In the light of previous studies on exhibitors' performance in trade shows and methodology applied to measuring the effectiveness of their participation, this study has diagnosed some problems with participation of the Chinese small and medium-sized exporters/exhibitors in the international trade shows. Focused on pre-show and post-show activities, we've discovered the exhibitors' negligence of non-selling objectives and non-selling indices for evaluation of their performance. Show selection, a crucial pre-show sub-process of participation, is also floppily treated. In view of these problems, with our reasoning we depicted a new framework with an ideal process of effective TS participation based on a framework proposed by Tanner in 2000.
[Keywords] International trade show; effectiveness; small-medium-sized exhibitors
Trade shows (TSs) or exhibitions have long been Chinese exporters' initial and popular access to international markets. The most prominent TS, "China Import and Export Fair" (Canton Fair), is known worldwide and isa biannual event held in spring and autumn in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China. In its first session, the Fair attracted only 1,223 overseas buyers, mainly from Hong Kong and Macau with 9,600 square meters of exhibition space displaying mostly farm produce and handicraft (http://english.ccpit.org/Contents/). Fifty years later, the Canton Fair has continuously grown and maintained its leading position in China's exhibition industry with the largest exhibit varieties, attendance, and business turnover. With its transactions that account for about one-fourth of China's general export trade every year, the fair, to date, has served as an important platform for promoting products by small andmedium-sized Chinese exporters.
Since the turn of the 20th-21st century, trade shows have become increasingly hot sites frequented by Chinese SMCs endeavoring to export their offerings. In turn, theyhave further lured the buyers. Take the 101st session of Canton Fair held in Spring 2007 as an example; the number of buyers from 211 countries and regions reached 206,749, a 7.3% increase over the 100th session. Among them, there were 95 multinational retailers, 15 more than that of the previous session. The total export turnover of the latest session amounted to USD36.39 billion, hitting a historical high with an increase of 6.8 % over the 100th session (http://www.can tonfair.org.cn:82).
Besides the Canton Fair, various trade shows have mushroomed in China between 1986 (186 TSs) and 2006 (3800 TSs) (Zhang, 2006), among which more than half of the TSs are labeled "international" in parallel with the rapid growth of China's international trade. Some international TSs organized by European and U.S. firms has been expanded in terms of size and frequency when participated in by a big number of active Chinese attendees. According to the latest report, about 2006 by Association of the German Trade Fair Industry (AUMA), "The share of exhibitors from South, East and Central Asia rose by almost four percentage points from 24.0% to 27.8%. Responsible for this increase, in particular, was the explosive increase in participations from the PR China (+32% to a current total of 9,056 exhibitors) and from Taiwan (+37% to 4,844 exhibitors)" (http://www.auma-messen.de/_pages).
Between 2001 and 2005, three indicators-the number of TSs held in China, of those participated in by organized Chinese exhibitors overseas and the total national TSs revenues-enjoyed respective annual increase rates of 16%, 19%, and 14%. Almost in the same period, 58 branded TSs got accredited by the UFI (Union of International Fairs, now The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry) (http://news.xinhuanet.com/expo/2006). Moreover, in the 2006 Annual Report by China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), a specialized government agency in this regard summarizes the progress made in 2006 as follows: "steady growth was witnessed in overseas exhibitions, as over 25,000 exhibitors were organized to participate in 913 events overseas, with a total show space of 310,000 sqm" (2006 CCPIT Annual Report). …