It’s Show Time: Make (German) Trade Fair Visitors feel welcome

A warm welcome to Germany and all the best for BAU, Biofach, bauma…or whatever trade fair you chose for promoting your products and services and to meet new business prospects. Now that the show is on, be careful not to subscribe to the bad habits of unsuccessful exhibitors and remember a few dos and don’ts when talking to German business contacts.

Don’t hide behind Laptops

German trade shows - habits to avoid
Don’t hide!

In German, there is a saying: “Ein schöner Rücken kann auch entzücken” (A splendid dorsal view can be delightful too). Imagine that your company has spent a fortune on participating in the show: registration fees, stand construction, marketing, travel costs, etc. And what is your first and maybe last impression on a visitor and potential client? Your backside and maybe a profile view of the colleague you are talking to. Staring at your laptop or mobile phone isn’t any better.

Some years ago, I made three attempts to meet one of my Indian clients whom I hadn’t met in person before. His tiny booth always seemed super busy. “Good for him,” I thought. Well, all the seats had been occupied by his staff. They must have had a very good time, though I doubt they talked to any new prospects!

Bottom-line: close your laptop, put your mobile phone away, stand up and face the crowd!

Don’t make your Stand a No-Go Area

I will never forget what a great time I had as an intern with Tata McGraw-Hill at the World Book Fair in 2002, when I could pursue two of my major passions at the same time – Indian food and books. No matter how much I enjoyed the situation in Delhi and, notwithstanding the importance of food in your culture, be aware that (local) visitors at a trade show in Germany will feel awkward about disturbing you when you are eating. Or, like the German Head of Fairs and Product Events of a key player in the building and construction business summarises: “Some people eat at the stand while they are waiting for visitors. I would never enter. That’s a no-go!“

Also keep in mind that some dishes might pose a challenge to other peoples’ noses. Even if you have the space, do not have Chao Mian, Curry or Käsespätzle in your tiny meeting room.

Don’t (instantly) try to talk People into buying your Products

When asked for her advice for Indian visitors, one Project Manager from a German trade fair company commented: “Sometimes, Germans feel quite a lot of pressure when exhibitors try to talk them into buying their products the moment the visitors arrive at their stand. My recommendation: Be friendly, greet and smile, but let German visitors take their time to look at the products and make up their minds before you ask them if you may help them, etc. Otherwise, the Germans might go away before they have even seen all your products.”

German trade shows habits to avoid
With Germans, try to have a one-on-one conversation (rather than invite them to join an ongoing meeting)

Think twice before you invite your German prospect to join an ongoing (casual) meeting. Germans usually want a conversation to be very focused. Their expectation normally would be that the person they are talking to (the exhibitor) should concentrate on them only. So, better try to have a one-on-one conversation.

Offering drinks is a must – at least if you ask me. The good news is that the quality of tap water in most German cities is superb; you do not have to carry expensive mineral water. Add some lemon or orange slices to pimp the beverage.

Make your Conversation relevant

Prepare for your meetings well. Know who you will be talking to and what subjects you want to cover. If you promised a product demonstration, make sure all is set accordingly. Respect your visitor’s time schedule – most likely, he or she will have to proceed to the next meeting within half an hour or even just a few minutes.

And let your visitor also talk! No matter how much time you have spent preparing the perfect sales pitch, if you do not let the other person participate in the conversation, he or she might feel frustrated and chances are, you will never find out exactly what they need.

All the best, and if you have questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

What else?

German Trade Fairs
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1. Read more: The What, Why and How of Attending Trade Shows in Germany

2. Join my LinkedIn Group Doing Business in Germany: Trade Fairs, Events, FAQ and Best Practices

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And….for Indian exhibitors: Please check out the special edition for Indian managers on

Trade Shows Germany
Special Edition for Indian Managers