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Dubai – A Revisit

Back in December 2011, I wrote my first article on Dubai. The economy there was turning around after the big fall of 2008, and now more and more exhibitions are being held. I returned from my yearly January trip and realized how things have changed in those few years. The city is booming again. Buildings that were left like a ghost town when I first arrived in 2009 are now finished and beautiful as ever. The metro, the malls and the city in general are all busy with people and work. With the growing economy and (even more importantly) the growing exhibition industry in Dubai, I thought it would be good to revisit this location.

This article is going to focus on the actual build and install experience. For North American (and European) companies with very high expectations for build quality and on-site experience, Dubai can pose as not only a challenge for those two items, but also one for your patience. In my experiences over the last five years, only a handful (at best) of companies really hit the quality level we have come to expect domestically. Many of them are more on par with what you would expect for countries like Mexico, Brazil, India, etc. You really have two options here: Adjust your expectations or search for the right company and pay a bit more than the average costs. The saying is true – you get what you pay for.

Dubai World Trade Centre
Dubai World Trade Centre

Many stand builders in Dubai have sales offices in the region, but build elsewhere and ship in. My suggestion for a high-quality build is to find a company that has both: full, in-house production and a sales office. I always like to arrive early and schedule a meeting with my local team at their facility to look over drawings, anything that is already built, etc. It’s a great way to try and firm up any loose ends before the chaos of build-up begins.

The majority of the workers on show site do not speak English. It’s imperative for a smooth build to make sure you have a supervisor who can speak both English and the local language for your build-up crew.

Most of the time, the same crew are working long days, sometimes to 2 or 3 in the morning or later and then coming right back in again to start the next day. After one or two days of this, they become exhausted, and this is when you see a fall in productivity. I’ve seen this repeatedly and have finally decided to pay for two dedicated crews for my more complex stands. While they are very used to this way of working, it does not work well when you have timelines to meet. I have many clients who need to install products for live technology demos, and they can’t wait until the last minute to get in and start setting up.

Don’t be surprised to see that build up still occurs after the show opens sometimes. Many times, the on-site team is behind enough that they are still installing graphics or doing a final paint job after the official open of the show.

No matter how hard you try, sometimes these things are still going to happen. I am very diligent in spending the majority of the build-up on-site and supervising my team, and at times, we are still down to the wire. If you have a complicated stand and an intense product set up, plan to be there for long days and late nights.

I also advise you to be clear on your expectations. If you have expectations as I do, you need to communicate those often and as basic as possible. I clearly tell my team that I want caps on the backs of screws and that I want a level used when hanging monitors and graphics. I communicate when I’m not happy on progress and work with them on keeping lists of things that need to be done by what time and checking in to see the progress on those. Some of this may sound over the top or standard, but for most stand builders there, it is not.

At the end of the day, every market poses challenges. It’s being prepared for those up front and having a plan to overcome them. Dubai is a great city and, no doubt, a great market for nearly anything that you could sell! Be prepared, conquer and enjoy all Dubai has to offer when you are there!

Kelli Steckbauer is MG Design’s Director of Global Business, and for almost a decade she has been helping clients maximize their global trade show experience and find the best integrated marketing solutions for their brands. Kelli oversees the seamless flow of operations for MG Design clients as they exhibit across the globe as those international clients who need to exhibit in the U.S.


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