The What, Why and How of Attending Trade Shows in Germany - Andra Riemhofer - ebook

German trade shows are the place to be if you want to learn about the latest technologies, update yourself on international market trends, and meet potential business partners from all over the world. According to the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry (AUMA), around two-thirds of the world’s leading trade fairs take place in Germany. Every year, around 150 international trade fairs and exhibitions are hosted in the very heart of Europe, attended by 180,000 exhibitors and around 10 million visitors. Many return year after year, while for others it is the first time. The What, Why, and How of Attending Trade Shows in Germany answers numerous questions that newcomers to German trade shows would typically have: “What do I need to consider when looking at German events? What show(s) can help me achieve my identified business goals in my specific industry? How can I make the most of my trade show participation and increase my return on investment? What approach should I – as a visitor – take when it comes to discussing business with Germans? How can I – as an exhibitor – attract the local target audience?” In short, “What do I need to know to be successful?”Readers will benefit greatly from this concise and practical how-to manual, in which several top industry experts have shared their advice. Focussing on international business relationships, this e-book provides many examples of how and why culture matters. The text is wrapped up with some general advice for business travellers to Germany.

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Andra Riemhofer

The What, Why and How of Attending Trade Shows in Germany


The What, Why and How of Attending Trade Shows in Germany : Hands-on Advice for both Visitors and Exhibitors

Copyright © 2017 by Andra Riemhofer

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write the author at the address below or send an e-mail to [email protected] .

ANDRA : Intercultural Business Facilitation Attn: Andra Riemhofer Alramstrasse 27 / 5th Floor D-81371 Muenchen (Munich) GERMANY Cover design: © [email protected] Editor: Rachel George Also by the author:Doing Business in Germany : Visiting Trade Shows for Indian ExecutivesDoing Business in Germany : Exhibiting at Trade Shows for Indian ManagersJärvenpää/Riemhofer, Erfolgreich als Expat in … : MumbaiJärvenpää/Riemhofer, Erfolgreich als Expat in … : DelhiInterkulturelle Kinder- und Jugendliteratur : Lesen auf eigene Gefahr
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The What and Why of Attending Trade Shows in Germany

What to Consider when Contemplating Visiting or Exhibiting

Prepare for big Shows in a Small Country

Know the Key Facts and Figures

Should you Exhibit? Analyse how Fair(s) can help you Achieve your Business Goals

Common Exhibitor Objectives

Be Clear: What are your Objectives?

MNC – TradeFairBenefitCheck

Should you Visit? What to look at before you book your Flight

Determine how much Time you (Might) Need

Make sure you get Access to the Show

Be Clear About what you want to Achieve

The Visitor’s Perspective: How to make the most of your Participation

How can you make the most of your Visit?

Prepare well and Arrive Relaxed

Use Official Tools and Applications

(Try to) Arrange for Meetings

- Selected Advice from Seasoned Visitors: 1

How should you talk to Germans?

Be Aware that Culture Matters

Adapt your Presentation and Sales Collaterals

(Quickly) Get to the Point

Spell out what you Want

Stick to the Rules

Follow Up soon and Nurture your Leads

- Selected Advice from Seasoned Visitors: 2

The Exhibitor’s Perspective: How to make the Most of your Presence at the Fair

Do your Homework

Foster Good Relationships with the Organiser(s)

- Selected Advice from Seasoned Exhibitors: 1

How should you Present Yourselves?

Choose your Location According to your Offer

Stand out from the Crowd

Focus on Showcasing your Products

Publicise your Offer in the Official (!) Trade Fair Media

Prepare your Sales Pitch and Brief the Team

- Selected Advice from Seasoned Exhibitors: 2

What do (German) Visitors expect?

General Visitor Expectations According to AUMA

Visitor Expectations: How Culture Matters

- Selected Advice from Seasoned Exhibitors: 3

How can you Attract (German) Visitors?

Do what’s Necessary before the Show

Do what’s Necessary during the Show

Habits to Avoid

- Selected Advice from Seasoned Exhibitors: 4

How should you talk to German visitors?

“The” (Archetype) German Visitor

Make your Visitor feel Welcome

Make your Conversation Relevant

Get to the Point (High-context vs. Low-context Cultures)

Be Clear (Direct vs. Indirect Communication)

Bear with Great Attention to Detail

Show Commitment

- Selected Advice from Seasoned Exhibitors: 5

How do you Follow Up with (German) Visitors?

Make References to what you Discussed

Chart out the next Steps and Suggest a Timeline

Show Interest, but don’t be (Perceived as) Pushy

“After the Show is Before the Show”

- Selected Advice from Seasoned Exhibitors: 6

Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts for both Visitors and Exhibitors

Displays of “Public Affection”

In the Restaurant


Small Talk

What else?

