There are thousands upon thousands of trade fairs that you can choose from. Indeed, your challenge will be to find a trade fair that meets your needs and that will satisfy your export objectives. At least you know which country/market to focus on – this you will have identified in your export plan. But even within one country or market, there can be many different exhibitions to choose from. What is more, the best trade fair for your needs may not even take place in your target country; there may be a better-suited international trade fair that takes place in anohter country but to which the major players around the world come because of the impoortance of the fair/exhibition – consider CeBit (the world’s largets computer fair which take place in Hamburg each year). Thus the challenge you face is to decide on which one to choose?

Factors affecting your choice of trade fair

Your choice of fair may be influenced by:

  • The availability of suitable fairs in your target country/market
  • Your company circumstances and trade fair objectives, which need to fit in with the theme and type of trade fair
  • The type of products likely to be on display at the trade fair (for example, it is not good displaying industrial products if it is a consumer fair)
  • Whether the type of customer group you are aiming at is the type of customer that has attended the trade fair in the past (this information will generally be available from the trade fair organiser)
  • The length of time the fair has been in existence – new fairs usually only attract a small audience
  • The standing of past and present exhibitors
  • The general efficiency of the trade fair organiser

Where are you likely to get information about trade fairs?

Perhaps the best place to get information about trade fairs today is to search for the information on the Internet. In this regard, we have provided you with a list of websites you can use as a springboard for finding trade fair information – click here.

Besides for the Internet, you may want to try the following sources of information:

  • Your overseas trade or diplomatic representative at the South African missions abroad will usually have information about the trade fairs available in their respective countries of representation – click here for a list of South African missions and trade representatives.
  • The various missions and trade representatives of foreign countries in South Africa are also likely to have information about trade fairs in their respective home countries – click here for a list of foreign missions and trade offices located in South Africa.
  • Specialist international or country-specific trade magazines will often carry information about trade fairs related to their industry sector or country of operation.
  • The various chambers of commerce and industry associations in your target country/market may also make available information about trade fairs that are taking place in their area of operation (either geographically in the case of chambers of commerce, or per industry sector in the case of trade associations). It may be necessary to use the Internet to identify such overseas chambers and trade associations and then you can contact them by e-mail to learn if there are any trade fairs that they are aware of that would be suitable for your firm to participate in.
  • The bilateral chambers of commerce that facilitate trade between South African and the country they each represent is another excellent source of trade information. To obtain a list of bilateral chambers of commerce, click here.
  • The DTI regularly hosts national pavilions at a few selected international trade fairs throughout the world. Being part of a national pavilion may generate your firm more business and publicity than you could do yourself and the DTI also carries many of the costs associated with such pavilions. To obtain a list of national pavilions that the DTI will be participating in this year, click here.

Contact the trade fair organisers

You need to be certain that the trade fair you have identified is sutiable for your firm and its products. To this end, it is important that you contact the trade fair and ask them for information about the trade fair they will be organising. Any reputable trade fair organiser will be happy to send the information to you (unless they already have all the information on the Internet, which only requires you to visit their website to get the information you need). If this information does not answer your question(s), then e-mail the organizers and ask them specifically what you want to know. If the organisers refuse to answer you, then perhaps you need to think twice about taking part!

The sort of information you want to get from them is the following:

  • What is the main purpose of the trade fair?
  • Who is the primary audience of the trade fair?
  • How long has the trade fair been in existence?
  • How many participants took part in the trade fair over the past three years?
  • How visitors attended the trade fair over the past three years?
  • What is the minimum stand size that you may book?
  • What is the cost of stands at the fair (how do prices differ according to position)?
  • What is included in the price (e.g. carpeting, stand shell, security, etc.)?
  • What about telephone connectivity, Internet access, electricity (is this available, and is it included in the stand price or what is the cost thereof)?
  • What about publicity (is an entry in the fair guide extra and what do ads in the guide cost)?
  • Are you allowed to sell at the fair (many fairs do not permit participants to sell their goods on the stand)?

Deciding to participate

Once you have identified a suitable trade fair to participate in, your next real step is to make a conscious decision to participate in the fair. This may seem a minor step, but in fact it is perhaps the most important step to take. By making a conscious decision to participate in a trade fair, you are adding importance to all of the other steps that will follow. In the next step, you will prepare a trade fair budget – some individuals may say that you can only make the decision to participate in a trade fair once you have set your budget. There is a ring of truth to this and whether you wish to first prepare your budget and then decide whether or not to participate, either way is fine.