Mobile World Congress is the biggest mobile industry event by any standard. When your business gets at least a little close to anything mobile, you should be there as well. Not just to roam the endless stands, but to do business. Here are my tips how to get the most out of it.
Having something over 1.6 million inhabitants, Barcelona is not a big city. So you can imagine what happens when more than 100 thousand attendees of MWC arrive. Flights, hotels, and restaurants get booked out quickly. Actually, the best hotels are full almost a year before the event starts. Prices are the highest around the time the congress is happening, so booking your trip is best done between May and November. If you’re not keen on spending hundreds of euros for a room per night, try looking for alternatives like Airbnb. Ticket to MWC also includes a free pass for public transport – both metro and buses are included, so you don’t need to book in the vicinity of Fira Gran Via, where the event takes place.
Purchasing a ticket for MWC isn’t a problem – there’s always plenty of them available. If your pockets aren’t full of rolled 500 € bills ready to be dispersed, there’s simply no reason to buy anything else than the basic ticket that allows you to get to MWC. You can see the videos from conferences afterward, so attending them is not only a waste of money, but also a waste of time.
I know that many people use MWC (or any other business trip, for that matter) as a good opportunity to get away from work and enjoy Barcelona, or simply to wander around the exhibition halls to see the newest gadgets. You can do the former on a vacation and the latter in between meetings. But don’t forget you’re here to do business. In the end it’s the only thing that counts. Do you want to find an investor? So meet investors. Do you want to find a business partner? Or you want to sell stuff? I guess you get the point.
Having the objective set, it’s time to do a shortlist. Whether you’re looking for partners, clients, or investors, there’s a good chance they’ll be there. Check the list of exhibitors on MWC’s website, install MyMWC app, and connect it with your LinkedIn account (having it updated and pimped out is obviously a good idea). It will enable you to see which of your contacts are planning to go. If you’re not already connected with companies you’d like to meet, do it before the event—a month or two should be good. Overall there should be around 30 to 40 companies with specific contacts assigned to them.
Reach out to the contacts on your shortlist few weeks before MWC. You’ll probably do this on LinkedIn, so if you don’t have a premium account, now’s the time to get one. If you haven’t done it before, you can use the free trial for one month to save costs and simply cancel the subscription after you’ve done the research and contacted everyone. There’s also a ton of other websites where you can get useful information, like CrunchBase and VB Profiles. Be sure to contact at least two or three people at a single company to make sure your message gets through. And also do not hesitate to contact peers at higher positions. You’ll be surprised, but sometimes contacting a CEO is the best way to get things moving.
Schedule all your meetings from Monday to Wednesday. Never book times before 10am – due to heavy traffic and parties happening every evening all over the place it’s quite unlikely that your contact will be on time. No meeting should be longer than 30 minutes, so plan accordingly. Don’t forget to book some time for your lunch as well (your hungry you isn’t welcome on a business meet). If you want to save time, you can combine it into a business lunch, just make sure you have something to eat.
MWC used to take place on the second week of February, this year it was moved to the third one. In 2017 it will be the last week, which is great news for several reasons. The climate in Barcelona in this time is very welcoming, with average daily temperatures around 13°C (55°F) and very little rain. So make sure to pack light. As you’ll be spending most of the time at the venue and in metro, there’s no need for raincoats or umbrellas. Don’t forget this is a business event, so the most common thing you’ll see is a suit with a shirt – the same thing you should be wearing. Remember that you represent your company and the first impression is very important (more on that in a second). Dark jeans and pants are also ok, but wear at least a shirt. I’m pretty sure you can survive that a few days a year, if you’re not used to it. However, the most important is to wear something, that you feel comfortable in. Not to mention the shoes. The MWC venue is huge and walking from meeting to meeting will end up in a half marathon distance. Every single day.
(The iHealth tracker isn’t accurate, but provides a good idea what to expect.)
Business cards are also very welcome. Even though you might be already in contact with the people you’ll meet, it’s still an essential equipment of most businessmen all around the world.
Attendees usually arrive to Barcelona on Sunday and leave on Wednesday (Thursday the latest). Congress starts daily at 9am and ends at 7pm. These are also the times when there will be the longest queues to pick up badges, metro will be full to the last spot and everyone will generally start acting crazy. Try to do all these things at unusual times and you’ll save yourself a few years of your life.
Do not bring your notebook to the venue unless it’s totally necessary. Having a heavy bag in combination with excessive amounts of walking will destroy your back and your feet. If you want to do business, you have to excel. And pain won’t really help with that. The best is to bring an “old school” paper notepad with a pen – it’s light and handwriting is faster and less distracting on a meeting.
Now the most important thing – the business. Meetings usually take 30 minutes or less, which provides enough time for a quick icebreaker, introductions, and the thing you need to discuss. Make sure you arrive on time, know what the aim of the meeting is, and go straight to the point. Sometimes the meetings get rescheduled, so be prepared to react and move less important meetings if necessary.
If you’re successful, you should end up having around 20 meetings in 2 to 3 days, that will provide you with enough work with follow-ups for weeks to come and enough business to keep you going for a long time.
(Contacts – that’s what’s MWC mostly about.)
I’m pretty sure you have a lot of tips of your own, so feel free to share them in the comments.
See you at MWC 2017!
Cover photo: Pierre Metivier (Flickr) / Photos: Pavol Magic