Das Portal von Handelsblatt und WirtschaftsWoche

Getting a fair deal

Ian McMaster ist Chefredakteur von Business Spotlight
Der Messe-Herbst kommt - höchste Zeit, Ihr Englisch aufzufrischen. Ian McMaster zeigt, wie Sie erfolgreich Kontakte knüpfen.
Few business events give you the opportunity to use so many language skills as trade fairs, such as the Frankfurt Book Fair in October this year. At such fairs, you have to make small talk, take part in meetings, present your company, negotiate deals. Here is a short survival guide to help you through your next trade fair.

Nice to meet you

When you meet someone for the first time, greet him/her, say your first name and family name, and then say briefly what you do. For example: "May I introduce myself. (I'm) Sandra Peters. I'm the marketing manager for the XY publishing company in Berlin." Other useful expressions to say what you do are: "I work for ..."; "I'm in charge of ..."; or "I'm responsible for ..." (do not say: "I'm the responsible manager for ..."). A typical reply would be: "Nice to meet you, Sandra. (I'm) Bob Brevett from IPC in Manchester."

Die besten Jobs von allen

Short and Sweet

Often, there isn't time for a long conversation at trade fairs. Here's a typical short exchange: -> "Hi Michael, how are you?"
-> "Fine thanks, Stefanie. And you? How's business?"
-> "Fine, thanks. Good to see you again. Are you enjoying the fair?"
-> "Yes, it's going well this year. See you later."
-> "See you."

Talk, talk, talk

Small talk is an essential part of business transactions. Businesspeople in countries such as Japan and China put great emphasis on getting to know their business partners. In Britain, Ireland and America, it is also common to "oil the wheels" of business

Don't make the mistake of thinking that small talk comes only at the start, before the "real business". Short periods of small talk in the middle of business discussions can help to improve relations and make it easier to reach the deal you want. To switch from business to small talk, you could say: "By the way, are you still thinking of moving of London?" To switch back to business, you could say: "Anyway, as I was saying, we can offer you ..."

Ask, ask, ask

A key skill at trade fairs is getting information from business partners. Practise questions such as:
-> "Where is your company based?"
-> "What does your company do exactly?"
-> "Which are your main markets?"
-> "What are main new features of this version?"
-> "How soon could you deliver those to us?"
Avoid asking questions that can be answered with "yes" or "no". Also, when answering questions, avoid "yes" or "no" answers; instead, give extra information to keep the conversation going.

Doing deals

Practise using the so-called "second conditional" for negotiations. For example: "If you gave us a discount of 15 per cent, we would order a further 1,000 copies of the book." Also, practise your prepositions: there is a big difference between reducing your prices by 10 Euro (for example, from 50 to 40 Euro) and reducing them to 10 Euro.


You can say: "It was very nice to meet you", or "It was nice seeing you again". The answer to such comments is: "You, too." You might also say: "Here's my business card"; "Do you have a business card so that I can get in touch with you later?"; or "I'll be in touch next week"

Hello again

Follow up the contacts you make at trade fairs. You could start a phone call by saying: "Hello John, we met at the Frankfurt Book Fair recently. I just wanted to get back to you about your offer." Alternatively, you could start an e-mail like this: "Dear Jenny, it was nice to see you at the book fair in Frankfurt. I would be very interested in discussing further the deal you mentioned relating to ..."

Useful vocabulary

ausstellen to exhibit
Aussteller exhibitor
anmelden (sich) to register
besuchen to attend
Besucherausweis badge
Gästebereich hospitality suite
Handelsbedingungen commercial terms
Handynummer mobile (US: cell) phone number
Messe trade fair, trade show
Messebesucher attendee
Messestand booth
(Messe-)Standort venue
Kongresszentrum convention centre
Konkurrent competitor
Mengenrabatt volume discount
Produktpalette range of products
Rabatt discount
Verkaufsmethode sales technique
Vertrag contract
Visitenkarte business card
Vertriebspartner distributor
Zielgruppe target audience, target market
Dieser Artikel ist erschienen am 27.10.2003