Visiting a China Trade Show

9 Nov

Let me say right off, my feet start to hurt just thinking about it as the factory of the world trade shows in China are daunting and you need to be prepared for them.  Some of the larger venues – like the Canton Fair’s Pazhou Complex which has over 40 acres of exhibition space – have to break the spring and fall shows into three secessions each in order to fit everyone in.

Guangzhou's Pazhou Complex with 16 exhibition halls

So here’s some tips gained from many miles of walking these shows.

1. Plan ahead – all shows have exhibitor listings and booth numbers.  If you’re looking for a particular product or category make a list of suppliers you want to see and their locations.  Once you’ve seen them you can freelance around looking for new ideas.


2. Wear comfortable shoes -  You can still sport your 3 piece suit but foot wear is important.  Good walking shoes and – as long as we’re on the topic – throw an extra pair of socks in the rolling bag we’ll being talking about shortly.  Half way into the day a fresh pair will give you the lift you need to make it for a few more hours.


3. Take a rolling something with you.  It will give you a place to put the brochures that you be collecting.  It’s also a good idea to throw in a bottled water and maybe a small wash cloth.  I can’t think of an example of why the “wash cloth” at the moment but recall it has come in quite handy for me many times.


4. Bring a note pad and a small stapler with you.  The idea is to staple the business card from a supplier to the page and then make notes that you can refer back to later about that particular source.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten back to the office and had a business card or a brochure and couldn’t remember why I’d collected it.  Don’t forget to bring a small box of staples as well and most import bring lots of business cards.  Every supplier you run into will want at least one of them.

5. Stay at a hotel that offers bus service to the show.  A lot of the hotels that are in the general area of the venue have or are part of a shuttle service that runs buses to and from the show every hour or so.  A taxi is fine but after you’ve spent seven hours walking the floor of a huge show you’re not going to be to crazy about standing in line for another half hour waiting for your taxi.  Same things goes for public transportation like the subway in Hong Kong, Shanghai and also in Guangzhou.  They’re great and absolutely the fastest way to get from place to place but trust me your feet are going to think standing holding onto that strap was a bad choice at the end of the day.


6. A small camera is a good idea or these days your cell phone camera will probably serve the purpose as well.   But here’s the deal.  Pictures are nice and those taken at the beach require little in the way of recall while you’re showing them later but trust me, just like the brochures you need to have a way to make a note about why you took each picture and which supplier belongs to it.  So here’s the trick.  Make all your notes in your handy dandy little note book and then before leaving the booth ask the supplier if its okay to take a picture.  (Some don’t allow it) After you have 2 or 3 shots take one of the notebook page you’ve just filled out with the suppliers b.c. and stuff.  Whalha – problem solved!


7.  Don’t buy or sign anything at the show.  They will say they have special show prices and so on but that’s just not the case.  That hell of a deal for widget 230 that is in booth 1030 might seem stupid after seeing another example in booth 2050 later in that day.  These shows are good ways to get ideas but you need to visit the factories and do your due diligence prior to making any commitments.  If you can’t there are folks like myself who will do it for you.  What looks and feels like the factory of your dreams could be someone who doesn’t own one piece of production equipment nor does the guy he’s buying the stuff from.


8. Ideally your company has a buying office in China and you’ll be attending the show with one of the folks from the office who will be translating for you and understands the workings of your company.  But then if you’re reading this chances are you might be striking out on your own and this is your first visit to China.  All or at least 99% of the suppliers at the show will have someone in their booth who speaks pretty good English.  Now he or she may not know much about the products or engineering specifications or other industry specific slang words so dumb the conversation down a little and also slow down a little.  It’s called simple English.  Try to keep your vocabulary simple, you know, words that have less than 10 letters in them.  Keep in mind that there is no literal translation from English to Chinese.  All the translator can do is translate the meaning of what she thinks you said.


9. Don’t worry about all the “how to act in China” things you read about.  The Chinese are also students of how to do business with Westerners books.  My point is for the most part you aren’t going to say or do anything that will insult anyone at the show.  They’ve been there done that many times before with others just like you and won’t think anything of it.  The only time you really have to worry about insulting someone is if you get out in the sticks and are dealing with those who haven’t had a lot of contact with Westerners.  Another time would be if you’re dealing with someone who just doesn’t care that much for foreigners and their attitudes and presumptions about the Chinese.  You’re good at the show though so don’t worry about it.



So have fun at the show.  I hope these little tips will make your adventure a little more enjoyable.

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