What else do you need to Know?

What to Wear

Where (not) to Stay

How to get Around

Deutsche Bundesbahn (DB)

Think Twice Before Renting a Car

The Best Deal might come with some Blah Blah Blah

What Souvenirs to Hunt For

The Author



German trade shows are the place to be if you want to learn about the latest technologies, update yourself on international market trends, and meet potential business partners from all over the world. According to the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry (AUMA), around two-thirds of the world’s leading trade fairs take place in Germany. Every year, around 150 international trade fairs and exhibitions are hosted in the very heart of Europe, attended by 180,000 exhibitors and around 10 million visitors.

So far, online platforms, webinars, and other means of digital communication and networking have not been able to substitute for or even replace trade fairs. The possibility to meet face-to-face and talk to numerous market players in a very short period of time is still reason enough for many companies to invest in their participation. If you are contemplating attending one of the upcoming shows, you are in good company.

On an average, not even half of the exhibitors are from Germany itself, and more than one in five visitors is from abroad. For instance, in 2015, German fairs welcomed 55,000 visitors from the US; 25,000 from Israel; 17,000 from Canada; and about 12,000 each from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran. During the same period, the number of business travellers from Latin America declined (to approx. 60,000), while visits to German exhibitions seemed to become more popular amongst market participants from Asia. According to the data published by AUMA in 2016, China currently ranks first when it comes to the number of visitors from the region (75,000), followed by India with 38,000 visitors, and then Japan (28,000) and South Korea (25,000).

Looking at the number of international exhibitors, Asia is once again prominent. In 2016, AUMA counted almost 30,000 exhibitors from South, East, and Central Asia – an increase of about 4.5% over the previous year. With 15,569 exhibitors, China had the greatest number of foreign trade fair participants in Germany. India, by contrast, saw its number shrink by 4%, although it still ranked among the top countries according to exhibitor figures; in 2016, a total of 3,266 exhibitors made India rank twelfth. The greatest percentage increase in exhibitor figures, as compared to those in the respective previous events, has been seen from the Middle East (+23%), and it could be observed that North African countries especially tend to have a greater presence than in the past. Looking at exhibitor figures, Italy and France are the most important countries after China, while the US currently ranks fourth with 6,177 exhibitors in 2016.

Whether to travel as far as Germany from the US, China, India, or any other country outside Europe to attend a trade fair is, for many, a big decision that needs to be considered carefully; you need to take into account the financial investment as well as the time spent away from the office and family. You must also know the key facts and figures about the industry and events, to be able to evaluate which show will best suit your purpose and goals. Both visitors and exhibitors need to be clear about what they want to achieve and prepare well to make the most of their trade fair participation. If doing business with Germans is the top priority, they must begin their preparation by becoming acquainted with the mentality and business culture. All these topics are covered in the book.

Very often, being aware of the small things can make a big difference. Newcomers who are still contemplating whether they should give trade fair participation a try will benefit greatly from the hands-on advice on how to decide whether to attend a German trade show (or not). Exhibitors will learn how to present themselves at the fair, how to attract German visitors, and how to speak to them. Small and medium-sized companies who are already somewhat experienced but still unclear about the basic things they should consider doing differently to be more successful will also find the book very useful. For visitors, the focus is on making the most of their visit by preparing for their trip accordingly. They will benefit from hands-on advice on how to gain access to the right people, and how to successfully communicate with their prospective business contacts.

When interviewing a sample of international business travellers to better understand their needs and perspectives, people also asked me: “Why is the food at the fair always so terrible? Why is the numbering of the halls and stands so chaotic? How do they manage to clean such a large place during the night and make it look good every morning?” I will not be digging deeper into these matters (or even try give a satisfactory answer to the food question), but I would like to take the opportunity to highlight that trade fairs – as we know and cherish them – would not happen without the hard work of the dedicated people behind the scenes.

I’d also like to take the opportunity to thank all the people in my network who have generously shared their valuable inputs for this book and previous publications. A special thank you goes to my editor, without whom the text – authored by a German native – would be much less enjoyable.

Munich, October 2017

The What and Why of Attending Trade Shows in Germany

What to Consider when Contemplating Visiting or Exhibiting

Visitors and exhibitors alike must be clear about the purpose of their trade fair participation, and need to find out which event(s) could best help them achieve their goals. When weighing the pros and cons, you would not want to rely on hearsay or even make your decision based on your gut feeling. To help you decide which show(s) you should go for, I will present certified facts and figures about the trade fair market in Germany; I have compiled a number of tips on how visitors and exhibitors can easily collect relevant market information.

For exhibitors (prospective), I will also introduce a free-of-charge tool which they can use to evaluate their investment.

