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Going to a Trade Fair? Learn These 45 Business English Terms to Make It a Valuable Experience

Trade fairs are wonderful opportunities for businesspeople like you.

You’ll make new connections, attract customers and check out the competition.

That’s because trade fairs are great events for talking to people about your business, and about letting them know who you are.

They’re about promoting your company and your professional skills.

In order to be effective in your communication at a trade fair, it’s essential to get some English vocabulary right.

We’ve got all of this important vocabulary ready for you here. Some are words that are specific to trade fairs, while others are also used in fields like marketing and international trade.

To make it really easy for you to learn these words, or to refresh your memory if you already know them, we divided them into two categories: (1) words mainly used while preparing for a trade fair and (2) words that are useful when you’re at the trade fair.

First, make sure you understand the meaning of each word or phrase. Then have a look at the example and tip on how to use the word.

At the end, do the exercise to check your understanding of the words and phrases. There’s also a key to the exercise so you can evaluate yourself.

45 Business English Terms You Need to Know for Any Trade Fair

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Before the Trade Fair

1. Commercial Invoice

Meaning: A document indicating the goods a customer buys from a supplier and their price.

Example: There was a mistake in the commercial invoice as the VAT was not included.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Make sure all the items are included on your invoices and that the prices are listed correctly. The commercial invoice is used to determine the value of imported goods so that duties and taxes can be calculated. It is important for it to be accurate.

2. Certificate of Inspection

Meaning: A document meant to prove that the products were in good condition before being sent.

Example: We didn’t receive a certificate of inspection, so we had to contact the consignor.

How to use this term at a trade fair: If you’re the consignee (the person who is buying), make sure every item is in place and check the certificate of inspection.

3. Consignee

Meaning: The company or person that is going to receive the goods being sent.

Example: We couldn’t contact the consignee to warn them about a delay in shipment.

How to use this term at a trade fair: If you’re a consignee, then you’re considered to be the owner of the goods being shipped for paying duties and taxes. You must take these costs into account as an exhibitor at an international trade fair.

4. Consignment

Meaning: Goods being sent from a company or person to another company or person.

Example: The carrier forgot to give a receipt for the consignment, so we were worried that the goods wouldn’t arrive.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Make sure the goods being consigned are in good condition so that they can be exhibited at the trade fair.

5. Consignor

Meaning: The company responsible for sending the goods.

Example: The consignor didn’t confirm that the products were sent, so we had to contact them.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Try to maintain good communication with the consignor to ensure that you know exactly where your goods are at all times. If the consignor is late and you don’t get the products to be exhibited on time, you may have to pay a penalty for going beyond the expected date.

6. Bill of Lading (B/L)

Meaning: A document that the company transporting the goods gives to the company sending the goods to show that the former is responsible for the goods during transportation.

Example: The bill of lading was not presented at the destination, so we had to contact the shipper.

How to use this term at a trade fair: You’re probably going to use this term before the trade fair when receiving the goods to be exhibited. The bill of lading is an important document, so if you’re the consignee or a representative, you must sign this document when you receive the goods.

7. Freight

Meaning: The amount of money paid for transporting goods.

Example: They thought that the freight was already paid by the consignor.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Make sure you know who has to pay for the freight, the consignor or the consignee.

8. Inventory

Meaning: A list of items such as goods or equipment available at a trade fair.

Example: They had a large inventory of products to be exhibited before the beginning of the trade fair.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Have an inventory system in place for any items brought with you and sold during a trade fair.

At the Trade Fair

9. Booth

Meaning: A structure used for displaying goods at a trade fair. In Europe the word stand is used.

Example: Our booth was at the very entrance of the trade fair, which was very advantageous.

How to use this term at a trade fair: If you go to a trade fair as an exhibitor, you’ll need to decide on the position of your booth and some design features.

10. To Circulate

Meaning: To move through the different areas of a trade fair.

