Exhibiting on trade shows abroad – this is what to look out for


"Creating new opportunities and tapping into new markets"

That's what I often hear from clients who have decided to participate in trade fairs abroad. In principle, this is a good choice, because trade fairs are precisely the perfect marketing tool for getting in touch with new customers, resellers or users face-to-face.

But what do you need to bear in mind when participating in trade fairs abroad? And how do you set up a good exhibition stand?

Planning is everything

Although "planning" is one of the success or failure factors of your participation in local trade fairs, it is even more important when taking part in trade fairs outside of your home country.

Participating in a trade fair abroad requires even more planning and preparation. Just booking flights and hotels require much organisation and they can often be extremely expensive during the exhibition. But also arranging visas for the stand crew, shipping products, your stand itself, promotional materials and other exhibition materials need thorough planning.

Arranging or sending things last minute always costs extra and can be really stressful. Starting early and planning thoroughly will save you money and trouble.

In addition, there are often cultural differences that make trade fairs abroad extra challenging, but they are also part of the charm, if you ask me.

It does matter, of course, whether your trade show is with our eastern neighbours, in Germany or in Asia, the Middle East or in the United States. In Germany, where thousands of companies from the Netherlands and Belgium exhibit every year, things are not that different. Although the German rules are a bit stricter. (Nein!)

Exhibition stand Barcelona
Exhibition stand Las Vegas
Exhibition stand Shanghai

The USA is particularly notorious

Participating in trade shows on different continents makes them all the more complex. And more expensive.

Especially the USA is notorious in that respect. For example, the sums demanded for necessary facilities such as transport, 'drayage' (transporting your goods to your stand), stand construction and additional services are exorbitant. Trade unions have a strong say in many states, and this has a significant effect on prices. Taking part in trade fairs in the USA therefore costs at least twice as much as in Europe. And often even more. But the USA, with over 300 million inhabitants, offers a gigantic market with unprecedented opportunities.

Participating in shows in Asia can also be a real challenge. It helps if you are already somewhat at home or familiar with the country of your choice and especially its culture. During the two weeks around Chinese New Year, you will struggle to get anything done in China, to name just one example. There’s nothing you can do about that. And in India, too, I had to deal with several national holidays in the past that brought economic life to a complete halt.

But it is mainly the difference in mentality, culture and communication that makes participating in trade fairs in Asia more difficult. A deal is a deal? Not at all...

Timing and especially starting early is crucial. And you better keep an extra budget in reserve for unexpected things. You'll probably need it.

Who will build your stand abroad?

When it comes to building exhibition stands, taking part in fairs abroad poses an additional problem. Who will build your stand in Asia or America, for example?

For a trade fair abroad, you basically have three choices:

1. You have your own mobile or modular booth.

This option actually only applies to stands with a limited size and surface area. In that case, you ship your stand to the exhibition location abroad and assemble it yourself.

This is a lot of hassle. You have to figure out and execute everything yourself. Especially if you have never done this before, it is difficult and, above all, time-consuming. Familiarise yourself with the regulations when it comes to building a stand at your trade fair abroad, because these can differ from those in your home country. Also, the dimensions of stands are often different from those in Europe (for example in America). This could even mean that you are not allowed or cannot use your own stand. Again, starting early with the organisation and preparation of your trade show is what it's all about.

2. You choose from one of the many designs in our isy DESIGN SELECTOR, or you let us create a custom design for your stand.

This is the safest option. Once we agree on the booth design, we will make sure that this stand is set up perfectly for you abroad. We arrange everything, making this option a lot easier and less time consuming for you. With this you have the lowest risk for unpleasant surprises.

The downside of this option is that you need a bigger budget. This is because we usually need to send our team to the destination abroad, often for the entire duration of the fair. They usually have to dismount your stand after the fair, so flying back in between sometimes doesn't make sense. Although this depends on the country in which you are exhibiting, of course.

3. You choose a local stand builder in the country of your exhibition

This option is usually cheaper. But it also involves unnecessary risks.

Communication with a foreign stand-builder is often difficult, because not everyone speaks good and understandable English. China, in particular, is a challenge in this respect. And you run a greater risk that the stand does not meet your expectations, because you had to arrange everything remotely.


Participating in trade fairs abroad is more time-consuming and often (much) more expensive. But it offers your company great opportunities to win new customers and develop new sales markets. For this reason trade fairs abroad are as popular as ever with exporting and internationally oriented companies. In terms of stand construction, you have a choice of three different options.

The best choice for your company depends on many factors. Without knowing your situation, I can't advise you on what would be the smartest for you. In any case, do the math and weigh the risks carefully. A lot will also depend on the country in which you exhibit and on your own experience with fairs and stands in that country.

Do you have plans to participate in an exhibition abroad?

Then make an appointment with us to discuss your plans and wishes. We can certainly give you good advice and, if you like, we will be happy to make a tailored proposal for you.

Michel Rijnberg exhibition marketing book

Michel Rijnberg
Exhibition marketing specialist & author from Messemarketing: So geht's!