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Creativeworld: The Language Barrier

One of the most frequent questions that I get asked about attending the Creativeworld show at Messe Frankfurt in Frankfurt, Germany, is how to get around in Germany and at Creativeworld while speaking only English.

[Disclaimer: Messe Frankfurt is a Scrapbook Update sponsor.]

The surprising first part of the answer to that question is that a lot of what show attendees will encounter, especially in places like major transportation hubs, is actually bilingual and perfectly understandable to English speakers. Even the automated rail ticket machines have a language option for English. (In Europe, remember that you’ll choose the British Union Jack flag on machines like that to access the English option.)

Believe it or not, even some of the trash cans are multilingual – like this one in the Frankfurt airport complex!

Within the Messe Frankfurt fairground itself, the signage is designed to accommodate their large populations of international visitors that come for their various shows throughout the year. Building numbers and names, arrows, and easy to understand graphics for things like the train stations and restrooms.

Cafe and restaurant menus are also bilingual, and many Messe Frankfurt staff can speak at least a small amount of English. In addition, the Messe makes most of its printed show publications on-site and the Creativeworld show app all available and readily accessible in English.

The biggest thing, however, that concerns many show attendees – especially exhibitors – is how to handle doing business in a booth when they don’t speak the local language.

In fact, many people overestimate the language barrier they will encounter dealing with international clients. English has become in many respects the common language of the world. A surprising number of people encountered at Creativeworld speak at least a little bit of English – often while apologizing for their lack of skill, which is quite humbling to hear when you don’t speak a word of their language!

But there is inevitably some language barrier to be encountered. Hiring European bloggers or designers is one way to bridge that gap (and it’s also extra booth help without the expense of travel for a U.S. staffer). In the American pavilion this year, Lou Ann Tischler of GelliArts was drawing a crowd doing demonstrations, and had a European designer that works with Gelli Arts (in the brown shirt) translating for her.

Gelli Arts demo

Another approach is to just hire a European designer to do all of the demonstrating. My German designer friend Baerbel Börn demonstrated for several companies this year, including demonstrating the new Tim Holtz Stamp Platform for Tonic Studios (below).

Baerbel Born

Of course, hiring a local staffer is no guarantee that you won’t encounter a language barrier when someone walks into your booth, since Europe has a multitude of languages and the show attracts global buyers. But it certainly can raise the odds that you will find common language ground when someone approaches your booth.

And, if all else fails…thanks to the era of the smart phone, we can all have an instant translator in our pocket with the right apps. It may not be the fastest way to communicate, but it can get the job done.

Remember, in the end, everyone at Creativeworld speaks the same native language…a love of creativity! And that goes a long way in understanding each other.

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Creativeworld: To Pavillion or Not to Pavillion?

There’s much to consider when planning a trade show booth. For American companies going to Frankfurt for the Creativeworld show, the first question is usually whether or not to use the U.S. pavillion, or book a booth on the general show floor.

[Disclosure: Messe Frankfurt is a Scrapbook Update sponsor.]

Whether or not exhibiting in the U.S. pavilion is the right choice is a different decision for each company that considers it, based on a variety of factors. After visiting four Creativeworld shows and talking extensively with American exhibitors both in the pavilion and on the show floor, I’ve identified what some of the key factors are that lead companies to choose one or the other as the best choice for them.

But first, what exactly is the American pavilion at the Creativeworld show?

Creativeworld American Pavilion

The U.S. pavilion at Creativeworld takes up an entire “block” on the show floor. The outside of the block, along the aisles, is filled with booths of various sizes. In the center is a private lounge area (accessible from the rear of each booth) for the pavilion exhibitors that offers some food service, a Messe Frankfurt staff member to assist the exhibitors, and other services.

The pavilion booths come with a prepackaged set of booth furnishings, and exhibitors can order additional items if needed at extra cost.

