally with 4 of the top 10 global venues: Hannover, Frankfurt, Cologne and Düsseldorf. In second place is Italy; other important countries for trade shows in Europe include: UK, France, Spain and Russia. European trade shows have considerable history and have developed over centuries. Besides leading international trade shows, there are national and regional trade shows across Europe.

As a generalization, unlike the American trade show schedule, where shows usually occur on an annual basis, trade fairs in Europe are annual, biannual, and even tri-annual in nature. The big shows tend to be much larger, lasting many days, and bring together far more exhibitors as well as visitors than USA shows. Looking at budgets, with comparison to the US, travel is more expensive in Europe but the actual shows cost less (the current weak Euro could offer a bargain for your company and you…). Trade show value add justifications include: Reach Prospects, Face-To-Face Interactions, Introduce Products, Gather Leads, Build Relationships, Evaluate Competitors, Media Attention and of course Market Research… All of this can be achieved over a number of days, on the back of a focused trade fair selection, rigorous preparation and well organized attendance, leaving time to pursue those important personal commitments and the follow-up when you return home and to the office.

expo2015This year is set to be a special one in Europe's trade fair calendar, as it includes The Universal Exhibition (every 3 years). Hosted in Milan, Italy, it lasts 6 months from May 1 to October 31, 2015. From the very first Universal Exhibition in London in 1851, each event has left a huge legacy (example Paris, the Eiffel Tower 1889). In 1931 the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) started to get the events formalized, overseeing and regulating World Expos, also known as World's Fairs and Universal Exhibitions. This year in Milan (last hosted in 1906), will be the largest event ever organized on food and nutrition. So for six months, Milan will become a global showcase in which, as the official site states, “participating countries will show the best of their technologies to offer a concrete answer to a vital need: being able to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone, while respecting the Planet and its equilibrium. With an exhibition area of 1.1 million square meters, the Expo will involve more than 140 countries, international organizations, and expects to welcome over 20 million visitors”. If you are in the agricultural, food and drink business, you have no excuse… Get to Milan! You have a 6 month window for the World Expo 2015 and the theme is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”. Tempted? Check it out on this site: If you have any doubts, know that, “northern Italy, from Lombardy to Piedmont, is preparing to welcome and seduce you.” Wow, pack your bags now, see you there.

Now read our ebook: Strategies for optimizing international trade shows.


Identify the best trade shows to attend • Tips for effective preparation prior to event • How to maximize your presence throughout the show • Best practices for post-show leads nurturing and further…

Tags: All posts, International Online Marketing