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How to make trade fairs a more appealing destination

Update: January, 24/2014 - 08:58
Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers to share their thoughts on trade fairs in Viet Nam. Here's a selection of comments that we received.

John Boag, American, HCM City

Living next to where trade fairs are held, I often attend them. It has been my experience talking with enterprise owners that take part that they are unprofitable (See Viet Nam News January 20, 2014, Enterprises vote with feet on unprofitable exhibitions).

There are a number of reasons why – poor economy, wrong product mix, bad promotion, unreasonable expectations etc. The fact remains: Unless you make a profit or at least break even, why waste your time?

Today is the age of internet sales. Open 24 hours a day and a click away from gaining access all over the world. Rather than go through the effort and expense involved in trade fairs, put your product on Amazon, eBay, or any site that will give you exposure.

You will know within days if you have the right product. I have been involved in internet sales for over 10 years. Some items sell, others don't; however, it all can be done at home for very little cost.

John Ball, Australian, Ha Noi

Trade fairs are hardly the places one goes to absorb local customs and traditions, so don't expect many foreigners to attend for that purpose.

However, if the shows can present a whole raft of goods, old and new, at highly competitive prices, this may appeal to the average visitor.

But surely the target should be overseas business people. If the trade fair people have done their homework, every businessman in South East Asia and Australia should be chomping at the bit to attend. Western Europeans and Americans could also take the bait.

If the organisers want foreigners living in Viet Nam to attend, they should make sure there are no cover charges and that there really is plenty to see, not the boring displays of Western bling and fashion made for up-market people loaded with cash – like at the pretentious Trang Tien Building in central Ha Noi.

Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi

An exhibition is a great idea, but you've got to advertise and you have to make the trip worthwhile. It is difficult enough to grab my attention. Then you have to get me to the event and in the door with my wallet ready.

I recently attended a Thai products event in Ha Noi and was greatly disappointed. Parking was chaotic, as usual. No security, no parking attendant, no ticket. No greeters at the door. Unsmiling faces at reception refused me promotional material unless I "registered" and gave them my business card.

Compared to events in Bangkok, Ha Noi's event was horrible. Fortunately there is another (Thai themed) event next month. If Viet Nam wants to raise its international profile, it will have to compete better. Learn from service-oriented smiling Thais who offer cool drinks, warm smiles and foot massages.

Offer free food samples and I will be inclined to buy a promotional pack while reading the literature. Have university student volunteers practicing English, tourism and communication skills. Politely ask for contact information and I will be inclined to provide it.

I would attend other events if: I knew about them; they were convenient to get to; and I was welcomed and not harassed upon arrival. As it stands now, I will wait until my next holiday in Bangkok to be enticed.

Hoang Minh, Vietnamese, Ha Noi

I am a fan of online-shopping, that's why I rarely visit trade fairs. I think I only visit a trade fair if products displayed there really attract my attention. In reality, it seems not.

I'm not a trade-fair organizer, but I've read articles that offer several tips on successfully organising a trade fair and I want to share some of these.

Companies should make sure that people have a valid reason to visit their booths. There are a huge range of products and services in the market, and given time and money constraints, people need incentives to come and visit your booth.

What would interest people in a trade fair is something new. They would be eager, for example, to know of the latest technologies and applications, or something that would help them save time and money.

Offering a service that will benefit visitors, like a massage chair or a masseuse, is a good move. This creates a chance for visitors to sit and relax while learning about products or services that a company provides. — VNS

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