Attending Trade Shows

Meghla Bhardwaj, Global Sources

The previous chapter covered sourcing channels, one of which was trade shows. This chapter looks at working out which show to visit, and what you should prepare beforehand.

Work Out Which Shows To Visit

First, decide which product categories you are most interested in sourcing, and then see which shows cover these categories. Most Asian sourcing trade shows are held every April and October, on the same dates in both months.

Since both Hong Kong and Guangzhou have trade shows for many of the product categories, and the two cities are only 70 miles apart, it comes down to convenience, time, cost, and personal preference which shows you should attend. Here are some options to consider.

Attend Hong Kong Shows

There are two sets of shows in Hong Kong, Global Sources shows (who also host a conference for global Amazon and online sellers, co-located with the Hong Kong trade shows) and HKTDC shows. Here are the most common reasons why some buyers prefer to visit only the Hong Kong shows:

  • Convenience. Traveling to Hong Kong is more convenient and less hassle than going to mainland China, where most nationalities need a visa to enter. That’s not the case for Hong Kong.
  • More export experience. Generally, suppliers at the Hong Kong shows are more export focused. There are plenty of export-focussed suppliers at the Guangzhou shows, too, but most exhibitors are smaller suppliers and trading companies.
  • Higher quality products. While the Guangzhou shows are bigger, the Hong Kong shows focus more on higher quality and more innovative (and potentially more profitable) products.
  • English-speaking. Most people in Hong Kong speak English, including most taxi drivers, so getting around is easier. Many more signboards, restaurant menu cards, and other types of information are in written in English than in Guangzhou. All suppliers at Hong Kong shows have English speaking sales staff at their booths. This isn’t always the case at the Canton Fair (Guangzhou), especially with the smaller exhibitors. That said, some smaller suppliers hire students with some English skills, but then they lack the product knowledge.

Attend Hong Kong & Guangzhou Shows

Some buyers looking for even more supplier options like to visit shows in both locations. The shows are scheduled so that buyers can do just that.

For example, HKTDC Electronics Fair (April 13 to 16) overlaps with Global Sources Electronics phase 1 (April 11 to 14) and also with Canton Fair phase 1 (featuring electronics), which starts a day later on April 15.

There are many options for traveling from Hong Kong airport and the city to Guangzhou including trains, buses, and limousines.

Attend Only Guangzhou Shows

Canton Fair is larger than the Hong Kong shows so some buyers prefer to only attend this show. There are also several wholesale markets in Guangzhou that buyers looking to buy small quantities find appealing. Increasingly, Canton Fair is attracting more buyers from emerging markets and developing countries.

Prepare For A Trade Show

Regardless of which shows you attend, you should make these plans before you board the plane:

  • List products you are interested in. Start listing the kinds of products you want to source. This will help you focus and save time when you’re at the show.
  • List product features and your requirements. If you already source certain kinds of products or know what you want to source, make a list of specifications, product functions and features, quality standards, certifications, and other important information (refer to the checklist below). This is especially the case if you are looking to buy OEM products. Don’t worry about being “too detailed.” Manufacturers will not necessarily know what you want and, most likely, they will not provide anything that wasn’t specified.
  • Get price estimates. For products you are interested in, get reference prices from online suppliers beforehand. This will help you quickly determine if prices quoted by exhibitors at the show are suitable for you.
  • Shortlist exhibitors online before the show. Search for exhibitors online and email them for information as per the above list. Their responses will help you shortlist exhibitors that meet your requirements and keep you from wasting time talking to suppliers who don’t.
  • Get a map of the show floor. These shows are massive and they can be distracting or even intimidating. It pays to get some familiarity with the layout in advance, especially the location of the halls where your products of interest are exhibited.

Expert Tip

Use the map to plan your walking route, so that you can get you straight to work when you reach the venue.
  • Print business cards. Business cards are a critical means of introducing yourself in China. You should have 150 to 200 cards with you at the beginning of the show.

Expert Tip

To avoid getting flooded with emails from suppliers that you are not interested in working with, don’t put your personal or primary business email address on your cards.
  • Prepare your wardrobe. The climate in Hong Kong and Guangzhou is warm and humid, however, the conference centers are air-conditioned and they can be much colder than outdoors. Most business people dress pretty casually while doing business in China. That’s fortunate because suits and dress shoes become uncomfortable when you spend many hours walking around. So, pack comfortable, business-casual clothes and footwear.

Here’s a checklist of other items you should bring:

  • Products, specifications, and prices,
  • Writing pad,
  • Tablet or smartphone for taking notes,
  • Pens,
  • Stapler,
  • Power bank,
  • Company brochure,
  • Trolley or wheeled suitcase to carry brochures.


  • Work out which shows are best for you to visit. There are pros and cons to attending shows in both Hong Kong and Guangzhou, or one city only.
  • Prepare before attending the show(s). In particular, prepare lists of product specifications, reference prices, and exhibitors you want to meet.

    Further Reading

  1. How Importers Find The Right Suppliers At Trade Shows In China
  2. Sourcing Expert Shows Best Way To Walk A Trade Show ????
  3. Global Sources Summit Recap: Key Takeaways From 20+ Amazon Experts



Global Sources helps global importers, including Amazon & online sellers, find and meet reliable suppliers in China and the rest of Asia. The company organizes sourcing trade shows in Hong Kong every April and October with eight events annually, including the world’s largest electronics and mobile electronics shows.

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