The first edition of The Profitable Trade Show by Michael Hough ...
is now sold out. But we are working on the next edition which we hope to publish in late 2004. Meanwhile, this web site provides practical, "how-to" information for all who produce face to face events such as exhibitions, trade shows and conferences.

Profit Tips
White Papers
Large Show Roundtable

Also Available

White Papers Index

W1 - All is Not Well

W2 - Sample of a Memo to Content Partners

W3 - Ten Commandments for Speakers

W4 - 100 Tips in 75 Minutes

W5 - All About E-Newsletters

W6 - The Other Two Legs

W7 - Five Mistakes Associations Make

W8 - 15 Attendance Promotion Tips

W9 - Ten Questions to Ask When Considering a Launch

W10 - 15 Cost-Saving Tips

W11 - 15 E-Marketing Tips

W12 - Strategic Review of a Show

W13 - Launching a New Event

W14 - Avoiding Attrition Penalties

W15 - The Case Against Audits

W16 - Co-location for Fun and Profit

W17 - Improving the Association Show

W18 - International Attendance Promotion

W19 - Helping International Visitors Obtain Visas

W20 - Fixing the Machine

Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum

Large Show Roundtable


Helping International Visitors Obtain Visas

by Michael Hough

These notes are from a special briefing December 12, 2002 at the IAEM Annual Meeting, given by C. Edward Dickens, Consular Affairs Bureau, U.S. Department of State.

  1. Visas are issued to individuals and not to groups (such as a buying team from a particular country). Individuals should apply as soon as the decision is made to attend the show.

  2. Issuance of a visa depends primarily on whether the consular officer in the country believes the applicant will return to his home country following his visit to the U.S.

  3. Since 9/11, all applicants must be run through a database of bad guys, which has delayed the process. This is particularly true for certain "countries of interest" (list is classified but can be surmised).

  4. Lately the situation has improved and in most instances the visa is being acted on within 30 days or less. But checks may take longer, depending upon country and application information.

Based on the discussions at the session, here are my recommendations on how to make it as easy as possible for your international visitors to obtain visas:

  1. Start your international promotion much earlier - say 9 months out. Post on your web site a checklist re how your international prospects should go about applying for a visa (IAEM is working up standard wording for this).

  2. If you have a history with the individual, offer to send a letter of invitation (as needed). Send this letter directly to the individual (not the consular officer) which the individual will attach to his visa application. The letter should:

    • Be on your show's actual letterhead (and not simply an email). If you send it electronically, make the letter an attachment.

    • Include a short statement establishing the importance of your show to U.S. exports (such as Widget Expo is the largest widget manufacturing show held in North America).

    • Be as specific as possible about the individual's bona fides, such as the number of years he has attended your show, whether he is a speaker, committee member, etc. Also, if possible, mention why his attendance will help U.S. exports (such as he is chief of widget purchasing for his firm).

    • Emphasize your show is a date certain event and thus it is important to expedite the issuance of the visa.

    • Not make any recommendations nor guarantees about the individual.

  3. If you do not have a history with the individual, be careful about vouching for him. Suggest you have him prove to you his sincere/legitimate interest in your show. If this convinces you, then send the letter of invitation. But do not go beyond what you know to be true about the individual.


Michael Hough is an industry consultant and author of The Profitable Trade Show ( He also co produces the Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum (

Copyright 2003 MRH Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.