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Expect the Unexpected 

The International Man column by Larry Kulchawik 

Over the past ten years the American marketplace is now more comfortable doing international business than ever before. The added confidence that American companies now have to expand their markets internationally has encouraged American exhibit suppliers to expand their expo services internationally as well. Today, most exhibit suppliers are now providing international exhibit services for the customers they serve. EDPA’s international chapter now has more international exhibit supplier members than any other world exhibit supplier association in the world. 

I want to tell you a story I have been reluctant to share for the past 12 years. Back in 2008 EDPA saw the rise in the international marketplace and decided to exhibit at EuroShop in Duesseldorf. Our team at EDPA determined that we should design a Made in America exhibit and ship it from the U.S. The exhibit design displayed EDPA as a trusted association and focused on the many exhibit suppliers and the services they could offer the world. The exhibit design was state of the art, with a fabric canopy, that was a unique design feature at the time. 

 Twelve U.S. exhibit suppliers shared the cost and were given an exclusive panel area to feature the exhibit services they could offer. Here we are, one of the largest exhibit associations in the world, deciding to ship the exhibit via boat to Europe. We saved money in this decision, and shared boat space with one of our American partners (Abex) who had an exhibit of their own. The exhibit was packed and shipped as scheduled but a storm in the North Sea caused a major delay. The EDPA director and supervisors arrived three days early and were then notified that the exhibit would not arrive on time. Our expert exhibit suppliers, who advise our many customers internationally, did not factor a storm on the sea to create a delay. Now what? 

 Our EDPA team scrambled to create a solution to replace the exhibit. Our German exhibit partner, Bestmann Associates, was planning to do the install and offered to help design and provide a replacement rental exhibit for the opening of the show. A new exhibit was designed, fabricated, shipped and installed in two days. We made the show opening! The next day, our American exhibit arrived. The rental was dismantled and the original exhibit was installed ready for the remainder of the show. The moral of the story: Expect the unexpected when shipping abroad. Another solution is to consider renting locally. Relationships with IFES and EDPA international suppliers certainly allowed for this unexpected situation to be resolved much easier. Live and learn. 

To add to this disaster, I arrived in Germany to attend the show and felt a pain in my stomach. I visited a local doctor and spent the next 10 days in a German hospital. They would not accept my insurance and would not take a credit card for payment. Our German partner, Bestmann, paid the hospital in cash. I never saw the exhibit! 

 For those who attended EuroShop 2020 this year, I hope you visited both EDPA and IFES. Establishing trusted partners in all major world cities will provide peace of mind and the insurance you need. Be prepared to have a partner to lean on who can help to resolve the unexpected when challenges arise at any tradeshow abroad. 

Larry Kulchawik is the head of Larry Kulchwawik Consulting and author of Trade Shows from One Country to the Next. For more info, visit

 This story originally appeared in the March/April issue of Exhibit City News, p. 18. For original layout, visit




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