Example: Our colleagues were circulating all the time to find out the latest news about all the companies present at the trade fair.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Make sure you circulate around the different booths at the trade fair to make sure you stay updated with the events organized.

11. Aisle

Meaning: The space between booths where people walk around.

Example: The aisles at the trade fair we attended were really narrow, so it got very crowded.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Whether you’re attending a trade fair as an exhibitor or as a visitor, get a map of the location so you can easily find your way around the different aisles.

12. Aisle Signs

Meaning: Signs (numbers or letters) that are used to guide people as they walk in the aisles of trade fairs.

Example: The aisle signs helped us get to our booth.

How to use this term at a trade fair: If you get lost at a trade fair, follow the aisle signs to find your intended location. If you’re a show manager, make sure all the aisles have clearly displayed aisle signs.

13. Island Exhibit

Meaning: A booth that has access to aisles on all sides.

Example: Our main competitor at the trade fair had an island exhibit, but the location wasn’t as good as ours.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Invest in an island exhibit at a trade fair as it gives you more exposure. Island exhibits can be more expensive, so you’ll need to decide whether they’re cost effective (worth the cost) for your business.

14. Build and Burn

Meaning: A booth that’s meant to be destroyed after the trade fair as it’s of no further use.

Example: We had a build and burn, but our competitors rented a booth.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Sometimes it’s better to use a build and burn if you’re not planning on attending any other trade fairs soon.

15. Freebie

Meaning: Products given for free at trade fairs.

Example: Some customers are only looking for freebies and aren’t really interested in your products.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Offering freebies can win you some customers, but make sure you plan your marketing strategy carefully so you don’t lose money.

16. Stand

Meaning: The European word for booth.

Example: There were some really nice stands at the trade fair and the whole event was very well organized.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Your stand is the image you’re trying to project about your company, so make sure you involve the right people in all the decisions concerning location, size and design.

17. Corner Booth

Meaning: A booth placed in a corner so that two of its sides have direct access to the aisles.

Example: We had a corner booth, but the location wasn’t very helpful as we were at the far end of the main aisle.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Decide whether a corner booth would be ideal for your company. Take into account that corner booths have aisle access on two sides, but they may be further away from the central area of a fair.

18. Assembly

Meaning: The process of setting up a booth.

Example: We needed a team of four for the assembly of our booth.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Make sure the assembly is well planned so that you get everything in place for the first visitors at the trade fair.

19. Teardown

Meaning: The process of taking down a booth.

Example: We had no help with the teardown, so we decided to delay it for a few hours until move-out (see below).

How to use this term at a trade fair: The teardown of a booth may be just as complex from a technical point of view as the assembly, so make sure you have a team to help you.

20. Double-decker

Meaning: A booth that has two levels so that people can use stairs to get to the second level.

Example: Our double-decker was a great attraction at the trade fair and we gained a lot of new customers.

How to use this term at a trade fair: A double-decker can be a good investment if you need extra room to exhibit your products. It can make best use of the space available, but you need to check the cost.

21. Floor Plan

Meaning: A map of the trade fair where one can see the size and location of all the booths.

Example: The floor plan looked simple, but we got lost at the location.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Make sure you have a floor plan on you, especially on the first day of a large trade fair, so that you can find your way around.

22. End Cap

Meaning: A booth that has three sides with direct access to aisles.

Example: We thought an end cap would be a good idea, but we were wrong as hardly any visitors reached our booth.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Choose your location wisely after consulting the floor plan. End caps are cheaper, but if they’re too far from the central area, you may not have enough people visiting.

23. Linear Display

Meaning: A booth that takes up a long segment of an aisle.

Example: We decided a linear display would be a good idea and we were right! We got maximum visibility for a good price.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Linear displays have the advantage of high exposure to potential visitors. They may be a good idea if you have a large amount of exhibits.

24. Podium

Meaning: A platform on which people can stand to be seen by an audience.

Example: There was someone making announcements on the podium in the central area of the fair so everybody gathered there to listen.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Having a booth near a podium can be a good idea as you have great visibility whenever there’s something happening on the podium.