Ken Oliver Creativeworld

The corner booths, like the ones in the top picture occupied by Doodlebug Design and in the picture above by Product Performers, are typically larger spaces (and priced accordingly). They also have two open sides as opposed to being enclosed on three sides like the booths in sides of the pavilion.
Stampendous Creativeworld 2017

A more standard booth option in the pavilion is the one occupied above by Stampendous. With one open side facing the aisle, and a back entrance into the pavilion’s lounge, this space allows plenty of room for display of product and doing small demonstrations.

American Pavilion advertising

Being in the pavilion also comes with some extra publicity, as the U.S. pavilion is advertised as a special feature of the show in places like show guides and the show grounds. This ad pillar is at the bottom of the escalator in the main lobby of Hall 4.2, directing show attendees to the pavilion and advertising who was there.

BoBunny Creativeworld

Of course, there’s a myriad of options on the show floor to choose from as well. BoBunny has occupied a booth in the same location in one of the Creativeworld halls for several years. Exhibiting in a non-pavilion booth is similar in a few ways to being in the pavilion – there’s still no need to bring an entire furnished booth, as all displays and furnishings can be rented from the Messe.

Creativeworld Co-op Booth

Renting a regular show booth allows room for some innovation in your exhibit planning. Three smaller companies that are well-known to papercrafters, Waffle Flower, Alexandra Renke, and Pinkfresh Studio, decided to share a large space on the show floor in an attempt to make a splash this year.

Waffle Flower Creativeworld 2017

So which choice is right for your company?

There’s no single right answer. I know companies that have tried the pavilion and then left it for a regular booth. I know companies that have stayed happily in the pavilion for multiple years. I know companies that have exhibited in a regular booth and then opted for the more structured option of the pavilion. I know companies that have exhibited for years in regular booths. The trick is deciding on the factors that are your priority.

Cost: On a per square foot basis, the pavilion is a more expensive way to rent a booth. But it comes with extra services that are included in that cost (which would have to be purchased separately) and it also includes extra support structure to help familiarize new exhibitors with exhibiting at the show. And while it is higher, the fixed price is a help when setting budgets for exhibiting.

Size: Booth options in the pavilion are limited to relatively small sizes, so if your booth preference is for a booth larger than around 10×20, you’ll need to choose a regular booth. On the other hand, for small to medium sized companies that would like to be able to exhibit with minimal manpower or shipping expense for booth decor, the pavilion is a win. The booths, especially the smaller ones, are the perfect size to be decorated and run by 1-2 people.

Decor: The pavilion booths come with a decor package, and for most exhibitors can be decorated probably by carrying a large extra suitcase or two with them on the plane. But if you’d like more freedom (and a less cookie cutter appearance), a regular booth will let you design your look from the ground up using the Messe’s furnishings rental service. Or you can even go to the extreme of shipping a crate if you’d like for a truly custom look.

Location: Since the U.S. pavilion is a fixed location on the Creativeworld show floor, if there is a particular area that you’d like your booth to be in, then you’ll need to do a regular booth rental. On the other hand, the U.S. pavilion is a “destination” at the Creativeworld show for many buyers, so a pavilion booth can have location advantages as well.

Stress: An exhibitor’s stress level may seem an odd factor to consider when selecting a trade show booth, but when embarking on something as ambitious as an international trade show – especially for the first time – it’s a factor that can make or break your success. The U.S. pavilion serves as something of a “safety net” at the show for its resident exhibitors, providing services and assistance. Especially for first time visitors not familiar with the show, this can be a great stress reliever. Pavilion staff can help facilitate securing needed extra services on site, provide information about Frankfurt and the surrounding area (such as where to eat), provide orientation to how the show operates, and just generally help answer questions that come up. And having neighbors that are quite possibly familiar to them from U.S. events is especially nice for those who might be working alone in a pavilion booth. In contrast, you’re quite on your own in a regular booth. Services are available but you must know how to seek them out, and there is no guarantee given the international nature of the show that your neighbors will even speak the same language as you do, let alone be familiar to you! All of this makes the pavilion an excellent option for first time exhibitors, or for exhibitors doing the show with a small staff.

