It’s that time of the year again when more than 100,000 people from nearly 200 countries are busy planning their trips to Barcelona to attend the mecca of the wireless telecom industry – the Mobile World Congress. Being part of the wireless industry, I can feel the madness and excitement amongst the sales and marketing teams of vendors and service providers. Attendees are polishing their key messages, reviewing drafts of major announcements, practicing their compelling product demos, reaching out to media publications to ensure coverage and outreach, making last-minute changes to booth designs to ensure that they stand out, and filling up calendars with customer and analyst meetings. A lot of money is being spent, and hopes are high. But often the outcomes do not match expectations for many organizations.
So, how can you make the most of your time at the MWC – as a service/ technology provider and as an attendee? In my experience of being part of these sales and product marketing teams and attending MWC for many years, I have come to recognize a few patterns that can lead to a successful event. Here are a couple of things you might want to add to your game plan to get a better outcome from the show in 2020:
Define and align on the success criteria: Everyone from engineering, product, sales, and marketing puts a tremendous effort into organizing the show, but often sales and executives come back unsatisfied. People have strong opinions and can be critical, and usually the sales or marketing team – or both – bear the criticism, despite all their hard work.
A simple way to avoid the drama is to create success criteria for the show, which most organizations forget to do, and track those criteria during the show. A post-show report or survey is meaningless if there are no success criteria defined as a baseline to assess the feedback. A simple question, such as “what would make the show successful for you?” should be answered by every attendee from the organization and the executive team. Although, number of customer wins and sales should be a key criteria, consider including other important measures such as successful execution of demos as planned, unsolicited coverage by media publications, total number of meetings that happened versus what was planned, net new relationships created across all team members, the amount of foot traffic, lodging and transportation convenience, pre-show planning and instructions, etc. Make sure cross-functional stakeholders align on the defined criteria and plan their group’s activities around it. A post-show assessment can focus on understanding whether the show met each attendee’s success criteria as well as the overall one. Alignment on this should help increase the satisfaction factor.
Avoid getting into the rut of the dog and pony show: While it is important to stand out, remember that there is no award for the best looking booth, and customers are certainly not going to write you a check because of your booth design. So be smart in spending your time and money and focus on having a functional space where you can clearly articulate your values and have customer meetings without distraction. Invest in meeting rooms if your booth does not have enough space.
Fill up your calendars now: If you are going to the show without any (or a few) customer meetings on your calendar, you might as well cancel your trip. The only foot traffic you will get is of people who want to sell you something. So, plan ahead and make sure your sales and marketing team is reaching out now to all existing and any potential customers to schedule meetings and demos.
Create a Plan of Attack: Before you go to the show, look at the floor layout to spot and make note of the locations of your competitors, potential customers, partners, and vendors. Align these stops with other interesting sections such as the “innovation zone.” Have a plan to walk the floor instead of wandering around aimlessly. Keep your heart, mind, and eyes open to building new relationships and learning from peers and seniors in your industry.
Make sure you are right-sizing the show team: In my past trips to MWC, I noticed that a lot of booths have a lot of people from the organization, and they are often standing idle or talking to each other. That’s not only a complete waste of money, but it is also a turnoff to those from outside the company who might be looking for answers. Every person attending the show must have a role – either delivering demos, meeting customers, partners, and analysts, hunting the show floor, or other tasks that align with your show’s success criteria. On the other hand, you do need some backups because of long show hours (upwards of 10 hours) and support demos when subject matter experts are pulled out for customer meetings, so pick the team members who can perform multiple roles. Don’t let emotions (or friendships) drive the selection of company representatives.
Assign someone to catch the moments: Here, I am not talking about taking pictures with the team and of your (or someone else’s) booth and sharing them on social media. Think about how many opportunities you get in a year when your customers, executives, sales, and product experts are all at the same place. At MWC, you have a booth full of customers (and potential customers) spending time with your experts, listening to your pitch, and discussing their growth plans. Have your cameras, mic, and recorders ready to catch them in the moment; get their opinions on simple things, like their views of the demos, how their experience has been with the show so far, what exciting things have they seen at the show so far, what did they find interesting at your booth? Keep the questions simple, but open-ended, and don’t ask complicated questions for which they need to get an approval. Although, asking for a testimonial is not a bad idea, but don’t start there.
Once you are done capturing moments of the day, pick the right clips from customer interaction, mix it up with the views from your experts, and create a video reel to share during or after the show. It doesn’t require any arduous process of approvals (like a case study does) and you get someone else to tell your story, which can be more powerful sometimes than sharing a canned demo video.
Gives your screens a break: Don’t just hang around in the booth or keep staring at your phone and laptop. There is a lot to check out at the show for everyone from sales, product, and marketing. Make a personal goal to meet as many new people as possible (at least three per day). Chat up the person standing in front of you in the cafeteria line or sitting next to you when you are having lunch or coffee, or in other common areas. I once struck up a conversation with Sunder Pichai, the CEO of Google, while washing my hands. You never know who you might meet.
Create memorable interactions at the show: Don’t think about a product pitch here. A give-away – may be. I go to many shows and events and what I remember most is a few interactions that teach me something new or make an impact on me. I still remember the person who told me how to use the LinkedIn scan code to instantly connect. I thought that was brilliant, especially if you are at a show or an event. Most people these days don’t carry a business card (or don’t want to give it away), but they are comfortable connecting on LinkedIn. The challenge is we forget their name when we come back and lose an opportunity to grow our network. So, when you meet new people, ask them to connect on LinkedIn and use your scan code to instantly add them to your network. Here is how you do it if you don’t already know:
- Open the LinkedIn app (I presume you have installed it on your device). Ask the other person to do the same.
- On the right-hand corner of the search bar, you will notice a QR code type icon.
3. Touch that icon (ask the other person to do the same) and you will see two options: “Scan” or “My code”
4. Ask the other person to select “My code” and you stay on “Scan” mode to scan their code (or vice versa)
5. You will be instantly connected upon scanning their code
Pretty cool! It has two benefits: 1) You will instantly grow your network, and 2) You might have just created a lasting impression on someone.
Here is my LinkedIn code, if you want to try it out before heading to the show:
Have a post-show action plan: The best analogy I can think of here is when a couple plans a big fat wedding and forgets to prepare themselves for what lies ahead – marriage! What happens when the show is over? The show report is published, the survey results are shared, and the thank you emails are sent. That’s great, but what happens next? Create a post-show action plan, which includes a solid follow up strategy by the sales team to reach out to every lead and every interaction that happened at the show. Review all collateral and messages, based on the learnings from the show. And, don’t forget to thank the heroes behind the scene who made it all possible.
Lastly, don’t forget to have some fun: MWC is one of the most tiring shows I have ever attended but it is also one of the most fun places to attend. There are a lot of after-parties and happy hours on the show floor itself. Some big vendors really know how to throw a great party! Try to get on an invitation list! Besides that, Barcelona is the city that never sleeps and there is a lot to do. Go to La Rambla in the evening to grab a bite and see some Flamenco shows while you’re at it. If you have never had a chance to explore the city, I strongly suggest staying for a weekend to check out some of the masterpieces of Gaudi and Picasso or roam around the narrow streets to enjoy the historic feel of the entire city.
Here’s to an exciting and super-productive MCW 2020!