II: Business Do’s & Don’ts at Trade Shows & Exhibitions in the UAE

27 Oct, 2023 - UAE Life & Economy

Participating in trade shows and exhibitions in the UAE requires attention to cultural norms and business etiquette. Establishing personal relationships forms the cornerstone of any business partnership, and this is particularly emphasised in the UAE and Arab world.

Here are some tips on what to do and what not to do during trade shows and exhibitions in the UAE:

  • First Impressions – Be Yourself

Adopting Arabic phrases is a good way to make a great first impression in the UAE. The traditional greeting is ‘As-salam alaikum’ (peace be upon you), to which the response is ‘Wa alaikum as-salam’ (and upon you be peace). Handshakes are the customary way of greeting; however, it’s important to use your right hand exclusively. It is important to be yourself and avoid employing any type of aggressive tactics when doing business (i.e. to rush the conclusion of a deal, as these will not be well-received).

  • Open-Mindedness and Adaptability

Trade shows and exhibitions inherently entail a dynamic environment. When participating in a trade show in the UAE, it is crucial to maintain an open and receptive attitude towards suggestions and recommendations for proposed ideas and potential local business partners’ preferred approaches. Furthermore, it’s essential to acknowledge that aspects such as timing and location may evolve, necessitating potential adjustments to scheduled meetings.

  • Standing Out From the Crowd

At a bustling conference at any of the exhibition centres in the UAE, it’s imperative to capture a potential local client’s interest almost instantly. For UK companies who are exhibiting, you may consider incorporating large eye-catching props to instantly attract attention to your booth or employing captivating background graphics throughout your display. Another option is to design your booth with a welcoming lounge area to entice visitors to your space. While they relax in your booth for instance, this can be an opportunity to engage them in discussions about your offerings and distribute marketing materials.

  • Prioritise Active Listening and Inquiring

During trade shows and exhibitions in the UAE, overwhelming customers with an excessive amount of information can be off-putting and may cause them to abruptly leave your booth or presence. Instead of bombarding potential clients with raw data, it’s advisable for UK SMESs and exporters to adopt the 80/20 rule. For instance, it’s important to practice active listening and ask more questions (80% of the interaction and limit your talking to just 20%). This approach will enable you to grasp the local company’s specific needs better, which enables you to offer tailored solutions that align with their requirements.



  • Disparage Your Competitors

The business culture and engagement in the UAE is based on respect and trust. Rather than attempting to demonstrate your product/ service superiority by criticising others, it is better to concentrate on showcasing your own strengths and offerings. Speaking negatively about your competitors is unappealing and can be perceived as a sign of insecurity to potential local partners in the region.

  • Engage in a Conversation Without Prior Research

Trade shows in the UAE by nature attract substantial crowds, and not every individual approaching your booth seeking information is necessarily a key decision maker. Consequently, it’s essential for UK SMEs & exporters to establish a method for lead qualification before investing significant amount of time and resources in presenting your products or services. it is advised to pose strategic questions that aid in identifying / qualify the visitor’s role and interests, enabling you to determine the appropriate level of engagement required.

  • Employ Technical Language or Use Jargon

While you may be well-versed in the terminology of your industry, it’s unwise to presume that local companies in the UAE and visitors to your booth for instance share the same level of knowledge. Rather than employing complex jargon or acronyms, it is better to simplify your communication to ensure everyone can comprehend and are on the same page.


For UK SMEs and exporters seeking to venture into new markets and seize fresh opportunities, adhering to these guidelines can help you leave a favourable impact and establish prosperous business connections at trade shows and exhibitions in the UAE. Remember that respecting the local culture and customs is also of utmost importance for a successful business experience in the country.