Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is one of the few times where the eyes of the whole telecoms industry are focused on one spot at the same time.
As an attendee, nothing can quite prepare you for the scale of the event. It’s not just the eight (and a bit) halls, the 100,000 attendees and the daily 5km hikes around the Fira Gran Via, it’s the way that the event takes over one of the most beautiful cities in the world, from the moment you step off the plane until the moment you hand in your pass (or stuff it in your hand luggage) for the last time.
Every hotel, every restaurant, every taxi – full of delegates. The Metro? Basically a no-go on any of the main lines to the venue, especially if you value your personal space. Those four or five days can be an overwhelming experience, certainly for a rookie attendee such as myself.
The telecoms PR industry is full of MWC lifers – guys and girls that have been there since the days of Cannes and the GSM World Congress, pounding the halls and sitting in on umpteen briefings – so advice on how to tackle the event is in plentiful supply.
For starters, all the usual tips about packing comfy shoes (and a spare pair), stocking up on paracetamol and filling your pockets with snacks – well, they’re often repeated for a reason.
However, MWC is a rapidly changing event. Given the headline keynotes from bona fide A-listers in the evening – Mark Zuckerberg, Lewis Hamilton and Jonah Peretti to name three – the sprawling nature of the site and the varied cuisine, it has become less of the Olympics of Telecoms and more Glastonbury with suits – all the way down to the cows.
The tech is, of course, also changing. The Internet of Things means the lines between the technology behind devices and the devices themselves are becoming increasingly blurred. Trends such as virtual reality that may formerly have been restricted to CES – MWC’s more consumer-focused cousin – are now front and centre in Barcelona.
As an executive working across a handful of different accounts, the opportunity to spend a week – often the busiest of the year – working in close quarters with just one is a unique opportunity to really get to know both the people and the company inside out. I left the event being able to recite the demos I’d seen in word-perfect fashion, something which can only be a good thing for client relations going forward.
If I was to give one piece of advice, it would be that any downtime you can grab is important. It’s one heck of a busy week – often featuring late nights and early starts – so any chance you have to grab a quiet five minutes on the hotel sofa without your Blackberry or even – God forbid –catch a moment of the Catalan sunshine needs taking with both hands.
While it’s a draining week physically and emotionally, the whole experience appeals to your competitive spirit – it is a challenge and a privilege and one that we as an agency enjoy and excel at year after year.