Using Business English at Trade Shows

Using Business English at Trade Shows

Exhibitions provide an excellent way to showcase your business or products using business English. If English is not your first language trade fairs can feel intimidating. This needn’t be the case. People visit trade fairs to find out about new products or businesses that they would like to do business with in the future. Generally people are not trying to catch you out or make make things awkward for you, if they begin a conversation then generally they will have an interest in what you are offering.

Making the most of an exhibition

As an exhibitor, the most important thing for you is to to explain your business or product to potential customers. This is where you make the most of using business English. They may be customers in the near future if they have an immediate demand, or you may be beginning a longer term business relationship. Your first priority prior to attending and exhibition is to ensure that you know your product and business inside out and back to front.

It is essential that you can explain what you are offering both simply and quickly and in a far greater level of detail when required. A good place to begin is by creating what is called an elevator pitch. Essentially this is where you can explain your business and / or product in simple and compelling terms in less than 30 seconds. Can you do that in Japanese?

Step One – The Elevator Pitch

Creating a compelling elevator pitch with good business English is something which will take a little time to get right. You have 30 seconds to explain the concept and persuasive detail of what you’re offering. The best way to begin this as a speaker of English as a second language is to create the pitch first in Japanese. You need to be confident when you deliver the elevator pitch. Beginning the process in Japanese will provide a greater security, confidence and understanding of what you communicate.

Is correct grammar and punctuation vital in this situation?

No it is not, for this situation the most important element is communicating clearly and persuasively. The people you are speaking to need to understand you but they won’t care about a wrong word here or there.

Is an elevator pitch sales pitch?

No it should not be viewed as a sales pitch, it should be treated as a way to engage someone, to begin a conversation. It is very unlikely that you would be able to sell your product to someone on the basis of a 30 second conversation. Your aim is to engage who you are talking to and to provide a persuasive outline of why they should continue the conversation with you.

What should you consider when developing your 30 second pitch?

You need to introduce yourself. To explain what your business or product does. Discuss with the person you are talking to what you want (it could be a meeting, a longer conversation, a phone call, an eMail). The process should be treated conversationally, not as a sales pitch. Be confident in both yourself and what you are offering.

Using Business English at Trade Shows

Step Two – The Longer Conversation

If your elevator pitch has worked as you hope then you are able to move to stage two. In an exhibition this will probably allow you a more detailed conversation and the opportunity to show your product and the benefits. Once again you need to be completely confident and knowledgable about both your product and business. Make sure that you know all aspects in Japanese first. Then you can develop this into your business English.

It is a good idea to prepare simple and clear explanations about what you offer together with a list of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions). Prepare this information in Japanese first. You need to be absolutely confident and compelling in your native language before you can prepare your English version. Once prepared you should run through the information you have created with a colleague. Is there anything you’ve missed? Is there anything that potential clients are likely to want to know?

Once you’ve finalised the information you need to know you can begin to make sure that you can explain it in English. The FAQs are a good place to begin. Why? You are anticipating questions and you will have an understanding of a prepared answer to the majority of the questions you will be asked. Your aim is not to simply repeat what you have written in English, but to be able to answer the questions conversationally. As mentioned earlier you shouldn’t be concerned about using the occasional incorrect word, or forgetting an English word. Your aim is to be confident and persuasive.

Step Three – The Call to Action

What do we mean by call to action? At the end of your conversation you don’t want your prospect to simply walk away. You call to action is what you ask of them in order to continue the conversation or sales process at a later date. Do you want them to call you? Do you want to be able to call them or write an eMail? It is important to exchange business cards if you have not already done so.

Culturally it is quite common for western business people to give you their business card at the end of a conversation at a Trade Fair rather than the beginning. This is simply because they want to know that what you offer has value to them. Once they have made that decision they will often give you their card.

You should ask for a card if they have not given you one. Using business English you should explain briefly how you plan on following up with them after the exhibition. If, after your conversation, your prospect says they’re not interested that’s OK. It’s better to know then rather than wasting time after the show chasing them. Make sure you ask why they are not interested. It may be a simple misunderstanding that you can clarify, or it may give you a better insight into your business or products.

What do you need at an Exhibition?

Anything you take to a trade show should support your primary objectives. Are you brand building or is your aim to actively sell your product or services to the people you meet at the show? Any literature, samples or media you use at the show should be designed to support those objectives. Everything should be written or prepared in native English. If you need help with the text or a voice over for your media, we can help.


  • Be confident and conversational.
  • Know your product and / or service back to front.
  • Be prepared.
  • Don’t worry about getting words wrong sometimes. Using business English when English is not your first language you are not expected to be perfect.
  • Remember the call to action – don’t let your prospect walk away without know what the next step will be.

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