Twelve things to consider before planning an event in Asia. 1. In general, Asians look for an event sponsor that they respect. If your organization has no identity in Asia, there are two choices: Hook up with someone who does have an identity there, or spend time developing an image in Asia .
2. If you decide on the first option, consider choosing an industry leader, an industry publication, or at least an exhibition company established in the region.
3. If you decide to develop an image in the region, go one step at a time. Consider not planning a show for a couple of years. Ideally visit the region first, and participate in shows as a visitor. Then, take a booth in one or more shows in Asia. Then, take a pavilion in one or more shows. If appropriate, open an office in the area. By going slowly, you learn about the market, gain valuable contacts, find potential partners, and develop a core group of U.S. exhibitors who are interested in the market.
4. If you are initiating an event without a co-sponsor or wholly owned office, it is a good idea to retain a local representative such as a sales agency or a PR firm. You may also wish to work with a marketing firm in the U.S., which can help with research, list acquisition, media, and brochure design and translation. However, this does not a preclude the need for someone to handle the local publicity and to pick up the phone.
5. Regardless of which way you proceed, you need to do preliminary research: What are the market expectations for the show in the region (e.g., size, scope, costs, etc.)? How are shows in various markets there usually sponsored, launched, and promoted? Will you be OK without a government sponsor? What are the customs and shipping regulations? What are the competing shows and when are they held?
6. You will need to do lots of research about the market for the products that will be exhibited at the show. It may be that you plan to have a major portion of the floor with American products in a specific industry. What is the Asian demand for these kinds of American products, and can you demonstrate this to potential exhibitors? What is the rate of growth of U.S. exports to Asia in your industry?
7. Find out about trade patterns in the region. Who is shipping to whom? Which countries are the entrepots? Where are the big trading companies? Is Japan heavily invested in your industry? Are any of your targets currently in economic recession? Which countries want to manufacture the same kinds of products that your exhibitors will be trying to import into the region? What is the density of the buyers in your market? There may be only a small number of influential buyers in each country, especially those countries with centralized economies, such as China).
8. Make special note of any travel or currency restrictions. For example, Vietnam is a potential market for U.S. goods, but Vietnamese can't get hard currency to travel out of the country on a business trip. Mainland Chinese cannot easily get a visa to visit other Asian countries because of government restrictions. It's easier for them to get one to the U.S.
9. Prioritize your target markets and chose the right site. If you want mainland Chinese buyers, plan a show in China. If you want Southeast Asians, look at Singapore. If you want Japanese, go to Japan. If you have an educational portion, ensure that you have a variety of speakers from your target markets, and arrange for simultaneous interpretation if you have speakers from a variety of countries. But do not necessarily expect "Pan Asia," at least not at first. The countries in Asia are extremely diverse and each has unique interests and needs.
10. With regard to event promotion, try to get feedback from the market or from an experienced marketing firm. We have learned, for example, that direct mail is not well-received in China. Also, there are different Chinese languages for different parts of Asia, and some cannot be put on the same brochure for political reasons. There are lots of market intermediaries that you will need to have on your side. Consider special incentives for these contacts to help with distribution of brochures and other promotional assistance.
11. Up to now we have focused on acquiring U.S. exhibitors and Asian buyers. You may also want to attract Asian exhibitors and U.S. buyers to the event. If so, you need to do all the same trade flow and market trend research again for the other direction (that is, what Asian products are Americans buying?), and to develop special messages and programs for those prospects. Your U.S. marketing firm and Asian partners will be very helpful here.
12. In sum, you need to proceed slowly. Know your exhibitor and attendee markets well. Choose the right site. Select your partners carefully and support them. Package your event according to the market need and with an eye to competition. And plan promotions that are culturally appropriate. Then you can safely launch your event, and reap the rewards.