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International: When In Rome

Exhibiting at international shows can be tricky when you're not familiar with the culture. How do you avoid causing any international incidents?  

Here are some important dos and don'ts to include in your staff training sessions for international shows: 


·          Communicate in the prospect's native language, when possible.

·          Respect a prospect's "personal space," especially if the person is from Britain or Japan.

·          Use both hands to present your business card to people from Asian cultures. Wait to put the card away until after they have put your card away.

·          Point with an open hand, not with your index finger. In certain cultures, pointing with an index finger is considered rude.

·          Observe how your prospects interact with each other and follow their lead.

·          Have top-level management in the booth. In Asian cultures, especially, executives expect to talk with executives. 


·          Assume someone is an international visitor based on appearance.

·          Assume your guest understands everything you are saying, even if he or she does speak English. Speak slowly and clearly. Avoid using acronyms, slang or double entendres.

·          Use gestures unless you know what they mean to the prospect. For example, shaking one hand from side to side with the palm forward means "no" in many cultures. Some gestures to avoid: touching another person, crossing your legs, making the "OK" sign with your thumb and index finger.

·          Rush your international guests. At European shows, booth visitors stay for a half-hour or longer.

·          Bow unless you are bowed to when you are addressing Asian guests.

·          Be casual during introductions. Use complete names and titles as a sign of respect.

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