Each year, tens of thousands of visitors and brands flock to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress. As one of our key calendar dates each year, this is undoubtedly a show where the best minds in creativity, innovation and design come together in order to execute a perfect show.
Each year we return, aching in anticipation and ready to meet emerging brands, see old ones and most importantly, help the brands we work with to effectively communicate their brand values. This year is no exception.
After 22 years working on the show, here are some of my best tips for making the most of your exhibition presence at the show (now updated for 2019 – which will be here before we know it!).
1. Know your audience
Mobile World Congress is a global stage for the communications industry. Play it right and it’s a great opportunity to meet the press, investors and potential clients face-to-face. To make the most of the show, you have to make the investment in not just money but also time. You and your partners need to understand the halls, the different locations and the flow of visitors. The type of visitors and the halls that are “in vogue” often change year-on-year, so browse through documents like the 2018 wrap up report to understand who is visiting and where they’re spending their time once they get there.
This also relates directly to the stand design you choose. As well as creating a stand presence that “stands out” you need to tune in to the customer’s overall journey, where they’ve been and what they’ve seen before they visit your stand. This will help you determine whether they’re ready to have an in-depth strategy conversation or if they just need a coffee and a sit down! Your stand is there to service the needs of your audience after all.
2. Tie up any loose ends – prior to the show
Ensuring that you have your stand presence in order prior to getting onsite is key to an enjoyable event experience for you and your company. If you have unpaid invoices with Fira, your pass may not be issued. If your contractors have unpaid bills, their passes may not be issued either. There’s also a possibility that you won’t gain access to the post-show breakdown wristbands if you’ve accumulated extras on site which haven’t been settled, so take the time to organise your expenses prior to show start and end.
Double check yours and your teams travel and hotel arrangements, finalise details with the agencies and partners working for you at the show and take care of any staff training before you get onsite. Most importantly, leave enough time to get some rest and sleep before the show. You’re going to be on your feet for a while!
3. Know your City
For anything you’ve forgotten and need to buy, remember that shops shut on Sundays in Barcelona. If you do find yourself in need, there is a shopping centre down by the port (Maremagnum) and another towards the Castelldefels Beach (L’Anec Blau). During the week, there’s a Bauhaus and Ikea within walking distance of the MWC venue and a large shopping centre opposite.
If you have a Spanish speaking project manager on your team it does make such a difference. For last minute requirements that you may need to source locally such as graphics, and for working with the on site suppliers, it can take the pressure off of your team and avoid any miscommunication.
4. Pack wisely
Each year the weather seems to treat us to a different outcome at MWC so prepare for all weather – rain, snow and shine. You never know what you might get! What you pack in your bag is also essential to ensuring success throughout the long show days. You can’t come into the venue without your show pass and your ID (passport or similar) as security is tight. When exhibiting, this could be the difference between a calm, relaxed setup and a rushed jump onto the stand five minutes before show-open. Pack plenty of water, a power bank to recharge your phone, health snacks to keep you going and lip balm or moisturiser to help you stay refreshed in the air-conditioned environment. And plenty of business cards too of course.
5. Get in early
There are 2 Firas so firstly make sure you go to the right one. Journeys in cars and taxi will take longer then expected, so also leave plenty of time to get there. Think about how you will leave the venue, post-show. Particularly if you’re looking to get to one of the many networking opportunities or are hosting an event for potential clients. The venue is not in the centre of town and at closing time, there can often be a one-to-two hour wait for taxis. The quickest way to the airport is via the metro and there’s access to the station directly underneath Fira Gran Via. To get to the airport you’ll want the Metro Line 9, this is well signposted once you reach the station and takes around 30 minutes.
6. Invest in your presence
Helping attract visitors to your booth is something that needs a pre, during and post-show approach to ensure maximum return on investment. Think about the experience you will give the visitors throughout the week and make a journey of it. Setup pre-show invitations; ensure your stand has high-level visuals and dynamic content and that your staff are prepared to engage with visitors in a personable manner.
Setting objectives and measurements prior to the show is also essential to executing a smooth on-stand presence. Set out clear objectives from the beginning, and share these with your partners, so everyone is on the same page. Integrate measurement tools, to give you a clear ROI, whether this is badge scanning or something more sophisticated like motion-sensor tracking to measure the engagement within different areas of your stand.
7. Use technology wisely
MWC over the past few years has become a huge beacon for tech, with LED walls now used almost as standard on nearly every stand of every size. But don’t become blinded by the big lights. Tech can be expensive and if the content isn’t relevant to your audience, you’ll become just another part of the noise they’ll experience around the show. Be mindful that you’ll be presenting to individuals, so the interactions and content should be relatable. Rather than trying to attract huge crowds, think about how your technology can be a canvas on which you can tell a story and get those who are engaging with you, further through the funnel.
8. Make the most of the City!
After the lights go down on the show, make the most of what the city has to offer and the plethora of bars and restaurants that are available for hosting and extending relationships. Take a walk down to the Port or the El Born area where there are lots of fantastic tapas restaurants. If the weather’s nice, be adventurous and walk (wallet carefully hidden) down Paseo De Gracia, around the Eixample.
Suzanne Malhotra is Director of 4D Design, a specialist exhibition design agency (made up of passionate creatives with vast show and event experience), that designs amazing stands and creative spaces which fuel growth and build meaningful relationships for ambitious companies.