Prepare for big Shows in a Small Country

Very often, trade fair participants are in awe when they visit a show in Germany for the first time; they are not only impressed by the size, but also the professionalism. Here are a few examples of some of the top events:

The world’s most important motor show, the IAA has a long history; the first show took place in 1897 at a hotel in Berlin. Since 1951, the bi-annual event has been hosted in Frankfurt. Although the 2017 event saw a decline in both visitors and exhibitors, the organiser, Verband der Automobilindustrie e. V. (VDA), could still count “around 1,000” exhibitors from 39 countries (1,103 in 2015) and approx. 810,000 visitors (a fall of 13% as compared to the last event). The show offered nearly 200,000 square meters of exhibition space (approx. 2.2 million square feet). IAA 2017 hosted 363 innovations, including 228 world premieres – according to the organiser, both figures are new records.

bauma is the leading platform for experts who deal with construction and building-material machines, construction vehicles, construction equipment, and mining machines. The Munich show is held every three years. In 2016, the show covered more than 605 square metres (6.5 million square feet), and 3,425 exhibitors and 583,736 visitors attended the event. I was very impressed when I visited bauma CONEXPO INDIA 2015, but was overwhelmed when I entered the Munich fairground in 2016 to meet the Swedish company I assisted in selling their concrete flooring machines during the German show.

AGRITECHNICA is the leading trade fair for agricultural machinery. The bi-annual show, which covers 23 halls, lasts for seven days; the event in 2015 set the stage for 2,892 exhibitors. More than 450,000 visitors attended the event, with 23% being international guests.

Far more international and famous is HANNOVER MESSE. As a tradition, the Chancellor inaugurates this annual show for industrial technology; Germans can follow the opening event on the news. For the 2017 opening ceremony, more than 2,500 guests were invited; amongst them were numerous prestigious politicians and more than 100 CEOs of leading industrial corporations. You might not be impressed with the figures but, by German standards, that is quite a large number of guests. Every year, a partner country is featured in the show. For example, in 2015, India was the official partner country for the show, and Prime Minister Modi was given a warm welcome by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. 367 Indian exhibitors (of 6,484) used the opportunity to showcase their products and services; buses and billboards were plastered with the Make in India advertisement. In 2018, Mexico will be in the spotlight.

An event that is also extensively covered by all German media channels is the annual book fair Frankfurter Buchmesse ( FBM). In 2016, more than 7,000 exhibitors were present at the fair; 2,432 were from Germany and 4,721 were international exhibitors. FBM is not only an exhibition – it is, by far, the best networking opportunity in the industry; the show promotes its so-called Business Club membership as a “shortcut to new business – connecting you to relevant networks, career-changing knowledge, and VIP services, so that your time in Frankfurt is both more pleasant and successful.” Some perks included in the package are the free use of meeting facilities, longer access to the fair (08:30 – 19:30), business breakfasts with guest speakers, and a daily evening happy hour for which you can invite up to three guests. The print catalogue listing the approx. 4,000 publicly accessible events at the show is equally impressive. With 25% of the happenings conducted in English, the choice is surely big enough for everybody.

As with everything in life, nothing is carved in stone. For example, one of the biggest shows, CeBIT (now CEBIT), is currently undergoing a relaunch due to its shifting (or adjusting) focus. This global event for digital business will, from 2018 onwards, be taking place in June rather than March. To make sure you do not miss such important information, you should sign up for newsletters that will keep you updated and / or follow the events on social media channels.

Know the Key Facts and Figures

For an Indian trade fair executive in my network, German shows have always been an inspiration. “They raise the bar too high every time you are visiting them,” he says. “Be prepared to be in awe of the scale and professionalism with which German fairs are usually conducted,” opines a businessman from the sandstone industry.

According to the latest information published by AUMA in May 2017, two-thirds of all leading international fairs take place in Germany. Four of the world’s eight biggest exhibition venues are in Germany – Hanover, Frankfurt, Cologne, and Dusseldorf. Altogether, there are 25 venues with more than 2.8 million square meters of hall space (approx. 30 million square feet).

However, size is not always an advantage. Sometimes, people complain that fairs tend to grow out of proportion and include more and more types of exhibitors. For instance, here’s a very practical problem one of my contacts faced during InnoTrans 2016 in Berlin: “The exhibition ground ended up being so complicated that people actually looking for our stand were not able to find it.”

You should thoroughly study the hall structure and floor plans when you consider attending an event. As an exhibitor, ask yourself: “Is this fair really the best option for us to present our offer? Who else may be exhibiting (in the same area)? What is the proportion of international visitors and exhibitors? Are we talking about an annual event or does the show take place less often?”

Use the AUMA Trade Fair Database Germany

A good starting point for your research is the free-of-charge