To pavilion or not to pavilion….which option will you choose?

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Impressions of Creativeworld 2017

A few days after the Creativation show here in the U.S. in Janaury, the Creativeworld 2017 show took place at Messe Frankfurt in Frankfurt, Germany. In its seventh year this year, the show is reaching maturity. This year’s show saw the continuation of a lot of standard Creativeworld features – and the introduction of a few new ones as well.

[Disclosure: Messe Frankfurt is a sponsor of this website.]

Creativeworld 2017 saw a 15% rise in the number of exhibitors over 2016, up to 344. The show also continued to earn its reputation as an unrivaled international exhibition, with exhibitors from 37 countries and visitors from 94 countries. The top visitor populations at the show were from France, the Netherlands, Spain, Great Britain and Italy, and attendee numbers from Belgium, Poland, Sweden, Australia, Denmark and North America were also increased over the previous year.

Creativeworld 2017: What Hasn’t Changed

One signature part of the Creativeworld experience (for me, at least) is arriving each morning with a mass of people who come bursting out of a train onto a cold platform, and then move en masse up escalators into the Torhaus lobby of the Messe. To new American visitors, the mass of people, the scale of the entrance, is an often startling introduction to the size of what they are walking into. And to experienced visitors, the energy of the crowd is an invigorating way to start the day.

Creativeworld arrival

Another thing that is still the same at Messe Frankfurt…long walks down at times seemingly endless hallways that connect together the buildings on the massive exhibition grounds!

Messe Frankfurt

Another thing that hasn’t changed at the Messe for Creativeworld are the plentiful and excellent food options in Hall 4, with cafe counters stationed on the edges and even in the center of the halls. They say an army travels on its stomach, and at the Messe the masses of attendees can avail themselves of excellent sandwiches and other healthy options including fresh squeezed orange juice (that is pressed right in front of you) without missing a beat in their day’s schedule.

Creativeworld cafe

The Creative Impulse Awards returned for 2017, with a new area as its home on the show floor, but the same categories to enter.

Creative Impulse displays

The Creative Impulse Awards were handed out in a ceremony on Saturday. Fabric dominated the winners as Creative Product of the Year was won by efco creative for their Wood Veneer Fabric, and Creative Tool of the Year was won by Fiskars for their Fabric Circle Cutter. Christophorus Verlag won Book of the Year for “Sewing with SnapPap”.

Creative Impulse award winners

The popular and extensive Creativeworld Trend Show returned for another year this year, with large displays themed on the trends of “thoughtful”, “imperfect” and “whimsy”.

Creativeworld 2017 trend show

Like in previous years, there was plenty of options for people to get hands on with the trends in the Trend Show’s workstation area that offered projects for attendees to try.

Creativeworld 2017 trend work area

One unique feature of the Creativeworld show is the “Messe Frankfurt Against Copying” program, which was set up in the lobby area of Hall 4 (outside the Creativeworld halls) at the Messe, offering education on European copyright and trademark law to show attendees.
Messe Frankfurt Against Copying

One final thing that remains unchanged about Creativeworld – and the European market in particular – is the heavy presence of distributors. Because of the international nature of the European market and complicated nature of import/export operations, most American companies seek distributors where possible to use to market their products. So it’s not unusual to walk into the booth of a large company whose name is unfamiliar in the U.S. market and see signs like the one below marketing a U.S. brand.

Creativeworld distributors

But not everything stayed the same as Creativeworld hit its seven year itch…some interesting changes were also visible on the show floor as well this year.

