If you want to feel like you’ve travelled the world in three days without actually buying an airplane ticket, then I’ve got news for you. Try hitting up the world’s leading trade show and your sinuses will tingle from all the impressions. A ITB Berlin visit has it all in one place.
Where else would you be served Ethiopian coffee in a little ceremony and moments later taste high class Belgian chocolate pralines, walk by Egyptian statues and then stand in a green hall by a little waterfall?
It’s been a crazy week for me but I doubt it’s only because it was my very first ITB Berlin. It must be overwhelming every time. It’s huge, it’s confusing and it’s overwhelming. But at the same time so much fun! And before you are buying your ticket for next year, here are some tips I wish I had taken more seriously (plus a video down below).
Reserve the Date Far in Advance
I didn’t know I would be going to the ITB. In fact, I applied for my blogger badge only the week before. Such flexibility is of course good but bad in that the deadlines for business speed dating and other events were already long passed. So I had to hurry up and write to about 100 exhibitors in one day. Definitely not recommended.
Don’t Waste Time
To spare you the hassle, mark the ITB dates for the coming years in your calendar as well as those for the registration and different signups. Since they fill up pretty easily, it’s good to apply as soon as possible.
Know the Location
The ITB is located in the West of Berlin and can be reached from the S Bahn stops “Messe Süd” and “Messe Nord”; or you could come here straight from the main bus station “ZOB”, which is opposite the northern entrance. The fair grounds are seriously gigantic and you will walk a lot. There are even buses operating on the grounds!
Check the Places of Interests
There are 26 halls and three floors in total. Before you book your appointments, make sure you know the general location to avoid running back and forth. Book appointments at stands close to one another during the same time slots and slowly make your way through the fair if possible.
Apply for a Ticket
Since you probably want to visit the ITB, why not sign up for your ticket straightaway? If you are from press or a blogger like me, the entrance is free. So get your accreditation by submitting your details and then you can enter the online ITB networking platform, called virtual marketplace.
The Virtual Marketplace
The best way to be found and find those you want to contact is by signing up for the virtual marketplace. Here you can fill out your profile that can be seen by traders, press and exhibitors and which can be accessed easily via QR scan as well (in case you forgot your business cards).
Get in Touch
Make a list of all the stands and exhibitors you are keen on seeing and then sent out mails through the virtual marketplace. Be prepared to send out a lot but know your priorities. It is possible to still talk to traders without an appointment but might involve a lot of waiting and walking back and forth. Better let them know in advance you want to have a chat.
Know Your Goals
To make the best out of your ITB visit, you should have an idea of your desired outcome. Do you want to network only? Get travel inspiration? Propose collaborations? Keeping that in mind helps with your pitch (you should have one) and to direct the conversations. Remember, nobody has time for lengthy talks.
On top of knowing your pitch, have your stack of up to date business cards ready. I prefer sending it out with my follow up emails but some traders will ask you for your media kit or portfolio in advance.
I was worried I would stick out like a sore thumb since I had all my proper and businessy looking clothes at home and not with me as I was travelling but it was fine. Wear nice and decent clothes for inside and a warm coat, woolly hat, scarf and clothes when outside. The temperature difference is rather big.
Shoes and Feet Need to Be Happy
So I only had my hiking shoes and felt they weren’t businessy enough for a ITB Berlin visit. Therefore, I borrowed a pair of thin boots from a friend, which I bitterly regretted. Not only was I freezing in them when outside but they were uncomfortable to walk in all day (especially since I hadn’t worn them in). Plus, the sole got loose from the shoe and then broke out when I was racing to the only shoe store in town that was still open. The next time, hiking shoes it is. And I’ll take plasters just in case.
The Luggage Storing
When I arrived at the ITB I had a big and rather heavy daypack with me, which I dropped off at the entrance. Too bad I didn’t know each entrance had their own wardrobe and so I walked the entire length of the fair to get to one, where I also had to pay for every single item (not cheap either). I wish I had known about the wardrobes in the media centre on the third floor as they are free for press and bloggers.
The Luggage Problem
Speaking of luggage, don’t take any with you. I don’t know why but there was a general tendency to bring tiny business wheely suitcases along. Not only will they make your arms feel painful but they are a real nuisance. The fair is crowded as is, don’t block the paths with your suitcase. If you do have to keep one with you, pull it closer to you; it makes all the difference. The same goes for big bulky rucksacks.
Don’t Take Everything
You will receive plenty of paper bags, brochures, goodies and such. I thought it was great at first but when the handles started cutting into my arms and my shoulders felt as if they were made out of lead, I quickly learned to only take the essentials or ask for USB sticks with the digital materials on them.
Stay Hydrated during Your ITB Berlin visit
Needless to say you should drink plenty, but when you do walk around all day and especially in halls in which the air is rather dry, you need to drink even more. There will be opportunities to have a tea, coffee, glass of water or even alcohol (in particular during appointments) but your personal water bottles should be full to the brim when you arrive. Oh, and use a chapstick as lips somehow also will dry out pretty fast.
Check the Locations of Interests
Just as there will be drinks, there will be snacks at the stands and opportunities to buy meals, such as hot dogs, fries and pizza bread, between the halls. Those, however, are very costly (4.50€ for one small hot dog). That’s why I brought my own snacks and lunch to stay energised.
Check Your Electronics
Your mobile phone should be fully charged before your ITB Berlin visit but there will also be plugs to refill if necessary and in the media centre, you can also set up your laptop at work stations. If you have international chargers, bring your adapter! The whole area has free wifi but since everyone is using it, it might be better to bring your own if you need to stay online.
This might be hard for us introverts, but the main point of networking in general and a trade fair in particular is to talk and sell yourself. If you feel uncomfortable, practice in advance but the more you do it, the easier it gets. And I say, do it A LOT. Basically, don’t stop. See a person, talk to person. It’s that simple (even though it might be hard).
Have Fun and Enjoy
At the end of the day, you should not forget that even though the ITB Berlin is for business and networking, it should also be fun. Travel is something very inspiring and meeting people from all over the world exciting. If you and they have got time, sit down and just have a chat and ask about life in their respective countries. There will also be different activities, parties and events to mingle and relax. Oh, and massages (check out Thuringia and Thailand).