Beyond Handshakes: Making the Most Out of International Trade Shows

For the uninitiated, international trade shows may seem confusing, or perhaps even intimidating. Each event is unique, although many share common qualities. Understanding how to plan your time and leverage your opportunities is essential.

The first step is selecting events that offer the best fit with your business goals. Begin by asking:

What is the focus or objective(s) of the event? Some trade shows are primarily geared toward networking and may even encourage this through “speed dating” sessions or by offering an online system for attendees to arrange, in advance, networking appointments at the meeting.

At other events, networking occurs more casually at social functions or over meals. In these cases, attendees who want to establish contact with certain people will need to be even more proactive about reaching out.

Education is another common component of many trade show meetings. In addition to offering valuable insights, speakers and panelists may provide more networking opportunities.

While less common, deal-making and property sales are encouraged at certain trade shows, ranging from modest second home properties to billion-dollar commercial transactions.

It’s also important to select shows that offer the best fit in terms of property markets— both the types of properties (residential, luxury, commercial, etc.) and where they’re located. Some events concentrate on a particular country, while others are regional or international in scope.

Who attends? Some meetings are geared to members of the real estate industry, offering an excellent venue for developing referral relationships. In other cases, developers, investors, and/or consumers may also be present.

Additionally, many trade shows are well attended by real estate association executives, government/ regulatory authorities, and representatives of various businesses with a shared interest in real estate (mortgage industry, technology providers, etc.).

Geography also plays a role in attendance. Some gatherings are dominated by attendees from a particular country, whereas others include representatives from many different nations.

What role will you be playing? This depends on the meeting. For example, if you will be networking with people who are unfamiliar with your market, your primary role is to serve as an ambassador for your city, helping them develop a positive impression of what’s interesting and unique about your area—and to associate your name with that market. Marketing your inventory typically occurs later, unless the meeting includes a deal-making component.

Doing Your Homework

Getting a solid handle on how to select and plan for a meeting may require more than visiting an event’s website. Consider contacting these resources for additional insights:

-  If attendees are posted online, scan the list for people you may already know.

-  Reach out to the President’s Liaison for the host country (listed at www.nar.realtor/intlnet.nsf/SearchPL).

-  Contact NAR Global Alliances staff at narglobe@realtors.org.

Identifying Opportunities

The following pages summarize a variety of major real estate trade shows and meetings held around the world. Use this guide to get a flavor for the size and scope of different events, as well as the type of attendees an event is designed for and the types of interactions that are encouraged.

It’s important to recognize that this listing is far from all-inclusive. Many sponsors host additional events throughout the year, plus there are numerous other sponsoring organizations, both large and small.

For example, beyond its national convention each November, NAR and various REALTOR® Associations host numerous global networking events throughout the year, as well as occasional trade missions.

Economic development organizations at the state and city level are another important resource for trade mission opportunities. Occasionally, these organizations also exhibit at major international real estate trade shows and welcome partnerships with REALTORS® from their home market.

Many of NAR’s Cooperating Associations (like-minded real estate industry groups and government organizations) in other countries also host numerous events that provide excellent networking opportunities. Some of these meetings include CIPS designation courses. To identify the Cooperating Association(s) for a particular nation, visit www.nar.realtor/global/global-alliances.

As noted earlier, NAR’s President’s Liaisons can be an excellent resource for pinpointing the best networking opportunities in particular countries, based on your business-building objectives.

“EVENTS ARE WHAT YOU MAKE OF THEM,” CONCLUDES TORONTO-BASED RICHARD SILVER. “YOU CAN STAY IN YOUR ROOM OR LOUNGE AT THE POOL. BUT IF YOU GO WHERE THE ACTION IS, YOU’LL BE MUCH MORE SUCCESS- FUL. WE ARE IN THE BUSINESS OF MOVING PEOPLE AND THEY WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER THE FACE-TO-FACE TIME THAT YOU SPENT WITH THEM.”

5 Top Networking Tips

1. Prepare materials. Consider what type of information would be helpful to have on hand to share with other attendees. Background on your local market (both general information and housing data) is usually helpful. Depending on who attends the event, you may want to bring additional materials to support specific types of conversations.

2. Arrange appointments in advance. Most meetings distribute lists of attendees and exhibitors ahead of the event. Some (like MIPIM and EXPO REAL) have online directories, where attendees can post personal profiles, indicate primary interests, and schedule appointments. Regardless, advance planning makes your networking time at the event exponentially more productive.

3. Understand cultural preferences. While networking in the U.S. usually involves a straightforward, get-down-to-business approach, the rest of the world tends to prefer a softer marketing style that emphasizes relationships before business. Specific protocols may also dictate the exchanging of business cards, gifts, seating arrangements, etc. Upfront research is the best way to prevent embarrassing faux pas.

4. Adopt a positive mindset. Enthusiasm is contagious and will attract more and better conversations. "I would attend the opening of an envelope," says Richard Silver, ABR®, CIPS, e-PRO® with Sotheby's International Realty in Canada, in Toronto. "It is great to see what is going on in the local market, meet the agents and share business practices."

5. Follow up. Don't let the end of an event also signal the end of new relationships. Enter every business card into your contact database, send brief post-meeting messages, and plan for future follow-up.

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