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Must-Read Advice for Exhibitors at Mobile World Congress!

January 27, 2017

I decided that it might be fun and useful to share my thoughts on the best and worst practices I observed from exhibitors at the show and consolidate them into a short list.

Below is a simple list of recommendations based on the best (and worst) practices we observed.

  • Be more memorable – in a good way!  Make sure the people who are representing your company are memorable and, if possible, a little irreverent.  The typical analyst is booked solid for the entire show — that means anywhere from 25 to 35 formal meetings, dinners, and countless informal conversations.  We all take notes, but what are we really going to remember above and beyond all the noise?  Everyone talks about many of the same things — i.e., the pains of lower ARPUs, mobile data traffic increases’ incongruence with revenue, the need for new business models, etc.  Spice it up a bit and make us remember you!  Some of the more memorable quotes we heard were:
    “There isn’t an original thought in this industry.”
    “Social media is like teenage sex – you know they are going to do it, so it might as well be under your roof.”
    “Everyone in this industry is fixated on Apple.  We spend no time thinking about them.”
  • Kill the PowerPoint!  PowerPoint presentations are a way of life for all of us, but they should be saved for different circumstances.  You’ll notice a groan that nearly all analysts make when they enter a show meeting room only to see a PowerPoint projector waiting for them.  It’s okay to have a couple slides printed out to make key points, and the best bet is to give a copy to the analysts so they can make some notes.  At this type of show it is sensory overload to try to use slides–tradeshows are best for creating deeper relationships and exploring common interests.  Providing larger volumes of relevant information on memory sticks as a takeaway is appreciated, as it lightens our load and earns you points for being “green.”
  • Provide booth giveaways that are productivity-enhancing!  RIM was excellent in anticipating booth visitors with dead BlackBerries and was generously giving out batteries on request.  They gave us two and didn’t ask for a name or a euro in return.  That’s going beyond the coffee and mints, big time.  Skip the free pens and think of something more useful to offer that embodies a service spirit.  Another great example of this was Cisco’s multi-device charger that plugs into a USB port — I got great use out of this device during the show.
  • Take steps to ensure that your meeting is both comfortable and productive!  In several instances our analysts were sent meeting invites and accepted them, only to find out that they lacked a meeting room location or a list of expected attendees and subject matter.  This caused lost time wandering around, going to booths only to find out there are ancillary suites set up for meetings, etc.  Best practices here are to provide the names of all attendees, short bios of spokespeople, the room number and location (a map is ideal), meeting expectations, etc.  Also, it is greatly appreciated if the meeting rooms have access to adequate ventilation if possible.
  • Avoid demo hell!  I’ve heard different opinions on the value of demos for helping educate the industry analysts.  I tend to not get much out of them, but others are happy to see something working live.  If you are planning to use a demo, please make sure that it works and is compelling.  After a subpar demonstration, we are often left with the opposite of the intended effect because the product doesn’t work, is boring, or takes too long to show.  We leave scratching our heads on the commercial opportunity or wonder if it’s just another “me too.”  Apple does a nice job with demos; IMS vendors tend to be poor.
  • Use keynote opportunities for thought leadership, not lead generation!  It’s difficult to reconcile a blatant, over-the-top sales pitch in the context of several memorable MWC keynotes.  Exhibitors should take advantage of that enviable platform to discuss opportunities for the telecom industry to play a greater role in delivering benefits to society, the environment, etc.  A subtle pitch connecting some dots is okay, but save the self-congratulatory hard sell for the prospect’s conference room.
  • If you enlist someone to present for you, do your homework!  We witnessed more than one situation in which a vendor relied on a customer to help tell that vendor’s story, most often with case studies.  The customer got up onstage and either a) could not communicate in English or b) was challenged to communicate at all or unclear on such trivial matters as keeping to a strict time allocation.  These situations can and should be avoided by vetting your speakers beforehand.  Have they been successful speaking in the past?  Check your references.

Hope these are helpful.  Comment back if you have some of your own!