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Is Event and Trade Show Support Different in the U.S. Than in Europe?

Many businesses with an international presence are called upon to support events not only in the U.S. but also throughout Europe.

Are their differences between the two? On the surface, the basic process appears to be the same for both locations: identify and gather the necessary materials, ship them to the venue, and return them after the event so they can be placed back into inventory. But dive a little deeper and you’ll find there are significant differences that must be considered when planning an international event. 

This blog will explore the various issues and challenges—some subtle, some more obvious—that confront you when planning organizing an event outside the U.S. While we’ll be focusing on Europe here, understand that these same issues apply to other locations and continents as well and will require a bit of research to adequately address them.

Shipping to the Event

Perhaps the biggest difference between U.S.- and European-based events revolves around shipping, both to and from the event.

Within the U.S., it’s fairly straightforward to produce and ship materials like signage, pop-up booths, branded merchandise, printed collateral and the like anywhere in the country. Shipping between states does not impose any special customs fees, tariffs, or paperwork; it’s all one country. Crossing state lines is simply not an issue.

In Europe, however, the process is a bit more complicated. For OnFulfillment, all shipments within Europe originate at our U.K. facility. Therefore, anything destined for Ireland or the continent is going to a different country, with all their attendant customs, VAT, and import fees. Costs and delays escalate.

If the event is taking place at a larger site, such as the Olympia in the U.K., the Paris Convention Centre, or the Messe Dusseldorf in Germany, carriers like DHL, FedEx or DPD are prohibited from delivering directly to the venue. Instead, regulations require vendors to work with a logistics company which coordinates deliveries to an offsite location. The logistics company then delivers the materials to the booth location—naturally charging a service fee for their efforts.

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Shipping Back to Storage

In the U.S., shipping from the venue back to the office is equally straightforward. Shipment times and shippers can be scheduled beforehand, allowing companies like OnFulfillment to create return shipping labels prior to the event and include them with the original shipment. Whoever is staffing the booth simply packs up any leftover materials, applies the labels, and drops the boxes off at the outgoing shipment desk.

In Europe, return shipments cannot be booked until 48 hours before pickup. Therefore, vendors like OnFulfillment sends address labels for the return trip but cannot include any courier bar code labels. Once a pickup time has been scheduled and booked with a courier, bar codes are sent to the booth staff electronically. The courier will have a printed copy with them as well.

Another issue with return shipments in Europe is that couriers require numbers, dimensions and weights of the items being shipped. Since that information isn’t available until after the event, the shipper’s customer service rep needs to communicate with someone on site to get this information (or something close to it) and prepare the necessary paperwork.

This information is especially critical if returned materials are being shipped across borders, since commercial invoice documentation—including a list of items, quantities, customs value and commodity codes—must be generated for customs prior to shipment. This documentation must then be electronically uploaded by the company to the shipper’s website before any pickup can be scheduled.

While shipping probably represents the greatest contrast between U.S.- and E.U.-based events, there are other differences to consider.

Cultural Differences

Perhaps the least surprising differences between U.S. and European event support are cultural. These subtle (and, in some instances, not-so-subtle) nuances can have a tremendous influence over the atmosphere and approach taken at trade shows.

In the United States, trade shows often exhibit a louder, more energetic, and more extraverted atmosphere. Booths tend to be large, elaborate, and eye-catching, with an emphasis on product demonstrations, sales pitches, and giveaways. Attendees are encouraged to actively engage with exhibitors (and vice-versa), fostering a lively, collaborative and—in some cases—competitive environment.

In Europe, events tend to be more reserved and formal affairs, fostering a relaxed and congenial atmosphere. European shows place a greater emphasis on networking, relationship building, and in-depth business discussions. Booth designs often prioritize functionality and simplicity over flashy presentations, preferring real business over show business.

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Scale and Size

While there are exceptions, trade shows and other events tend to be larger in the U.S. than in Europe. The vast domestic market in the U.S. creates demand for many industry-specific trade shows which fill expansive exhibition halls and attract a large number of exhibitors and attendees.

European events, on the other hand, are generally more compact and focused, with a greater emphasis on specialized industries and niche markets.

Market Focus

The market focus of trade shows also varies widely between the United States and Europe. In the U.S., due to the country's relative size and diverse industries, there are trade shows, conferences, seminars, and other events dedicated to a wide range of business sectors: technology, healthcare, automotive, construction, consumer electronics, and many more.

In Europe, trade shows and events are typically focused on specific industries or regional markets, designed to reflect the localized nature of European economies. For example, across the continent, there are prominent trade shows dedicated to sectors as diverse as fashion (France and Italy), design (U.K.), aerospace (Germany), and renewable energy (Germany and The Netherlands), depending on their location.

Timing and Scheduling

The United States and Europe typically follow different trade show calendars. In the U.S., for instance, trade shows are spread evenly throughout the year. Locations alternate between large cities and tourist destinations like Las Vegas, Orlando, and Chicago, among others, depending on the time of year. Additionally, smaller events, conferences and road shows are scheduled year-round in smaller cities and regions, providing a convenient location where local businesspeople can attend without having to travel too far.if you need help with a tradeshow event click here 

Conversely, in Europe, trade shows tend to follow a seasonal schedule, with certain times of the year dedicated to industry-specific exhibitions. For example, Milan is known for its fashion trade shows, while cities like Frankfurt and Hannover host significant industrial and technology fairs.

Celebrating the Differences

Obviously, many of these differences and observations are generalizations. As with anything, there are exceptions and variations that contradict these accepted differences between the U.S. and Europe.

That, however, does not change the fact that there are explicit differences between the two locations, and those differences should be celebrated. Business is global, and it’s important to understand that doing business in the U.S. is different than doing business in EMEA and APAC. Embracing those differences makes for more successful and rewarding interactions.

To learn more about how OnFulfillment can help you manage and support your events around the world, please click here to schedule a meeting.

Topics: Event Marketing Materials Global Fulfillment Event Support