So… you’re about to attend Canton Fair. Maybe you’re a newb and it’s your first time or, maybe you’ve been a few times and would call yourself a veteran. After participating in and helping entrepreneurs in attending the fair a few times I’ve learned one valuable lesson: You must be prepared.
In the spirit of giving back I’ve put together a list of things I wish someone would have told me before I showed up at the Canton Fair all bright eyed and ready to “find” “opportunities”.
Before the Canton Fair:
1. Get a Chinese Visa
Mainland China requires a visa from almost every country in order to enter (Hong Kong is different see point 4). Here is a link to a good resource with information about the Visa process. For American’s I recommend using VisaHQ.
2. Do you have your Canton Fair badge?
If not find out where to get one besides the convention center. (Tip: Many hotels around Guangzhou will provide passes and you won’t have to wait in line.) It will save you a whole bunch of time. You keep the badge forever and reuse it.
3. Download WeChat asap.
This is THE way to communicate in China. All the suppliers you meet will want to use Wechat to communicate.
4. Get to know someone else that is going.
Not sure if you know anyone there, but if you don’t I would recommend posting on FB forums or Reddit to get some contacts. So much easier to navigate the city/country with help. We have a private community of over 200+ entrepreneurs doing business/manufacturing products via China.
5. Fly into Hong Kong.
It’s a shorter flight with fewer changes and the flight is generally less expensive. Many countries do not need a Visa to fly into Hong Kong. Here is a list of countries and visa requirements for Hong Kong.
6. Have a game plan.
Know what you are there for. Know the layout of the convention center. My biggest mistake the first time was not having a game plan. The Guangzhou Exhibition Center is the largest in the world and it’s very easy to get distracted by all types of different products. My first trip I ended up back home with a bag full of brochures from different companies and a lack of focus because I saw “too many great ideas”.
7. Know your transportation options:
- Get a copy of the Guangzhou subway system on your phone. Here’s a great app.
- Use Uber. I usually ask someone off the street to talk to the driver to tell him where I am.
8. The food is terrible at the convention center.
I ended up eating at McDonalds and Papa Johns the whole time. Take some Cliff bars or other snacks. Take some Cliff bars or other snacks.
It’s also at least double the price of an average meal.
While at the Canton Fair:
9. Take a small notebook.
- Jot notes.
- Staple a business card from the seller to your note pages.
10. Take a selfie with suppliers you like.
Email the selfie in your first correspondence so they remember you. (And you remember them.)
11. Take business cards.
You will constantly be asked for one. You will get spammed heavily after the show, put a dummy/ghost email address on the business cards so you don’t get all the spam in your inbox. Most sellers obviously don’t follow “unsubscribe” requests.
12. Go to the meetups and events around the fair.
- There are quite a few meetups in Guangzhou and Hong Kong during this time. It’s fantastic networking opps and you can get a lot of great ideas and advice. We’re hosting an event. Sponsoring Chris Davey’s meetup of the Amazon FBA4U WeChat group. Hosted a panel at the Global Sources Smart China Sourcing Summit.
So, don’t be like me when I first went. Prepare yourself with the above and you should have a great first Canton Fair and many more to come (hopefully).
If you have any more questions after checking out these 12 suggestions put a comment below and I’ll respond to EVERY question.