From packaging and food service to lighting, mining and fashion, I’ve been to a show or two in Latin America in the last couple of years. Having also visited trade shows in Spain, Germany and the UK, I’d like to share some thoughts with those of you interested in exhibiting or visiting shows in Latin America.
1. All mixed up.
The first thing you quickly discover is that there are very few “proper” trade shows in Latin America. The majority are trade and consumer shows. There are a few wonderful exceptions, though, like Exponor (Chile, mining), Perumin (Peru, mining) and Expoalimentaria (Peru, food and drink).
2. All messed up.
Except for a few exceptionally well-organised shows, don’t expect much in terms of exhibitor or visitor support. I have turned up at shows at the opening time only to find exhibitors still arranging their stands, many unmanned stands and “organisers” not entirely prepared to welcome me. Online registration, on the other hand, works very well for some shows like FISPAL (Brazil) or BIEL (Argentina).
3. Not that many.
Well, actually, there are quite a lot of shows around, but ask sector people, and they will struggle to recommend you two or three shows for your business in the continent. Don’t waste your time at the wrong shows. Ask around before coming along. This is the sort of information we provide our market research clients (as well as information on key publications for their product/sector).
4. Not that international.
There are very few truly international shows in Latin America. Most of them are very local, or national with an international flavour. If you are planning on tackling more than one market at once, don’t expect to do it from the one show in the one country.
Also, English is definitely not the language in which trade shows are conducted. Spanish and/or Brazilian Portuguese are a must, whether you are visiting or exhibiting. You will get significantly more out of it speaking the local language.
Generally, year-long trade show agendas are rare, except for the really huge international shows. Many shows are put up, or cancelled, at the last minute.
And expect the timetable to vary, with many shows in Argentina and Brazil only open in the afternoon (say, 1 or 2pm) and lasting until 8-9pm at night. I’m visiting a construction/building show in Uruguay this October which opens from 4pm to 10.30pm… Great for sightseeing or working at the hotel. Or for organising that key meeting…
Trade shows can be fantastic for showcasing your products but also for researching your market, including potential partners and competitors. They are also useful for strengthening relationships, which are key to doing business in the continent.
However, remember that your concept of “trade show” might be significantly challenged in Latin America. Again, local knowledge and thorough research are key. One of the services we offer our clients is to visit these shows on their behalf, to minimise the risk of disappointment and to save them time and money. What trade shows are best at is concentrating a lot of very specific information in one place at one time, so make sure you have the resources to spot and process all that information.