Larry Kulchawik – Past President of EDPA (Exhibit Designers & Producers – USA) & IFES (International Federation of Exposition Services – Worldwide) and Author of Trade Shows from One Country to the Next, talks with TFT in an exclusive one on one interview. He shares his insights on the Global Trade Fair Industry and his thoughts on the differences when exhibiting beyond your own borders.
TFT – Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
LK – Earning a degree in Design at Southern Illinois University, I fumbled into the trade show industry. After 45 years doing exhibit design, engineering, project management, sales, and company management I wrote a book to share my experiences in the world of trade show marketing. Giving back to this industry I loved is an honor and a joy. What a wonderful profession to have discovered!
TFT – Why did you write the book- Trade Shows from One Country to the Next?
LK – Many of my top American clients (Motorola, GMC Truck, Baxter) would ask about exhibiting abroad— How much should I tip?, what is the currency? How far is the hotel from the expo center? These are important questions for a first time visitor but are not critical. The critical question is ‘how should I engage with a stand visitor in Paris, Bombay, Sao Paulo, or Germany to introduce my products?’
After serving as president of both EDPA (USA) and IFES (World Expo Suppliers) I met the owners and managers of the top exhibit supplier companies in the world. When my term expired as IFES president I reached out to friends from each country and asked the question..what should I know when designing an exhibit for an event in your country? Friends from thirty counties replied immediately. With their responses I compiled info to prepare an exhibit manager when exhibiting outside of their own country.
TFT – Can tell us more about the RFP Template you created for exhibitors requesting supplier services when exhibiting abroad?
LK – Although the global language of business is English, the translation of English words and terms are not always the same. Each country uses their own words to describe items in our industry. To speed up communication, and clarify exactly what you mean, I created an RFP Template with all the right questions. The template is written in English with 150 key industry words/terms translated into twelve different languages. Price quotations often require a response quickly with little time to ask questions. This template helps to clarify exactly what you mean. It is not what you say, but what you mean that really matters. See a sample at www.larrykulchawik.com
TFT – Can you enlighten us about what is different when exhibiting in the USA?
LK – Each world region is different with regulations, exhibit design, and cultural differences. Of all the countries, the USA is one of the most expensive and difficult locations regarding work rules and regulations. Being the land of the free it is not so free when it comes to trade show exhibiting. Major difference from the rest of the world… labor restrictions, material handling fees (drayage), and exhibit design regulations are the biggest adjustment when planning a trade show exhibit for a show in the USA. My best advice, work with an American exhibit supplier partner to prevent surprises.
TFT – What are the major exhibit design differences from country to country?
LK – Of the 45 countries reviewed in my book, we have more in common (country to country) than we have differences. Some of the major design differences..for the USA – open space design with more ‘telling’ than ‘selling’. Most US show visitors attend by invitation only.
With this, each visitor has an identification badge, making it much easier to scan and collect data to qualify and measure the success for each visitor engagement at a given show. Many countries follow the European design approach- raised floors, a bar area with catering, kitchen areas, private meeting spaces, and good branding/image design.
Many countries are more ‘green conscious’ with exhibit design compared to the USA.
With each country having differences that could prove costly if ignored, is the reason I elected to write my book.
TFT – You have been on the board of many industry associations. What do advise companies from India about the value of association membership?
LK – We learn from each other. Association membership allows exhibit suppliers to network and find people to trust when planning an event abroad. Associations also have annual conferences where industry speakers share knowledge, data, and new products to enhance your abilities to serve exhibitor customers. In an ever changing world, awareness and knowledge will keep you competitive and a suppler offering value.
TFT – What is your advice for a successful and sustainable event/trade show?
LK – Today most all show organizers offer three things when planning their events-
Current educational seminars and speakers, networking with side events, and a trade show. Effectively packaging these three components is key to sustainable success. Social marketing has been eating away at the investments in trade show marketing. To avoid extinction, trades show organizers must continue to promote and feed the value of face to face marketing. The value received at a live event, vs from social marketing, is most impactful due to the power of emotion. Emotion runs high with face to face contact. The added attraction of selecting a show city site with strong promotion will encourage attendance and will build loyalty to the industry organizations ability to conduct a consistently valuable face to face event.