How to communicate on international exhibitions #1: Choosing the right language

Feb 20, 2017

It may be once in 5 years, annually, or twice a month, but no matter how often you promote your company and products on international events, such as trade fairs or industry exhibitions, presenting internationally and transferring your message from the company's native language to the languages of potential target markets is not an easy task to accomplish. Unless, of course, you are prepared.

As translation and localization of your content are demanding both on time and resources, it's prudent to evaluate localization priorities and the languages to focus on. Here are few things to keep in mind in this area:

1. Have all your content prepared and maintained in English – even if it's not your native language.

English is the language business of present times, there is hardly any dispute about that. Because of the popularity and extensive use of English in basically all areas of modern communication, the best translation rates you can usually get on the market are for language combinations involving English. Eventually, when the need arises and you need to translate from your not-so-common native language to not-so-common languages of your target markets, you won't pay a fortune for a translation of an "exotic language pair", but a reasonable price of the english-external language pair.

2. English is international, but you want to be local.

No, it isn't contrary to the first point and, of course, this doesn't mean you absolutely must communicate in English, especially not if you've already done your homework regarding the first point.

It's merely not safe to presume everyone of your potential clients understands English or the even more dangerous idea: that since they do understand, localization of your message to the languages of your target markets is just a waste of resources. Even if your company is relatively small and headquartered in a non-English speaking country, once you decide to step onto the international scene and wish to appeal to other non-English speakers, going the extra mile will pay off. Think of it this way: When you're in a foreign environment, it feels good to stumble upon somebody who speaks your language in the sea of the currentlingua franca, doesn't it?

3. Integrate localization into your marketing strategy.

As translation and localization are closely tied to the company content and overall message, these undertakings typically are handled by the company's marketing department (and/or the documentation department). After all, analyzing the opportunities and preparing for expansion into new markets is what marketers do. Your very presence at international exhibitions or trade events is a direct result of the company's decision to focus on certain markets and clientele. The marketing department should implement localization into all international development strategies and determine the level of localization and its priorities for key international markets. As a consequence, the company message and content should be customized and localized on all communication levels, from native sales reps through localized websites and sales material, even down to paid online advertising.

To learn more about the different forms of multilingual communication and the channels to employ for your next exhibition presence, read our following blog.