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The International Man Larry Kulchawik
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The International Man: A Passion for International Connectivity

by Larry Kulchawik

Over the past 30 years, U.S. exhibit industry pioneers have crossed the line of “normal” and pushed to create a new normal within the tradeshow marketing industry. People like Fred Kitzing, Don Freeman, Leo McDonald, Dick Swanby, Barry Siskind, Allen Konapacki, Rich Erschik and Lee Knight each influenced a change in our thinking about the value of tradeshow marketing in the U.S. We in the industry may have pushed for changes along the way, but in the end, the decision to invest in any new tradeshow strategies or tactics started with a need from the exhibitor companies. They were the ones who encouraged new ways of thinking to enhance their advantages and add value to their tradeshow marketing investment.

The tradeshow industry now is a global marketplace, but it wasn’t that way as little as 15 years ago in the U.S. The shift to expand tradeshow and experiential marketing internationally is now a new normal for U.S. exhibitors. Show organizers, trade associations and show contractors each are playing a role to expand the reach of our marketplaces internationally.

Beyond the entrepreneurs in the U.S., a number of international visionary thinkers saw that the world was coming together as a world marketplace and pushed to make it happen. Many international suppliers and show organizers aggressively explored ways and methods to bring the tradeshow world together as one and expand their marketshare. The start of the Euroshop Show, launched in 1966, really promoted the beginning of an international tradeshow focused on the global marketplace. The event reached out beyond tradeshow marketing with halls dedicated to lighting, store interiors and shopping center design. Each year more and more international companies exhibit and attend this event held once every three years. Today it’s the leading international tradeshow dedicated to retail and exhibit design.

Many international exhibit suppliers like Octanorm saw an opportunity to develop and promote exhibit building systems available for shows worldwide, offering the components as a rental. Hans Bruder, then president of Octanorm, developed OSPI (Octanorm Service Partners International), a network of exhibit suppliers representing all major countries. Each supplier cooperated to support each other for shows abroad. The concept of global cooperation (“Design Here, Build There”) started in Europe, then expanded worldwide to deliver international exhibitors a consistent look globally. Other followed to create a similar strategy for growth.

Another global visionary thinker was Roger Taurant of Belgium. He founded the concept of connecting exhibit service supplier associations to follow a code of conduct and assist each other to help their exhibiting customers at European shows. Six country associations joined together in 1984 to form IFES. Today IFES represents 40 countries with direct connections to trusted exhibit suppliers for services at international events.

In the U.K., Simon Burton was always ahead of the curve in his thinking. His passion for effective global marketing was unmatched. He started as an exhibits manager in London then created the Exhibiting Show in London. The Exhibiting Show, like ExhibitorLive in the U.S., focused on helping exhibit managers improve and measure results at tradeshows. The show was successful for five years and reached out to exhibitors and suppliers worldwide to grow their business internationally. Simon included educational sessions dedicate to global marketing tactics. At each show he passionately spoke on his concept of ROE (Return on Emotion) which helped to launch the “experiential marketing” way of thinking we see as a trend in the industry today.

“I think that there are challenges with a straight ROI measurement approach for exhibitors, particularly bigger exhibitors, in industries with long sales cycles and multiple touch points,” says Burton. “Exhibitions aren’t simply about leads, they are about relationships, both creating, nurturing and brand profiling. I’ve always believed that there’s a sweet spot where the exhibitor’s objectives and direct commercial return overlap with the power of face-to-face human contact. Engagement (emotion) requires both parties; exhibitor and visitor, to create a meaningful relationship.”

Today, Burton is launching a worldwide exhibit design award program called the Worldwide Exhibition Stand Award, partnering with Exhibition World magazine. The purpose of the award is to recognize excellent exhibit design within the countries they target to market. An award program of this nature allows exhibitors and exhibit design companies to demonstrate their sensitivity and effective adjustments made when exhibiting abroad. This is much of what my book, Tradeshows from One Country to the Next, is all about.  Sharing country knowledge within the exposition industry will stimulate growth as the market connects as a single world marketplace.

Back in 1996, I worked for Exhibitgroup Giltspur as director of sales and marketing for the 18 divisions then owned by Greyhound Dial, later changed to Viad Corporation. The CEO of Greyhound Dial wanted to see GES and Exhibitgroup go global. We flew to visit Euroshop in Dusseldorf and to Octanorm in Stuttgart, and established a comfort zone for further investing to expand our services internationally. This jumpstarted our confidence to compete internationally and encouraged our customers to help them beyond their U.S. shows. Each exhibit supplier in the U.S. made a similar decision to expand their services internationally creating a new trend toward world tradeshow marketing. All country suppliers also now offer a similar service, each competing to manage exhibitor marketing programs for world companies.

Larry Kulchawik is the head of Larry Kulchwawik Consulting and author of “Tradeshows from One Country to the Next.” For more info, visit www.larrykulchawik.com

This story originally appeared in the November/December issue of Exhibit City News, p. 20. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_flipbook_novdec2018


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