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Your Guide to International Trade Show Exhibiting

Booking your first overseas trade show is a big deal! You’re branching out, seeking new experiences and new markets, and you’re broadening your trade show horizons. There are a lot of things to consider when going overseas for a trade show, but we’ve got the most important things right here.


There are essentially two main options for arranging your trade show exhibit from overseas:

  • Ship your existing exhibit
    • This gives you ultimate control over the appearance of your trade show, since you know exactly what you’re getting come set-up day.
    • Keep in mind that shipping and material handling fees can be steep!
  • Rent locally, and bring your own graphics or materials
    • This is generally the more economical option
    • Keep in mind that exhibit standards may be different in other countries, so make sure you know what you’re getting and adjust your graphics accordingly


If you have time to do this, choose the “advanced warehouse” delivery option. Your items are shipped up to 30 days in advance and stored in the facility’s warehouse until you’re ready to set it up. This eliminates the risk of your items not arriving on time, but this option does come with storage fees.

If you don’t have time for this option, go for “on-site” delivery. Your items are delivered directly to your booth or display on set-up day. Of course, there’s always the risk of something going wrong the day of, and the expedited carrier costs can make this an expensive option.

If you have any small or delicate items going with you, you could have those delivered to where you are staying. That way, you can pick them up yourself and bring them with you to the show to minimize the risk of damage. Check with the specific regulations for the show you’re attending, though, because some shows don’t allow you to have walk-in materials.


You’ve figured out how to get your things there, but you also need to figure out how you are getting there! Make sure you have a valid passport that’s not less than six months from expiring, and if you need a visa for the country you’re visiting, look into obtaining one of those well in advance.

When booking your flights and accommodations, be very careful with timelines. Keep set-up and break-down times for the trade show in mind while booking to ensure that you have plenty of time to get things done.

Make sure none of the items you’re bringing with you are prohibited by customs! This is particularly important if food or beverages are a part of your exhibit. The best practice is to avoid assuming anything—do extensive research to make sure you won’t run into any surprise problems.


This, too, will depend on where you’re going. In America, you’ll usually find streamlined rows of similarly shaped booths at trade shows. They’ll generally have low side walls for uninterrupted sightlines. In Europe, however, enclosed, office-like shell booths with high walls are the norm. Figure out what’s expected, and then choose accordingly. Decide if you want to stand out, or if you want to look like you belong!

As always, check the show exhibit regulations before making a decision, and keep international measurements in mind. Don’t let the metric system fool you!


As with most of these tips, you’ll need to do some research. Figure out how trade show labor usually works where you’re headed. Most likely, labor will have to be outsourced for things like carpentry, rigging exhibits, electricity and lighting, etc. Venues typically have a contract with labor unions, so there will be stringent caps on what kind of work, and how much, an exhibitor is allowed to do themselves.

Keep in mind that union labor costs can rapidly escalate during evenings, holidays, and weekends, so it’s smart to consider these (consider country-specific holidays as well!) when planning.


You can also research what your audience will be like on trade show day. In America, trade show hours are typically shorter. Attendees are less likely to linger at a booth, so there’s less time to make an effective pitch. European trade shows, however, are much more relaxed. Attendees will want to take their time, and won’t appreciate being rushed.

There’s no such thing as being over-prepared, so do plenty of research and your international trade show will go smoothly!

For more expert advice and beautiful, custom trade show exhibits, contact Design Display today!