Creativeworld 2017: What’s New

The most obvious change at Creativeworld 2017 is the biggest – in size, that is. In previous years, the show occupied only half of Hall 4.2. When visitors entered the floor from the lobby, they were met with the choice to visit Creativeworld to the left of the main aisle that entered the hall from the entrance, or to go right and visit the section of Paperworld that had products like school backpacks. This year, an expansion of Creativeworld’s square footage has it taking up all of Hall 4.2 (as well as all of Hall 4.1 as in previous years). The Paperworld section that was previously in the hall has been relocated to another exhibit hall in the Messe.

Hall 4-2 Creativeworld changes

Attendees really seem to love one of the other, more subtle, changes that I’ve been noticing gradually taking place the past few years at Creativeworld. More and more companies exhibiting at the show are doing large scale demonstrations that have artists working on the show floor showing off both products and different art forms that can be created with them.

For instance, in the Kuretake booth, an artist was demonstrating Kaleidolines work on a wall sized piece of art:

Kuretake Kaleidolines demo

Calligraphy artist Paul Antonio was also showing off his skills in the Kuretake booth, sending show attendees home with beautifully drawn versions of their name in gold ink:

Paul Attong Kuretake demo

In the Strathmore booth, an artist was doing an amazing job replicating a Van Gogh painting using (what else!) the Van Gogh line of oil paints.

Strathmore Van Gogh paints demo

Demonstrations were seen all over the show floor at Creativeworld 2017, at a wide variety of companies, and even included graffiti art. In the U.S. pavillion where square footage was limited in the modest sized booth, artists were at work demonstrating artistic techniques with products. Ken Oliver was in the Product Performers booth demonstrating his signature line of Color Burst ink powders.

Ken Oliver demo

And, increasingly, at Creativeworld, attendees have the opportunity to do more than just watch products in action. At the Creativeworld Forum (which was located this year in Hall 4.2), Creativeworld attendees have had the chance to attend a growing list of hands on workshops the past few years. Topics this year included Soapmaking (sponsored by Rayher), Lettering (sponsored by Tombow), mixed media (sponsored by Marabu), wrapping (taught by Ulla Büning), and many more!

Creativeworld education

Exhibitors are jumping on the hands on trend for attendees as well. In the Hero Arts booth in the U.S. pavilion, I was able to try out one of their beautiful new stamps to improve my layered stamping skills!

Hero Arts make and take

In the booth shared by Alexandra Renke, Pinkfresh Studio, and Waffle Flower, I saw something I don’t think I’ve ever seen at a Creativeworld show before…a giveaway underway! The trio were rewarded with a nice crowd in their booth for the event as well as healthy crowds for most of the show (or at least it seemed every time I passed by the area).

Booth Giveaway

Another striking change is the increasing relevance of a visit to Paperworld to many Creativeworld attendees, especially the papercrafting segment. With the planner segment taking over the papercrafting market, Paperworld vendors such as Moleskine who make journals are now of more than passing interest to papercrafts stores.

Moleskine journals

Art materials maker Caran D’ache was actually exhibiting on the Paperworld show floor, confident that with the crossover between the two shows their customers would find them.

Caran Dache

Once in their booth, Caran D’ache visitors could also get hands on with their various color mediums and try them out (although it seemed a shame to disturb that beautiful rainbow of color on the table).

Caran Dache

The advent of mixed media has papercrafters looking for supplies that they would never have thought about before. This is another reason to venture to the Paperworld halls – where these oversized paper sheets by Tassotti stopped me dead in my tracks with visions of their possibilities!

Tassotti Paperworld 2017

Another thing that was new this year was Creativeworld’s hosting of the German Skills Championships in Visual Merchandising. The event took place over several days on the show floor in Hall 4.2, as the six contestants took on a challenge to merchandise a store window to display an assigned item.

Source – Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH / Marc Jacquemin

The medals were awarded by a panel of judges in a ceremony at the Christmasworld show on Tuesday of show week, and the winner will represent Germany in the World Skills Championship in Abu Dhabi in October.

