The largest networking event in the world for exporters launches this October having been delayed by 12 months because of the global pandemic. EXPO 2020, in Dubai, is a massive undertaking including 191 participating nations and numerous organisations meaning a huge number of Pavilions to visit. This mammoth cornucopia of displays which runs for six months from October 2021 to March 2022, is a five yearly event that assembles the world in one place and provides a plethora of opportunities to connect, research and enquire about potential markets and customers. With a theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ and a focus on ‘Innovation’, ‘Collaboration’ and ‘Co-operation’ it is hoped that a real vision of the future will emerge which can provide companies with the opportunity to shape their own future direction.
The breadth of the Expo provides a major opportunity to understand more about countries you may not know much about and to understand how you could create opportunities that are not otherwise obvious. You may find better prospects in Sierra Leone than in Switzerland, in Chad than in China. Customers are in markets, not countries, and your markets could exist anywhere. You could also find contacts who can help you understand and explore more about these markets.
Expo 2020 is a massive event, but if this is not for you, what alternatives are there out there that you should also consider? Events are big business and so seem to fill every nook and cranny of existing, and future, industries and professions. There are many local events targeting a home audience, but also major international events focused on specific sectors. These occur around the world including in the UK. I have had great success with some of these and would always target being part of the UK pavilion organised by the DIT.
If you are going to exhibit, then I would recommend that you only do so if you can do it properly. It is never a matter of just turning up and is imperative to allow sufficient time and resources before, during and afterwards to ensure success and make the most of the opportunities presented. It does require investment, not just financial but also in terms of time. However, if done well you can create sufficient leads for months and establish relationships that will be fruitful and rewarding.
You can also benefit from these events without having to exhibit by simply attending as a visitor. This has the advantage of giving you more time to explore and find out what others are doing around the world. It is possible to find customers this way, but also to find new suppliers and discover what product innovations there are. As a matter of courtesy, I would always respect that exhibitors are there to sell and have invested a lot of money to do so. Rather than launch into a full sales pitch, use the opportunity to discover what products a company may have, work out what you could have to offer and simply exchange contact details so you can speak later. You can always have a quick “I have something you may be interested in; can we speak when you have time” and exchange cards. At least they will be aware of you, and you can start a subsequent conversation with an ice-breaker question about how the exhibition went for them.
These events can be of great use: understanding market trends, product innovations, who are the players, who is new to the market and what your competitors are doing. Time spent on preparation and planning are essential and can ensure that you don’t miss key targets. Don’t underestimate how large some of these events are; I recall one international event where I walked 10 miles in a day around the halls and still didn’t see everything. The follow up is key to how much eventual benefit you will obtain from the visit.
Is it worth going to these international events? It is a great opportunity to make connections around the world in one place, and with Expo 2020 if nothing else you could always take a few days off – there are worse places to holiday!
Tony Goodman MBE is a successful exporter and has been doing so through a variety of different businesses. He is currently Marketing Advisor at Forest and Co who specialise in offering guidance on branding, exporting and sales: www.forestandco.com