Know your audience

1. You need to know the different commercial uses.

Know your audience and know how to greet and talk to your visitors. Formality is very often the norm in most countries and you should avoid the systematic use of first names. Shaking hands is the norm for most Europeans. Asians avoid physical contact; the Japanese greet their visitors by bowing, the Chinese nod, bow or join hands.

2. Treat all business cards with respect

A business card is a passport to your position and identity. Treat the other person's business card with the same respect as the person. Examine the cards you are given. Don't write on them, fold them or stick them in your pocket. Consider printing the back of your card in the language of the country concerned using a professional translation service.

3. Understand the meaning of colours and numbers

Be aware of the meaning of colours and symbols in different countries. Don't take any chances and find out. Black, white, yellow and purple are often mourning colours in Japan (purple in Brazil and yellow in Mexico). Yellow and red are considered lucky colours in China. In many Asian countries, the number "four" is associated with death and should be avoided, even in the case of products packaged in fours; "seven" and "eight" are lucky numbers.

4. Make the necessary changes

Ensure that your product or service is suitable for foreign markets. Consider any changes that need to be made (dimensions, design, electrical wiring, colours etc.) or packaging requirements. Make appropriate changes to your catalogues, product documentation, warranties, training materials and advertising and promotional material.

5. Use a translator from the country in question

When translating documentation or business correspondence, always use a native speaker with a good technical knowledge of your products and industry.

6. Consider the transport issue carefully

It is best to use an agent or freight forwarder who will take care of the transport of your products abroad. Freight forwarders are well versed in import duties, credit transactions, insurance and customs clearance services.

7. Be prepared to welcome foreign visitors

English is the international language of business but decide whether or not to use an interpreter.

8. Understand the decision-making process.

In North America, negotiations move very quickly with quick responses and solutions. Business executives are often frustrated by the length of the decision-making process.

In Asian countries, negotiations start at the lower levels of society and continue up the hierarchy. Decisions are often taken together and the process is often slow and complex. In Europe, the managers of a company come to the show ready to place an order. They want to deal with their counterparts in your company. They are ready to discuss technical details and often want to sign very large contracts at the show.

9. Establish good contacts

Take the time to establish good personal contacts. Your company may have to exhibit at several trade shows before it becomes credible.

10. Travel smart

Make photocopies of essential documentation. Carry the names, addresses and telephone numbers of your most important contacts and your hotel in case you get lost. Know who can service your equipment abroad.