As MWC Barcelona looms, we offer some vital insider tips and advice on how to maximise your opportunities and make the most of the telecoms industry’s biggest annual event.
Next week, the streets of Barcelona will be packed with mobs of telecoms industry professionals, as MWC
(formerly the Mobile World Congress), the largest and most influential event in the telecommunications sector, rolls around once more.
Cerillion has been diligently exhibiting for the best part of twenty years now, barring a COVID-driven hiatus, which saw MWC abruptly called off in 2020 and pared-down to a smaller hybrid event in 2021.
Barcelona has become a hub for major tech trade shows, as Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) recently made the move from Amsterdam, and the reach of MWC has grown far beyond purely telecoms; last year, over half of attendees came from outside the telecoms sector
, according to the event’s organisers, the GSMA.
This is in no small part due to the growing influence of the telecoms market in all walks of life as, over the last ten years, the demand for and technology behind connectivity services has advanced and proliferated, and more and more companies from across the spectrum of tech specialties joined the fray – from industry titans, to flourishing start-ups, who take centre-stage at MWC’s 4 Years From Now (4YFN)
For a look-back at the highlights of last year, see our Product Director’s review of MWC 2022
in all its Metaverse-laden glory, from launches of new handsets and digital services, to tech oddities, including augmented reality rollercoasters to 5G-powered bartenders.
If you’re a first time guest, or simply haven’t been for a while, you may find the expected 80,000+ guests or 2000+ exhibitors in attendance this year a bit overwhelming. After over two decades of attendance though, we at Cerillion are well seasoned in navigating the event without getting lost in the crowds clamouring around that latest smartphone release.
Here’s our advice for making the most of MWC:
Plan your visit – and pre-arrange your meetings
Getting the most out of your journey to MWC should begin long before you land in Catalonia.
It may sound appealing to just dive in head-first, but between the thousands of exhibitors, their flashy stands, and dozens of overlapping keynote presentations, you’re likely to find yourself overwhelmed without some structure.
Before you arrive, research who you want to meet with and what talks you want to attend, and then plan each of your days accordingly. If there’s a particular company or exhibitor that you’re dead set on speaking to, book an appointment with them as early as you can, and certainly before getting to Barcelona.
Of course, don’t feel the need to cram something into every last minute of the day – exciting new opportunities are bound to come up each day, so keep some time free for ad-hoc meetings.
Beat the crowds to the distant halls on day one
When the doors to the exhibition open, most visitors will likely mill over to the first large stand they see to feast their eyes on the latest folding smartphones or AI agents. This’ll likely create quite the logjam near the main entrances, and make hanging around not worth your time.
Instead, why not delay your gratification and venture to some of the far-flung halls, where you’re likely to enjoy a great deal more attention from exhibitors and avoid the larger crowds – in fact, while you’re exploring, be sure to say hello to the Cerillion team in Hall 7, Stand 7B61!
Then, you can make your way back to the centrepiece stands at a leisurely pace when crowds have eased later in the week.
Give yourself plenty of time for getting around between appointments
It isn’t just visitors who have packed itineraries at MWC. When exhibitors aren’t out front on their stands, they’ll be giving private demos, attending keynotes, or networking over a coffee, so their time is valuable too.
If you’re late for meetings, you may find that a walk-by punter has stolen your pre-booked time, and the important meeting you arranged earlier in February has been downgraded to a quick chat, sorely lacking in refreshments.
Between 15 and 20 minutes should be enough time to comfortably navigate the show floor. Be careful of getting side tracked on your travels though, and don’t let any 30-second elevator pitches turn into Shakespearean soliloquys.
Don’t be afraid to engage with exhibitors
MWC could be your one chance to meet face-to-face with a prospective new supplier or partner, but we’ve noticed in the past that plenty of visitors seem reluctant to engage with staff at any given stand. They may return home with stacks of brochures (and freebies, of course) but haven’t had much in the way of meaningful interactions with exhibitors. Video calls and emails after the event won’t have the same impact – take the time to look exhibitors in the eye and start building those connections in person.
Dress the part
Four days of standing up or walking for miles will be a killer on your feet if you don't wear appropriate shoes. Consider ditching the slingbacks or wingtips in favour of something sensible and flat.
You might want to hold off on packing shorts and flip-flops though, and come prepared for any weather eventuality; Barcelona and much of Spain has already been lashed by snow and wind this year
, with some unpredictable weather fronts likely to continue into March.
Make sure you bring back-up business attire in case your luggage is lost, or you spill some tapas on the only suit you’ve brought.
The MWC Show Daily is always worth picking up, containing highlights from across the event and editorials by some of the keynote stage’s top-billed speakers, but as a pre-canned publication, it contains very little in the way of actual, live news. Social media remains the best place to get live news from the event, on both the #mwc23 hashtag, and our own #CerillionLive.
Remember your essentials: more power, even more business cards
All this time spent checking social media, the My MWC app
or your emails will take its toll on your devices. Your phone is your gateway to the event, letting you access your digital badge through the app and allowing other guests to scan a unique QR code for quick lead retrieval, so keeping it powered up is crucial. Though there are more than a few charging stations dotted around, a portable charger wouldn’t go amiss in your hand luggage, along with Berocca, eyedrops, a bottle of foot cooling spray and a back-up supply of business cards.
To exhibitors – don’t pack up your stand early!
It’s always amazing (but never a surprise) to see how many companies start shutting down their stand early on the last day. Never mind the direct cost of your company presence, it’s the opportunity cost of missing out on a potential lead. We always see visitors hurrying around the exhibition on the last afternoon, exhibition guide in hand, desperately trying to meet all the companies on their must-see list. But if you’re not there, you’ll never know what you missed.
Burn the midnight oil
Much of the real business at MWC is done after hours over a few rounds of drinks and tapas. Know which restaurants and bars are hosting post-event networking sessions where you can scope out further new opportunities that you may have missed during the day – though do mind your belongings
if venturing out past your usual bedtime.
As much of Barcelona surrenders itself to the telecoms industry for the duration of MWC, you’ll struggle to snag a last-minute booking for anywhere but the dingiest of bars – and even still, you can’t rule out bumping into a few C-level execs quaffing cheap Estrellas no matter where you end up.
Just don’t get roped into a “few quick drinks” and end up out until 6am when you’re meeting a new supplier or customer at 9:30. Though if you must, remember to stay hydrated.
Pre-arrange a meeting with the Cerillion team in Barcelona here.