Review the Exhibitor Show Manual
First, read the show manual provided by organizers, as it contains detailed information about rules and responsibilities, critical deadlines, and other costs that may be unexpected. Rules, laws, and customs vary substantially between venues, sometimes even within the same country, so it is essential to assume nothing.
For example, exhibitors must file administrative paperwork like insurance forms or health certificates by specified dates. If not, an exhibitor may face hefty fines for late submission or be banned entirely from participating. Services (like construction labor, electricity, water delivery, and vacuuming) are typically less expensive when arranged by advance dates outlined in the manual. Purchasing needed services and supplies on-site may be at a substantial premium. Read and understand the show manual far in advance to avoid unpleasant surprises later.
Research the destination
Practically any information needed to prepare for a trip can be found searching online at no charge. TripAdvisor, Fodors, Lonely Planet, other travel companies, and private blogs can offer guidance about what conditions and local customs to expect and what items are best to bring or leave behind. Free government resources like the U.S. State Department Travel international travel website provide detailed information about travel destinations worldwide and can warn of any known threats. For disease advisories or information for travelers with medical conditions, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control travel site.
A travel visa may be required for entry into the country of destination and sometimes connecting countries passed in transit. Check requirements for transit countries and destinations far in advance of the scheduled date of travel. It may take several months and require significant documentation and multiple visits to embassies within your country of residence to obtain travel approval.
Look up a weather forecast for the show destination during planning when clothes are selected for the trip and again immediately before travel. Actual conditions may be different than predicted in a place. Heat spells, winter storms, and heavy rains can make a busy work trip uncomfortable or cause travel delays. Be prepared for whatever may come.
In addition to selecting clothing suited to anticipated weather conditions, consider what is comfortable and appropriate in the host country and event venue. Comfortable shoes are essential, as trade show exhibitors and attendees walk long distances or stand long hours on concrete floors. Bring casual backup shoes if wearing high heels or dress shoes for some activities.
Choose clothing that is professional but comfortable and suited to both indoor and outdoor environmental conditions. Events hosted in Europe and Asia tend to be more formal than those in North America or Australia. Professional high-level conferences and small venue symposiums are more formal than large trade hall expositions. Government and academic conferences are more formal than private-sector events. Search for local dress customs to identify any style of clothing to avoid in public, for example, modesty requirements in Muslim countries.
Check with your mobile phone service provider before traveling to determine what roaming rates or other fees may apply for international destinations. Some providers offer global voice and data roaming packages that make international use relatively inexpensive. Others offer temporary rental phones for foreign travel. Alternatively, consider purchasing a travel SIM card in advance or a local SIM card on arrival in the destination country.
Travel SIM cards offered by OneSim, GigSky, WorldSim, and others provide coverage internationally at reasonable rates. Skyroam offers mobile hotspots that provide similar coverage in many countries. Advanced smartphones with eSIM technology may offer alternative carriers for international roaming without inserting a new chip. Options change quickly in this highly competitive field, so research online to locate the best option available in your area before travel.
Geography and transportation
Study the destination’s geography before travel: where hotels are located relative to the event venue, where restaurants and supply stores are located close to the hotel? Where are hospitals, train stations, embassies, pharmacies, or places of worship?
Visit travel websites to learn how to travel from an airport or train station to a hotel and how much it typically costs. Learn what transportation options are available and recommended for travel between the hotel and exhibition site, the reliability of local taxicabs, and the availability of public transportation like underground or light rail, trolleys, busses, and ferries. In some cities (but not all), ride-share services like Uber and Lyft may be available as convenient transportation options through a smartphone app.
Confirm your research by asking the hotel desk staff about a reliable taxi service on arrival. In foreign language-speaking countries, have the hotel provide a business card with a written address, phone number, and optional directions.
Search the internet for news related to your destination before travel. News headlines can provide timely information and warnings about potential complications during your stay. Look for articles about political instability, calls for protests and labor strikes, elections, significant sporting events or concerts, recent natural disasters, or other occurrences that may be in your path. Some governments’ foreign outposts offer email mailing lists for visiting citizens to notify them of events. Check the website of your government’s embassy in the destination country to determine if these services are available.