25. Portable Exhibit

Meaning: A booth that can be reused at other trade fairs as it can be dismantled and transported.

Example: We went for a portable exhibit because we were attending several trade fairs in a short period of time.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Before choosing a portable display, consider what your needs are. Are you going to be reusing it soon? Do you have a team to help with assembly and teardown? If your answer is yes, then a portable display may be the best solution for you.

26. Exhibit Directory

Meaning: A printed material specifying all the exhibitors and their locations.

Example: The exhibit directory had to be reprinted as there were several omissions.

How to use this term at a trade fair: As a visitor, you may want to consult the exhibit directory to organize your visit. As an exhibitor, you may also want to consult the exhibit directory to see where your competitors are located and to make sure you’re listed.

27. Exhibit Manager

Meaning: Representative of the company in charge of a company’s participation at a trade fair.

Example: Our exhibit manager was really busy staying in touch with the marketing department at our head office, so we had to cover networking and customer care.

How to use this term at a trade fair: As an exhibit manager you’re responsible for coordinating the work of all the members of your team, as well as for making sure the company benefits from the fair as much as possible.

28. Exposition Rules

Meaning: Set of regulations or principles governing conduct or procedure at a particular trade fair.

Example: The exposition rules stated clearly that all exhibitors had to wear a badge at all times.

How to use this term at a trade fair: For the smooth running of the event, make sure you read the exposition rules before the trade fair begins.

29. Exhibitor Pack

Meaning: A set of regulations and documents to be used at a trade fair.

Example: On day one every exhibit manager got an exhibitor pack so that the participants were informed of the regulations and procedures.

How to use this term at a trade fair: The exhibitor pack contains valuable practical information so make sure you get one at the beginning of the trade fair.

30. Move-in

Meaning: The specified time (date, hour) when booths and exhibits can be set up.

Example: The move-in was earlier than initially announced so we had to make sure our teams could get there in time.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Find out about the move-in as early as you can so that you don’t miss the beginning of the trade fair.

31. Move-out

Meaning: The specified time (date, hour) when booths and exhibits must be disassembled.

Example: Everybody was disassembling their booths for move-out, but we were late.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Make sure the team responsible for teardown is informed about the move-out so you don’t end up paying a penalty charge.

32. Rental Booth

Meaning: A booth that can be rented at a trade fair.

Example: We got a rental booth because we couldn’t arrange shipment for our own booth.

How to use this term at a trade fair: A rental booth may be a good solution if you can’t use your own booths, but it may be harder on your budget.

33. Show Manager

Meaning: The person in charge of the organization of a trade fair.

Example: We wanted to contact the show manager about a mistake in the exhibit directory, but we couldn’t find him.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Find out who the show manager is well in advance of the trade fair so you can prevent any miscommunication.

34. Space Rate

Meaning: The price charged for an area at a trade fair.

Example: The space rates at this trade fair were incredibly high for such a small city.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Get a quote of the space rates for different types of booths before deciding on the best location and size for your own booth.

35. Target Date

Meaning: The date by which the goods need to arrive at a trade fair.

Example: Although the target date was too soon, we managed to arrange for all shipments to arrive on time.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Before going to a trade fair as an exhibitor, find out what the target date is. If your shipment is received before or after this date, you may have to pay a penalty charge.

36. Badge

Meaning: A small piece of plastic showing the name of a person or their membership of an organization.

Example: Our badges were bright and colorful so everybody knew who we were.

How to use this term at a trade fair: If you can design your own badges, use this as a marketing advantage to enhance your visibility. Even if you can’t, make sure everybody in your team wears their badge.

37. Leaflets

Meaning: Printed material containing information or advertising and usually distributed for free.

Example: Our competitors’ leaflets were very bright, but less professionally designed.

How to use this term at a trade fair: As an exhibitor, think about the best design for your leaflets and print them in advance of the trade fair, so that you have them ready. Also, try to get hold of many competitors’ leaflets to know where you’re standing (how you compare) as a business.

