Corrections or additions?
These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring were prepared for the
August 29, 2001 edition of U.S. Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Ready To Go Global? Try Hannover Fairs
Joachim Schafer admits it can be hard for young tech
companies to make it to the big, international trade shows. "It’s
one week away from the business. If it’s two or three people, that’s
$10,000 or $12,000." The economy is slowing, not just here, but
around the world, and Schafer, president of Hannover Fairs USA, says
he is hearing that trade show attendance is off. Still, he says,
companies with innovative technologies to market need to take part,
and there are ways they can make a big statement for a reasonable
Schafer founded the Carnegie Center-based Hannover Fairs USA 16 years
ago. The company takes small and mid-sized U.S. companies to
industry’s biggest business to business trade shows in Europe, Asia,
and Latin America. He speaks on the best ways small and mid-sized
companies can establish a presence at these events at the Princeton
Chamber’s trade show on Thursday, August 30, at Doral Forrestal, at
11:30 a.m. Cost for the luncheon event: $27.
Hannover Fairs, a 33-person company with headquarters at 103 Carnegie
Center, is the wholly-owned subsidiary of a German trade show company,
Deutsche Messe AG, which puts on some of the biggest international
shows in the world. Its computer and telecom show, Schafer says, drew
8,000 companies and 800,000 attendees last spring. Schafer thoroughly
enjoys working in the industry, and says it is like no other.
"It’s a little bit of the theater world. No, more like a circus
show," he says. "You ride into town. The elephant drags in the
tent. And then you ride out of town. There is a certain transience,
and wonderful people."
Schafer grew up in Germany and earned his undergraduate degree in
computer science from Stuttgart University in 1974. He did much of
his work on big mainframes. It was, he says, "almost like fossil
times." Upon graduation, he received a scholarship that allowed
him to study at one of a number of American universities. Schools
in Texas, Colorado, Kansas, and Oregon were on the list, along with
Georgia Tech. He chose Georgia.
"When I was a teenager, there was a song by Ray Charles, Georgia
on My Mind," he gives as the reason. Still not 20 when he made
the decision, Schafer had never been far away from home, had never
boarded an airplane. "My mother wondered why I wanted to go so
far," he recalls. He answered her questions by playing Georgia
on My Mind for her.
Schafer, who earned his first master’s degree — in compute science
— from Georgia Tech, found the state all he hoped it would be.
"The subtropical climate, the motorcycles, the feeling of
freedom…" he reminisces. He returned to work in Germany for two
years, but Georgia’s sun called to him. "The only way I could go
back was as a student," he says. So, he did just that, and earned
a master’s in public administration.
After one more stint in Germany, he returned to the United States
for good in the mid-1980s, and moved to New Jersey so that his wife,
Ulrike, then working for the government, could be close to
A friend asked him if he would like to try the trade fairs industry,
which he did for an international company with offices in Whitehouse.
Within two years, he founded Hannover Fairs USA, choosing Princeton
for the company’s offices because "it is a cultured town"
halfway between New York City and Philadelphia.
Hannover Fairs caters to smaller companies because, Schafer says,
the big multi-nationals have offices around the world and do not need
help in participating in international trade shows. The company works
with a number of states, including New Jersey, in setting up
at the big shows. It joins with organizations, including chambers
of commerce and the U.S. Department of Commerce, in putting on
to show small companies how to participate effectively. At the shows,
it groups the companies together, perhaps by state, offering them
an instant, turnkey presence. "The table is there, the lights,
the carpet," he says. Promotion is covered for the companies,
too. Participants can show up the night before the show, or even on
that morning, and be all set to go.
Companies that can afford only the smallest booth, generally 10’x10′
are grouped together. As many as 130 may share a pavilion and
facilities, including conference rooms, reception areas, and
entertainment. Food and drink are a very important part of doing
business in Europe, Schafer says, and the shared display space often
includes entertainment, food, and beer in a central area. Joining with
other young companies gives each "the power of many," he says.
The cost of participating is cut, as is the time necessary to put
together a presence, and companies don’t have to worry about traveling
across the globe only to be relegated to a tiny table at the back of a
Schafer offers these reasons why companies benefit from attending
international trade shows:
interaction is still available at these events," Schafer says.
This is especially important now, in an era Schafer says is marked by
"In this day and age, people are running faster and faster,"
he says. "The human element becomes more important." Research
has confirmed, Schafer says, that nothing beats face-to-face contact.
The cost of meeting potential clients, customers, business partners,
investors, and employees from around the world all in one spot is
significantly less than it would be to travel to meet each separately.
The international trade fairs offers an opportunity to do this.
prospects, but none of these lists is complete. "At a trade fair,
companies reach out to customer segments they never would have thought
of," Schafer says. "They meet people who are not on a prospect
list." With up to 800,000 people walking by a booth, it is not
hard to imagine that something will spark. Opportunities never
back home could be unearthed. A new technology process could be
by a potential customer. Partners a company never considered could
it really can’t afford to miss. Schafer says he just got a notice
for a home renovation show in Atlantic City. Dollars are still being
spent for home fix-ups, he says, and any company offering this type
of work, and doing business in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, belongs
at that show. On the national and international level, he believes
a company must establish a presence at its industry’s most important
shows. "It’s a herd phenomenon," he says. "You want to
be part of this. If you’re not there, you’re missing out on a
ode to Georgia, has become a United States citizen. He and his wife
live in Plainsboro with their three children. Before the Princeton
Chamber trade fair, Schafer is flying to Germany to pick up one of
his children, who has been visiting his mother, a woman who didn’t
find Georgia as alluring as did her son. "`It’s awfully hot and
sticky,’" he gives as her assessment.
As a student, Schafer wrote to his mother about how much he enjoyed
moving around Atlanta, waving and exchanging greetings with folks
taking their ease on porches. Alarmed, his mother, asked "Aren’t
you being too friendly?" When she saw Atlanta, and witnessed the
phenomenon of watching the world go by from a porch, she understood
that living out in the open breeds a pleasant familiarity. The same
could be said for setting up shop at an international trade fair.
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