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Tips For A Global Introduction

Everyone who works in the exhibition industry will know the significance of doing business on the global stage. Whether you’re travelling to meet potential new clients or scoping out the venue pre-show, the amount of air miles racked up over a year can be staggering. Travel is integral to the world of exhibition sales, and with this comes a number of factors to consider.
Aside from the physical act of traveling itself, working with and alongside those who come from a range of cultural backgrounds and nationalities can throw up some pretty interesting talking points.
They say that business is a global language, and whilst this may be true, there are so many small details that are inherent to each culture and can be learned along the path of your business travels. Picking up and executing these little quirks can be a great way to adapt your business approach to develop more international success; and nothing is more important than when you first meet your client face-to-face.
In the last year I’ve been on 68 flights, visited and worked at exhibitions in 19 cities across the world with a client base of around 50+ nationalities between them. The most interesting nuggets of knowledge that I’ve picked up along the way are all in relation to greeting an exhibitor; we gauge so much from a first impression that any cultural faux pas could be the make or break of a business deal.
Of course, these tips are delivered with a pinch of salt. Not everyone from every different cultural background follows the same corporate greeting pattern; the below may just help you to get the best out of your customer conversations.

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In the Middle East and North Africa, it’s crucial to always have spare business cards with you, and even better if this business card features a headshot! Greet all potential clients by presenting them with one; it all comes down to the idea of trust and respect.
In Eastern Europe, it’s very rare that a handshake will be offered if it’s the first time you’ve ever met. Don’t go in with a handshake unless you’re mimicking the customer. Instead, many from this part of the world appreciate a factual business presentation, rather than small talk about the weather or what they had for dinner.
In South Asia, particular India, you’ll often be offered food and drink before delving into business discussions. Please don’t hesitate in accepting! There’s nothing wrong with having a sales discussion over a samosa and cup of delicious Chai Tea.
In the United States, business is often done based on human interaction and a personal connection. You could spend hours (and I have done!) speaking to clients from the US about food, music, travel and your aspirations for the future, before talk even turns to the exhibition and their business plan.
In Western Europe, always greet your customer with a firm hand-shake, as this is where many a good first impression can be made.
In Eastern Asia, it’s polite to bow when both greeting and departing. Specifically in Japan, business cards should be given and accepted with both hands and it is often seen as impolite to use a client’s first name rather than surname if you have not yet established a business relationship.
As my worldwide travels continue, no doubt other cultural trends will emerge. But for now I’m keeping every pocket full of business cards!

Chloe Richardson, Head of Business Development