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What can event professionals learn from MWC?

Smyle Client Director Cassie Barnes shares her MWC insights

If MWC 2023 has demonstrated anything, it is that European industry trade shows are back with a bang! Huge crowds, exhibits and brand investments across the board.

Crowd management:

The GSMA gets it right when it comes to moving massive amounts of people in, out of and around Fira Barcelona. Digital badges and facial recognition scanners made access quick and easy, with additional support provided to help people through secure entry points.

Health considerations:

Less than 1% of people at the show were masked and I saw nothing from the event about health precautions, and there were times when big crowds were in very close contact. It certainly felt like the era of masks and social distancing was over.

Big players, big stands:

Every big player in mobile or tech was out at this year’s MWC. All of the big names were present, and so were many companies I’d never heard of – in some cases with very, very large exhibits. This is another sign that the event industry is recovering post-pandemic. Brands are investing in shows to reach industry audiences.

Invite only / FOMO:

Meetings are always an important element of shows like MWC, but it seemed on another level this year. Many companies, like our friends at AWS, integrated private meeting spaces into their environments. Some brands, like our friends at Samsung, had dedicated exhibits only for meetings. Samsung’s imposing big black box was a notable investment on the show floor for booked meetings and private demos. They also had an open-access stand for all to visit. Some brands were off the floor – with meeting rooms and demos designed only for invited guests. On the flip side, some companies hosted open-for-all garden environments to take advantage of the usually beautiful Barcelona weather.

Cookie cutter messaging:

It’s a real challenge to make a brand message stand out on the MWC show floor. It’s mystifying, then, how little copywriting creativity there was on display at this year’s event. One could travel from booth to booth and see the same bland content about better business and secure cloud, where one brand’s key message could easily be exchanged for another. Not to mention that the vast majority of booth messaging didn’t indicate what the company actually did. This might be fine for the big players but why would someone visit a stand of someone they don’t know without some description of what they actually do?

Sustainability and DEI:

I’d argue the two biggest concerns in our industry, and one might suggest even in telecom, are climate and diversity, equity, and inclusion. In my unofficial tally of content and demos tied to sustainability, I’d say around 10% of stands were discussing this critical topic. Some, like the Vonage presence, were all about sustainability. From a DEI perspective, it’s more challenging as other delegates are heavily skewed towards men of a certain age and speakers are more likely to be White and Asian. I did notice support for the hearing impaired provided, which is a move in the right direction. In elevated stands, only about half offered ramps for accessibility purposes.

Stunning screens, dull content:

There were some incredible screen displays throughout the event. In particular, the Nokia space used screens to a stunning effect. In many stands with huge, presumably very expensive screens, there wasn’t much to say about the content on those screens. Should brands be paying more attention to the content on the screen rather that the tech spec?

Technology experiences:

There is obviously a lot of tech on display at Mobile World Congress – most of it, honestly, sitting on tables or being shown on a screen. But it was the tech experiences that won. SK Telecom, for example, had a VR experience that placed visitors (four at a time) in an in-booth aircraft experience, resulting in massive queues of people desperate to give it a try. Meanwhile, many booths had VR headsets set up, but without that experiential pizzazz.

It was a real pleasure to get back into a big show and see what everyone is up to (in addition to our own Smyle work at the event, which was excellent). Great to see the industry come back, but there’s room for all to create more interesting, resonant and impactful experiences.

If you’d like to discuss how Smyle can work with you at your next expo or congress (maybe you’ve got your eye on MWC already?), we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a message at hello@smyle.co.uk