Creativeworld 2017

Source – Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH / Marc Jacquemin – Right to left: 2nd place: Melvin Suckow (Karstadt, Berlin), 1st place: Ronja Pfeiffer (Reischmann, Kempten), 3rd place: Annalina Väth (satis&fy AG)

As if all of that wasn’t enough new things for 2017…how about a whole new show? This year, in addition to the traditional Creativeworld, Paperworld and Christmasworld shows, Messe Frankfurt debuted a fourth show during the show weekend: Floradecora. This show is all about fresh floral and ornamental plants, bringing together flowers for every season and festive occasion under one roof for wholesale buyers.

Floradecora 2017

We’ll be creating an entire feature on Floradecora later in our show coverage, but in the meantime, here’s a peek at some of the tropical loveliness that was on display!

Floradecora 2017

Stay tuned to both Scrapbook Update and our sister site Craft Critique this week for additional Creativeworld 2017 show coverage!

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Creativeworld | Why Go International?

January is a busy month for trade shows in the crafts industry. The Craft & Hobby Association and TNNA shows open the month. Creativeworld in Frankfurt, Germany closes out the month.

Messe Frankfurt signsThis coming January, like this past January, I will once again be making the transatlantic trek to Germany to attend the Creativeworld show in Frankfurt as a speaker and member of the show’s official press corps. Why go to another continent for a trade show just two weeks after attending the Craft & Hobby Association show? As I learned last year during my first visit, there are actually several ways in which the international Creativeworld show complements and enhances what attendees have just learned and done at CHA. Continue Reading →

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What is a Trade Show?

Scrapbook Update has been receiving a campaign of emails and tweets encouraging us to write about and promote an upcoming “virtual trade show” event in the scrapbook industry. We will not be doing so, and I am here now as editor to explain why.

It is tempting, as society is taken over by technology, to think that everything can be replaced and even made better by technology. That is not always the case. To learn why that is not the case with a trade show, you have to first consider: What is a trade show?

A trade show is not a shopping mall.

A trade show is not a place for buyers to run through with list in hand, checking off items and getting in and out as fast as possible like a frantic last-minute holiday shopper with presents still to wrap and dinner to cook.

There are many different ways for crafts industry buyers to view and order products: reps, distributors, buying groups, vendor websites. A trade show (in any format) simply isn’t necessary just to facilitate actual commerce transactions like it was 20 years ago. The limited perception of trade-show-as-shopping-mall sets everyone involved up for failure, because it then colors the choices that the participants (both vendors and buyers) make on-site about how to spend their time and how to spend their resources. Ultimately, the tight focus on buying and selling – which all involve recognize can be completed other ways – leaves everyone afterwards feeling unfulfilled and wondering what the point of the event was.

So if the point of a trade show is not buying and selling, what is it?

A trade show is about people, about relationships, about sharing the knowledge that is inside all of the attendees’ heads, and about building on all of that together as a group.

The real value of a trade show is in the conversation struck up with a fellow attendee that leads to learning something unexpected that helps your business, or even leads to a relationship that creates a new business. The value of a trade show is in confidential one-on-one conversations (not ones that are broadcast over the internet and even recorded). The value of a trade show is in the booth you only notice because it has attracted a crowd, or the lunch line chat that sends you somewhere you’d never have made time to go. The value of a trade show is in sitting in a class and turning to the person next to you to see what they are doing when you miss something, or being able to get a helpful prompt from a teacher’s assistant. It’s being able to get a quick replacement for a piece of paper that you mess up using, or for a defective class kit item, so that it doesn’t derail your whole class experience.

I could, literally, go on and on about the value in an on-site trade show. It’s there for the taking…if you reach for it. If you ask the questions, look hard at the samples (and notice details), attend the seminars and demos, and notice the people around you and engage them, you create the value and get out of the show experience what you put into it. The value of a trade show is in…presence. It is spontaneity, interaction, and physically touching items. The value of a trade show is in the unexpected, the unplanned.