Check a public holiday calendar online for your destination to determine if there are any civic or religious holidays over or near travel dates. Holidays may inconvenience travelers since businesses, services (like couriers for exhibition freight), and government offices may be closed. Travel volumes may increase on public holidays, leading to higher prices, longer than usual wait times for transportation, and long lines at airport security checkpoints.
Determine the local currency of a place, approximate costs of local goods and services (like lunch, a bottle of water, a taxi ride, and a haircut), and whether or not credit cards are commonly accepted. Check if there is an additional fee for credit card use (charged by vendors or international fees charged by the issuing bank), and also notify your card issuer of travel. Travel notifications may be required by bank card issuers as a theft deterrent. Exchange rates may vary substantially by exchange location, with the best rates usually obtained at automated teller machines operated by large, reputable banks. Check online travel resources to determine the best-recommended exchange options and how much cash should be carried versus withdrawn after arrival.
The laws of a foreign country may vary significantly from your home. You will be required to follow them or face consequences. Check travel sites and resources offered by your country’s embassy and the destination country to determine what is legal. In particular, pay attention to customs laws to confirm what commercial goods may be carried into a country for an exhibition and if any special declaration or duty is required to comply with local laws. Similarly, confirm that any prescription medicines used are legal abroad (or in transit). If you plan to drive, verify road rules and if additional permitting or insurance is necessary.
Determine the local language spoken at the destination, noting that it may be different than the official language of a country. Citizens of small countries bordered by foreign language neighbors may speak multiple languages and English for international business (like the Netherlands). Larger countries with few land borders may speak primarily one language (as in Brazil or Korea). Create a list of common phrases and words for social situations or emergencies (Appendix D: Useful Translations).
Customs and culture
Culture is a word that is difficult to define. Culture is the rules we follow, the meaning of our objects and expressions, and our expectations for ourselves and others are learned from our family group. Cultural expectations in coffee-consuming countries are usually different than in coffee-producing countries. As a result, expectations like “to be on time” have very different meanings for buyers and sellers. Some sellers may consider arriving an hour late acceptable, whereas buyers may consider anything more than a minute or two after the scheduled time offensive. In some cultures, showing the soles of one’s shoes to another is considered offensive. The same concept applies to the directness of speech, male and female gender roles, hierarchy within an organization or community, and whether or not goals are pursued for the many (such as a company) or the one (an individual).
Be mindful of these potential cultural differences when visiting a new place and speaking with people unlike yourself. (See Appendix C: Common factors affecting culture.) There is no right or wrong, just different from what may be familiar. Do not be offended if a foreigner breaks one of your cultural norms; it is likely a misunderstanding. Ask questions to fully understand the issues and expectations of other cultures to avoid unintended miscommunications.
Food may be unfamiliar at your destination. Do research online before traveling to determine what cuisine styles may be available. Travelers with dietary restrictions or allergies should be cautious, investigate the ingredients customarily used, and have a local language speaker write the restriction on paper to show in restaurants.
If you are not limited by medical concerns, try something new. New flavors, smells, and food textures will make you a better coffee cupper. Well-traveled cuppers can draw on a broad set of sensory experiences to better articulate characteristics in coffee. Every new food experience you have will be added to your library of coffee descriptors that can be recalled later. Alternatively, consider bringing non-perishable snacks for sustenance during the trip.
Air transportation and lodging
Air transportation and lodging should be booked as early as possible. The best airfare rates are typically between approximately 45 and 60 days in advance. However, discounted fares may be restricted or subject to substantial fees in case of changes or cancellations, so be sure of your travel dates and ticketing rules before committing.
There is a greater urgency to book hotel rooms early since availability for hotels in preferable locations adjacent to the event venue may fill months or a year in advance. Trade events often offer hotel rooms through an official lodging company found on its website. Booking through the host is usually a good idea, as coffee associations (in particular) negotiate discount rates for large room blocks and return savings to membership. However, this is only sometimes the case, so it is advisable to verify pricing options at the same property through an independent travel agency.
In some cities, renting an apartment or whole home with others may be preferable through a service like Airbnb. Apartments are not generally serviced and offer different conveniences of a hotel, like dry cleaning or restaurants on the premises. They are usually larger, however, which is better for company teams of attendees traveling together (or families) and often include kitchen and laundry facilities, making the overall cost of meals and lodging much less expensive than hotels.
Part 7: Marketing