38. Contacts

Meaning: People who can give you useful information that can help you in your business.

Example: We managed to put together an impressive list of contacts by the end of the trade fair.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Trade fairs are great opportunities to find new customers and contacts, so use every opportunity you can get to talk to people and to listen to them.

39. Networking

Meaning: Meeting potential business partners or customers.

Example: Networking is not my favorite task, but everybody was so friendly at the trade fair that I was happy to do it.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Trade fairs offer some of the best chances to network with people in your field and with potential customers. As it can sometimes be difficult to network, have a look at some ideas to inspire you.

40. Trade Show Marketing

Meaning: Promoting products and services at a trade fair.

Example: Their location was not ideal, but they made up for it in trade show marketing.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Use show marketing opportunities by organizing demonstrations to show how your products work, holding contests and other promotions to get the visitors’ attention.

41. Fair Pass

Meaning: An official document or ticket showing that you have the right to attend a trade fair.

Example: I had a fair pass for only one day so I had to be selective about which companies I was most interested in.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Check out the rates for fair passes in advance as you may get discounts if you get them early.

42. Price List

Meaning: A statement or list of the prices of products.

Example: I couldn’t remember all the prices of our products, so I kept the price list handy.

How to use this term at a trade fair: The price list is an important document if you’re planning to sell products at the trade fair.

43. Catalog

Meaning: A booklet with a list of all the products or services that you can buy from a place.

Example: Our catalogs didn’t get there in time for the beginning of the trade fair, but luckily we had some leaflets to give out.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Catalogs should be printed in time so that they’re ready for shipment.

44. Business Card

Meaning: A printed card giving contact information for an individual employed by a company.

Example: When my business cards ran out, I had to use my colleague’s cards. Luckily, the contact information was the same.

How to use this term at a trade fair: You should have enough business cards to give out at trade fairs. They should include your name, email address, phone number, website and company name. The more innovative the design, the faster you’ll draw attention to your business. You can use them at networking events to make it easier to share contact information with business partners and customers.

45. Brochure

Meaning: A booklet with detailed information about a product or service.

Example: Our brochures were appreciated by customers and business partners alike.

How to use this term at a trade fair: Brochures are a good way to present printed information about your company’s products and activities. They’re a valuable marketing tool.

A Quick Trade Fair Vocabulary Exercise

Now have a look at the following sentences and for each gap choose one of the three options provided in the brackets.

1. Our booth was a/an _______ so we used another one at the following trade fair. (A. build and burn; B. double-decker; C. end cap)

2. The _______ didn’t send the freight on time, so we missed the first day of the trade fair. (A. consignee; B. consignor; C. consignment)

3. There was a mistake in the _______ as our booth was in fact two aisles to the left of the podium. (A. portable exhibit; B. target date; C. floor plan)

4. We went for a/an _______ because we wanted exposure on all four sides of our booth. (A. island exhibit; B. end cap; C. linear display)

5. Our ______ had an emergency on the last day of the trade fair, so he had to take over his task of supervising everything related to our booth. (A. show manager; B. exhibit manager; C. consignor)

6. Unless you get a _______ , you can’t attend the trade fair. (A. fair pass; B. catalog; C. brochure)

7. They didn’t wear a _______ , so we didn’t know they were actually our competitors. (A. brochure; B. business card; C. badge)

Answer Key:

1. A
2. B
3. C
4. A
5. B
6. A
7. C

How did you do?

Keep practicing until you learn all this valuable vocabulary—if you’re going to a trade fair, you’re going to need it!

Trade fairs aren’t just great opportunities to promote your business. Sure, at the beginning of such an event, you may feel worried about all the networking you’ll have to do in English.

However, by the end of the experience you’ll gain a lot of confidence in yourself and your English skills. And with good reason!

Your English will actually be much better after a trade fair because of all the speaking opportunities you’ll get.

So, have fun!

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