Trade Fairs – Be ready to work hard and have an adventure

This was originally posted in 2012 under Expertexporter’s WordPress blog.

Trade Fairs are a key part of the sales activities of many companies that sell overseas.  They are really hard work and you have to be prepared for a bit of an adventure along the way.

Until fairly recently most of my trade fair experience had been confined to the Medica Trade Fair in Düsseldorf.  I remember being amazed at the number of exhibition halls and the crowds of people who descended on the ‘Messe’ each morning.  An event like Medica really does remind you that business is global and global business is huge.  Medica trade fairs were generally good fun and well organised.  The greatest challenge was trying to squeeze into crowded trains to get back to your hotel before setting off again to find somewhere to eat in the packed out restaurants. Hardly a serious matter!

Trade Fairs became a bit more of an adventure for me when I attended one in Saudi Arabia in January 2010. I must admit I was a bit nervous about this trip as I had heard it would be really hard for me to be in Saudi Arabia without my husband or another male relative to act as chaperone.  In the event it was fine. I made sure I was appropriately attired, covering my hair with a scarf before I left the plane and donning my abaya on arrival at the hotel. Although wearing the abaya took a bit of getting used to, it came in handy when our luggage was delayed. My male colleague had to run out to  a shopping mall to buy a new suit but I was able to wear the clothes I had travelled in under my abaya and no-one was any the wiser!

My next trade fair experience was in Libya.  We travelled there just after Libya and Switzerland had a major fall out which resulted in Schengen nationals being denied entry to Libya. So it was fun and games at Schiphol airport as officials tried to identify travellers from the banned countries to recommend they didn’t continue with their journey. The trade fair was held in a marquee on a university campus which seemed a reasonable arrangement until it started to rain.  The carpet got soaked and started to leech some nasty white chemicals which stained our shoes.  Boxes of brochures which had been left on the floor ended up wet and had to be discarded.  The toilets were a ten minute walk from the exhibition marquee and lunch could turn up at any time from 1pm to 4pm. The final straw was when we arrived one morning to find a tramp asleep on our stand wrapped up in our table cover.  He hastily leapt up and made his escape.  We could only wonder if he had been availing himself of our table cover all week and had only been caught out as he had overslept that particular morning!

Trade fairs are hard work and you need a lot of stamina to get through them.  Most of us are not used to standing for hours on end or speaking for long periods. Sore feet and sore throats are an occupational hazard.  That’s why a little light relief in the form of a soggy carpet or a cheeky tramp are always welcome.

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