And despite my statements about them not being shopping malls, the internet hasn’t made trade shows completely redundant for purchasing craft products. Anyone who has ever shopped online knows that color display on a computer is very inaccurate. Seeing a product in person is the only real way to know its true color, and lots of other details like paper weight and texture don’t convey well online either. Just watching a demo of a tool is very different from having the demonstrator hand it you and say “try it!”. Getting touchy-feely with product definitely has its advantages.

Believe it or not, I learned this value of in-person events in an ironic place that you might least expect: the tech world. While it might seem that the technology industry, where people are quick to adopt and become heavy users of new technologies, would be first to abandon the concept of  “old school” in-person events, I found the exact opposite to be true. That industry downright treasures the handshake, understanding the value of sitting down over a cup of coffee to bat ideas around or share information, or of a group discussion in a seminar room.

That’s not to say that the tech industry is a trade show dinosaur. Instead, they’ve adapted their events to the new modern era. Their few “old school” style trade shows with aisles of booth displays aren’t put on for buyers as much as for marketing to press, to create word-of-mouth marketing, and to provide education to the industry’s top echelon of participants. In many instances the products on display are prototypes that aren’t even going to be on sale in the near future. (For a comparison in the crafts industry, reference what Craftwell did by exhibiting at several CHA shows before the release of the e-craft machine). The majority of the tech industry’s events are conference-style, focusing on seminars and speeches and roundtable discussions. The focus is on ideas and making connections, not on commerce.

One of my favorite tech events, Photoshop World, is a kind of hybrid of the old and new formats. Staged to educate professional photographers and designers about Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom products and help improve their photography skills, the event includes both a vendor floor and a heavy concentration on classroom sessions. However – unlike most such traditional events – the classroom sessions and the vendor floor do not take place at the same time. The classroom sessions take place in the morning and evening, and the vendor floor is open in the afternoon. This way, vendors can attend the sessions themselves, and do not have to compete with the sessions for the attention of the attendees. I’ve found it greatly enhances my event experience to not feel pulled in multiple directions – do I attend this session, or see more of the vendor floor?

Trade-show-as-shopping-mall was the 20th century way of doing business. We all need to start taking on the 21st century perspective on doing business at shows, an emphasis on people. The Craft & Hobby Association has begun to make that shift in its format and offerings this year with the introduction of the conference format, but ultimately, the change in philosophy has to take root in the psyche of the show attendees for it to be successful. We all have to decide what it is that we want out of the experience. Are we willing to settle for a shopping mall? Or do we want the chance to learn, to create opportunity, and work to take our businesses to the next level? Do we want the opportunity to really do business? Or do we want to sit on our couches and shop over the internet?

One last thing…if you think you aren’t interested in “doing business”, that you are content to stay quietly at home and do your shopping and watch a few seminars online, there is something that you need to remember. It is innovation and new ideas and change and cooperation – people – that keep an industry developing and healthy. If everyone stays home, none of those things happen, leading to stagnation and decline in the industry. If people do come together and build something, and you weren’t part of the building of it, you will soon be left behind.

Simply put: Getting a group of people from an industry together in one place to discuss and do business cannot be replaced by a series of video broadcasts. Face-to-face meetings are critical not only to the development of individual businesses, but to the health of the industry as a whole.

Thinking in this new way about trade shows requires stepping outside our comfort zones for most of us. It requires undoing years or even decades of lessons about what a trade show is and how a successful one works. We have to stop thinking about trade shows in terms of dollars of product bought and sold. We have to start judging them in terms of things like the cementing of customer relationships, advancing marketing goals, professional education, and building networks. We need to stop thinking in terms of the quantity of the attendees and focus on the quality of the attendees and the quality of our interactions with them.

Take responsibility for your business’s future and your industry’s future. Don’t do the usual. Challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone and make your trade show experience something that is productive for you and your business.


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