First experiences at fairs can vary for different people, some find them useful and informative whilst others find them daunting and exhausting. Fairs in China will cater for all individuals; there are many specialist fairs, for example exclusively for machinery, lighting, furniture or jewelry. On the other hand there are a few major fairs, like the Canton Fair. Here you will find all sorts of products from many different manufacturers, the assortment is staggering.
Before attending any fair, do check in advance if there is a possibility of completing an online application form. This will save you having to wait in line to register at the fair site. However you will still have to receive the badge, so if you do come on the day of the opening, make sure that you come either slightly before or a few hours after the fair opens. This way you can avoid a long wait to receive the badge.
In general the exhibitions are very well organized and they do look after the interests of international buyers. Transportation is widely available in the form of busses, taxis and metro. The staff are always happy to help and there is very good security at the fair itself. You will see a lot of people rushing around, but due to the size of the exhibition halls, you can always find a quiet place to sit down and take a rest.
Once you are inside the fair, be prepared to give away a good number of business cards, it is always handy to have a few hundred available if you are just looking around for new products. Many people will approach you asking you for business cards hence make sure to only give them out to people you want to receive information from.
Most of the major fairs in China have a significant number of exhibitors. The Canton Fair for example has around 25,000 exhibitors, so if you plan your trip in advance, you may get more out of your visit. At the fair, floor maps and supplier lists are widely available at the information points. As copyright and patent laws are sometimes bypassed, you will see a number of suppliers exhibiting very similar goods. This can be in your advantage as you may gather different price lists and then compare and bargain to achieve the best possible deal.
There will be many stands that will grab your attention, some with revolutionary new products, and others with very attractive displays. If you are interested then definitely step inside and look around and talk with the staff (most will speak fairly decent English).
Overall, it is important to enjoy the fairs and to see them as an opportunity for new business. For people who do not regularly travel to China, attending a fair can be one of the few chances to meet suppliers face to face. At the end of the day it can be a lot of fun to meet and talk to new people and find good quality suppliers who will help expand your business.