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The International Man Larry Kulchawik
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The International Man: Doing a Tradeshow in Italy

by Larry Kulchawik

This column is an excerpt from my book, Tradeshows from One Country to the Next. I hope to share highlights about doing tradeshows in select countries for upcoming ECN issues. Enjoy your business travels!

Of all the countries in Europe, I have had more tradeshow experiences in Italy than any other country. In 1989 I had worked directly with the Italian Trade Commission to coordinate pavilion exhibit spaces for tradeshows held in the U.S. I traveled to Milan once every quarter for three years to meet with the exhibitors who were participating in an Italian pavilion space at shows in the U.S. We usually spent the first 20 minutes of our meetings discussing our American work rules and why they were not allowed to do many things. These discussions wasted a lot of valuable time, but nevertheless were necessary to avoid conflict at the U.S. show site. For many, this first exposure to a U.S. show resulted with Italian exhibitors deciding to exhibit independent of the Italian pavilion. Like the Italians in the ‘90s, American companies are now looking to expand their products and services in Italy and the rest of Europe. As exhibit suppliers, our ability to recalculate our approach within each world region is key to providing a positive exhibitor experience.

 Five countries account for 60 percent of total indoor exhibition space dedicated to tradeshows and events.  Germany, U.S., China, France and Italy

Italy ranks as one of the top five tradeshow active countries. There are several large venue locations in Italy (Milan,Verona, Bologna) but most of the major shows and events in Italy take place in Milan. Fire Milano hosts most of the major events, usually more than 60 events a year in its two exhibition venues. Its exhibitions attract more than 30,000 exhibitors and more than 5 million visitors. A newer exhibition center, Fire Milano Rho, has been open since 2007 and covers approximately 2 million square feet for exhibition space. The new fairground of Milan is in Rho Pero, nine miles from Milan’s city center.

In Italy, France, and Spain, English is not spoken as commonly as in Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands. With this said, working with an Italian exhibit partner for a show in Italy would surely make the exhibit  set-up experience less stressful. Most exhibit design and fabrication in Italy is custom. Wooden walls are grouted and painted on site. Aluminum systems are used, but are less popular. Most exhibit design will include a raised floor, a bar area for catering and private meeting spaces. Lighting and AV services available are state-of-the-art provided by subcontractors. Design and style matter.

In the world of Italian business relations, practicing proper business etiquette is essential, as many Italian businesspeople place great value on first impressions. The Italian business culture and etiquette simply cannot be ignored at tradeshows and other business encounters. Italians are famous the world over for their sense of family, and it could be said that this strongly relationship-oriented approach has been taken into the world of commerce. Indeed, it is true to say that the Italian economy has a greater percentage of small- and medium-sized, family-run businesses than any other European state (with the possible exception of Spain.) This is not to say that all companies are riddled by nepotism and old-style cronyism, but the idea of an enterprise being an arrangement of strongly felt relationships is still very much in evidence.

“When in Rome do as the Romans” or anywhere else in Italy. When planning your exhibit in Italy, check with IFES to introduce you to a reliable and trusted supplier to work with. Also, when requesting exhibit services in Italy I am happy to give you a copy of the Italian version of my RFP Template for free. The template translates 150 key industry words English to Italian. It’s not what you say but what you mean that matters.

Arrivederci — until we see each other again!

Larry Kulchawik is the head of Larry Kulchwawik Consulting and author of Trade Shows 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. 18. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecntears_novdec_2019_copy



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