Trolling for International Attendees

The world may be getting smaller, but it’s still tough to reach people. That quickly becomes apparent when you try to attract attendees from a variety of countries. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available to help reel them in.

You’ve probably been in touch with several organizations — trade associations, industry publications, and the like — during the initial planning stages for your event. Continue those relationships; don’t miss out on the opportunity to benefit from their expertise and connections. At the same time, however, be alert to other promotional possibilities.

Aid from officialdom

Although show organizers often think of them to help attract attendees to their events, national and local government agencies, embassies and bureaus can also help attract those same attendees to overseas events.

Foreign embassies are eager to promote trade with their countries. Their personnel can act as liaison with state-owned buying entities and key decision-makers. Embassies are astute about cultural differences and needs.

Some international partners provide substantial support. Some Trade Development Boards offer matching advertising funds for a show if it sees the potential. Some have offices in cities which can help organize delegations of attendees.

Industry connections

Sister associations are always important partners for overseas events. Their support is frequently vital to establish credibility, but they can also help with promotion.

Associations might also help you connect with government ministries, which are the key buyers in certain countries.

Industry magazines are a key ally for international as well as domestic shows, and the arrangement is usually similar. Show managers trade booth space for advertising space, editorial coverage or the magazine’s mailing list.

Networking can alert you to other prospective partners that you might not be aware of. For example, some international travel agencies handle much more than travel.

Travel agents can also arrange post-show industrial tours that add value to the trip and thus influence a prospect’s decision to attend the show.

But don’t be misled into thinking that if you can just connect with the appropriate partners, they’ll promote your show for you. There’s still plenty for the show manager to do. And the procedures can be very different from those in your home country. Those differences show up the minute you start your basic promotion: direct mail.

Building a mailing list

Sometimes it’s possible to acquire a list from an association or publisher. But good list brokers are scarce. Often, show managers find that they must compile their own lists, name by name.

Restrictions on sharing lists is not uncommon. In Germany, especially, there’s a bias against data collection. In fact, seven countries in the European Community have data-protection legislation that protects citizens from abuses of their personal data. Privacy acts makes it virtually illegal to collect data in some countries. A lot of list making comes from hand-compilation from directories.

Whose native language?

You have a list of names and you’re going to print some brochures and invitations. What language should you use, where will you print them, and how will you handle the mailing?

Talk with your local partners and advisers before deciding on the language.

If you do translate, choose your translator carefully or you’ll undermine your efforts. What’s considered good Spanish in Spain isn’t necessarily good in Mexico. Moreover, direct translation is not the way to go. The truth of that statement should be clear to anyone who’s ever read an instruction manual for an imported product. The embassy or consulate should be able to refer you to a qualified translator.

Printing and mailing

Quality and cost are primary considerations when deciding whether to print materials at home or abroad. And those questions must be answered case by case, according to the resources available in each country. Consider, too, the convenience of reviewing and revising materials.

How early is early enough?

You already know that attendance promotion must be started earlier for an overseas show than a domestic show. What you really want to know is how much earlier. That varies by country; again, your in-country partners can provide guidance.

For certain countries, it’s important to send invitations early enough for recipients to navigate the red tape. For example, the Chinese need 90 days to get government approval to leave the country. And in India, Peru and Nigeria, people often must produce an invitation in order to get a visa.

Take into account the summer holidays in Europe. Almost everyone is on vacation in August. Even if your mail arrives on time, no one will be there to read it.

Beyond email

These days email is the primary channel for promoting attendance, but it’s not your only option. Investigate print and broadcast media as well.

Consider running trade magazine ads a couple of months before a show and ads in the business sections of newspapers the week before a show. You must know if a paper is, for example, left of center and not read by business people. Letting a public relations agency select publications, rather than doing it yourself, is always a good option.

Paid advertising is good, but free publicity is better. Ads in the show directory are another possibility, but watch your timing. Some directories can be sold out two years in advance.

Radio is a vital part of your media schedule if you’re among the many show managers targeting the Middle East or where business people spend a lot of time in their cars and interviews get you more exposure, at no cost, and are fairly easy to arrange. There’s no shortage of business shows that are interested in talking to show organizers. Sometimes a show will do a special on an industry sector, and you can bring several exhibitors and someone from the related association.

By tapping all the resources available, from government agencies to local media, you’ll gain specialized market knowledge and access to an audience that can net record-breaking international attendance for your show.



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