As a first-time exhibitor in Europe, it is important to be aware that there are several key differences between exhibiting in the U.S. and in Europe. Ask yourself these imperative questions when preparing for these variations:
- How much electricity should I order?
Many exhibit managers have been known to accidentally order double the amount of electricity actually needed. In the U.S. for example, your exhibit may require six, 16-amp (120-volt) outlets, for a total of 96-amps. On a German order form you might see one, 220-volt 16-amp outlet for $225*; however, you also see a 220-volt 8-amp outlet for $125. In this scenario, many American convention managers would order six of the 220-volt 16-amp outlets for a total of $1,350, plus the transformers required to convert 220-volt to 120-volt. What you may not realize is that a 16-amp outlet transformer will convert a 220-volt 8-amp outlet into a 120-volt 16-amp outlet. So, you can order the 220-volt 8-amp outlet for $750, which would save you $600 overall.
*All monetary amounts represent the U.S. dollar.
- How much truck space is needed for crates being shipped to Europe?
Shipping crates in the U.S. are designed to fill U.S. type delivery trucks and utilize as much available space as possible. In Europe however, U.S. crates are not designed to the measurements of European trucks and therefore exhibitors often end up requiring additional truck space. We advise you to consider various options such as alternative shipping containers or different shipping methods.
- What is the difference between the Metric and United States Customary system of measurement?
The U.S. relies on the United States customary system of measurement, while throughout Europe (except the U.K.) the metric system is used. This difference in measurement really comes into play in terms of booth design. In Europe, a common booth space is 3 meters x 3 meters, which is 9’ 10 ¼” x 9’ 10 ¼” in the U.S. It is vital to adjust U.S. measurements so that you end up with an exhibit that fits correctly in your European booth space.
- How far in advance should I book hotel rooms?
Hotels in many European cities are booked solid up to 6 months before a convention opens. In this dilemma, convention managers end up booking hotel rooms for staff in distant cities, which adds extra cost to your budgets and more travel time to your schedule. Experience has proven that it is best to plan for and book hotel rooms 9 months to 1 year in advance of the event.
- Do U.S. code regulations apply in Europe?
Many convention managers are under the misconception that if they meet code regulations in the U.S. then they will not need to make any changes or do further work to meet code in Europe. However, meeting code for items such as fire safety in France or Spain, for example, is much different than in the states. What this boils down to is paperwork. Show organizers provide exhibitors with submission deadline dates for all documentation. Your job as the convention manager is to complete all your documentation accurately and on time. By taking action in advance, you will avoid having to redesign complicated elements of your booth.
- When should my U.S. based team plan on arriving in the convention city?
It is always wise to arrive at least one day before your convention set-up begins to become acclimated to the local time. Again, planning far in advance for overseas conventions will help you do a better job in representing your company. We recommend arriving a day early during local daytime hours and not going to sleep until the locals do in order to wake up fresh the next day.
- How long will it take for our shipments to clear Customs?
Clearing Customs on any shipment (even a FedEx Small Pak) can take anywhere from 1-3 days before ever making it to the delivery truck. Plan on shipping any exhibit properties 30 days before the installation begins to ensure your properties arrive in plenty of time.
- Are European conventions Americanized?
It is absolutely vital to the exhibitor’s success to adopt a cultural awareness of the country where they are exhibiting and to accept the locals’ way of doing things. It is important for American staff members to remember this rule, keep an open mind and have appropriate expectations prior to traveling to the convention. For example, in the U.S. its taboo for employees to consume alcohol during work hours but in countries like Italy and France wine is served and enjoyed during most meals. It is essential to prepare yourself and know what to expect in every country you travel to and to make this a part of your advanced planning. Offering a brief training for staff traveling overseas can be very useful.
- What costs should I anticipate for the use of cell phones and communication devices overseas?
Global communication soars to a new level when traveling abroad both in terms of importance and cost. Staying connected to your home base in America is certainly important, yet many convention managers don’t expect such a high price tag for making calls or using email. One of the first steps you should take when traveling out of the country is to check with your wireless provider about an International Rate Plan.PDA’s to download emails and laptop connection fees should also be calculated into your communication costs. The main hotels in Europe charge about 15 – 25 Euros per day to connect to their wireless internet services. Exhibitors should be aware of this additional cost and budget for it ahead of time.
- Is it important to have staff on-site that speak the local language?
One of the most important aspects of exhibiting on a global level is to gain international status and to attract more qualified clients. How can you accomplish this? English is the exhibition language in Europe, yet on average only about 60% of attendees will speak English at European shows and conventions. Attendees are more comfortable using their first language and will be more inclined to approach and stay at exhibits where they are able to speak in that language. This means that an exhibitor without an interpreter or a fluent speaker on staff could potentially miss out on over 40% of business. To avoid this happening to you, hire an interpreter or fluent speaker for the entirety of the convention or at the very least, attempt to greet potential clients in the local language.