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How to stand out at MWC

Hotwire Global

If, like me until this year, you’ve never been to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the mobile industry’s annual MUST attend trade show, very little will prepare you for the sheer scale of the event. Over ten aircraft hangar-sized halls on two sites, hundreds of exhibitors and over 101,000 people head to Spain to see what is new and next in the world of mobile. But as the mobile phone and mobile internet has increasingly become a ubiquitous part of life for much of the world’s population, every company from Seat to Sonos cram into the halls of The Fira in Barcelona now.

Given the increasingly crowded conference, I spent a lot of my first time at Congress thinking about how companies could effectively stand out and capture attention, eyeballs, and crucially, business cards and expressions of interest from the thronging masses at MWC.

I spent the last four days walking a total of over 40k kilometres across the halls of MWC and saw almost all of the exhibitors, brands and products on offer.

The following are the four “P’s” which I believe, from my experience of MWC this year, are the ways you stand out to your prospects:

  1. Product – It sounds almost counter intuitive, but genuinely innovative, different or differentiated products stand on their own two feet. I saw some really interesting technology from around the world that I have not seen anywhere else before – from an Israeli company making machine-to-machine communication and authentication using ultra sound, to a Korean company making a Lego-style buildable and “codeable” robot for kids – there was innovation to be found at MWC. Demonstrations of these technologies caught attention because they were new and unique.
  2. People – I lost count of the number of times I walked past stands and saw bored and uninterested staff representing their brands, more interested in their phones or genuinely not engaging with the passing crowd. Again, it’s simple, but being alert, attentive, personable and pleasant go a long way, making your booth and, therefore, your brand, more accessible and interesting to prospective customers.
  3. Position – Having a great booth location at MWC is vitally important. Getting a good level of footfall past your stand is a key way that you’ll make a return on your investment at MWC. That doesn’t mean spending a fortune to sandwich your brand between Qualcomm and Amdocs in Hall 3, however. Hall 8 was consistently busy, as were the walkways outside and around them, which would have cost much less to occupy.
  4. Preparation – Again, it’s simple, but making sure that you are well prepared and have as many meetings as possible lined up on your booth or at prospective clients’ or partners’ booths is a must. You can’t just turn up to MWC and “wing it”. Hotwire’s client P2i’s new business team gave me a master class in pre-arranging meetings and maximising the time spent talking to the people that mattered to them. 

And, for fun, I thought I’d also share some of the things which fell flat. I’m not going to call anyone specifically out, but hopefully the following are honest observations about what to avoid. Sadly, I’m not clever enough to alliterate these as more “P’s”, as with success factors suggested above. So here are the four “C’s” of failure:

  1. Cars – I genuinely lost count of the number of cars I saw at MWC, but it was above thirty. And not just from automotive brands like Ford, Peugeot and Seat. Every widget maker attending MWC seemed to have a car on their stand. It doesn’t have a “wow” factor, unless it’s a genuinely interesting (like Intel’s Hololens-enabled connected car demo) or an innovative concept car (like the example from Peugeot). So I’d leave the cars on the garage forecourt and save yourself a few thousand pounds in shipping next year.
  2. Costumes – Admittedly, there is a large part of me which admires the bravery required to squeeze into Lycra and pretend that you are some kind of super hero, emblazoned with your businesses brand, in front of 101,000 people. However, it’s big turnoff for a business to business audience. You aren’t going to attract your prospective customer dressed as Superman, and you probably don’t look much like Henry Cavill in it, either.
  3. Crowd-less on-stand “keynotes” – More than once I was invited to sit on a stand, full of empty chairs as a nervous-looking executive took a sorrowful set of empty seats through a product PowerPoint. These kind of demonstrations can have real value, but again you need to prepare, develop and secure an audience beforehand. And you have to have something genuinely interesting to say – some new research on the market you serve, a significant product announcement or partnership. 
  4. Cheap-looking stands – This may be more for the stand makers and installers than the corporates, but I saw a number of stands where, by just day two, things started to look more than a little shabby. Your booth should be a projection of your brand, so quality, attention to detail and craftsmanship of the stand itself go a long way to projecting that image.

MWC represents a once in a calendar year opportunity to make an impression with your prospective customers, client, and competition. Creating an on-booth and in the flesh experience of your brand for your target audience is critical. As with most things, attention to detail, quality and care go a long way. But hopefully the four “P’s” of success and the four “C’s” of failure may help prepare you for success in MWC in 2018, or other conferences you may attend.