It’s bigger. Quite a lot bigger. They welcomed 67,000 visitors last year and they’re expecting that figure to go up again. It will still cover a huge variety of sectors and covers everything to do with mobile from the boxes that drive mobile telcos to the deeply technical sessions geared at mobile developers to mobile marketing and advertising to the new handsets and tablets to the start-up and entrepreneurial community and everything in between. There is a well-attended conference too but that’s really expensive to attend unless you’re speaking. And with so much going on in the exhibition halls and the fringe events in town, you won’t be able to fit everything in. The theme for this year is the ‘New Mobile Horizon’ (I’m not sure what that actually means, mind).
The event is in a new venue. Yes, that’s right. They’ve moved it up the road to an industrial zone nearer the airport. That means it’s quite a lot bigger and there’s more room for the conference so they can fit more people in. There will also be more space for exhibitors, more networking space and more food outlets onsite. The latter two are essential since there’s nothing nearby at all – not a tapas bar in sight. The nearest places you can go to enjoy off-site hospitality are the very fancy-schmancy high-rise hotels (and their prices to match), Ikea (so you can always get meatballs and a flat-pack cupboard) or a local shopping mall. That’s it. I’ve walked the whole way around the site and that’s all I could find. I took a few snaps as I walked around (see below or take a look on flickr).
Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.
You’ll need to allow extra time to travel to the new site as well. Your options will be a taxi, a free shuttle bus between the old site and the new one or the train. I don’t think the new Metro route will be up and running in time for this year’s show. Please do leave a comment if that’s changed. You can get an overground train at Placa Espanya. All the overground trains actually start underground and they all go through the station, Europa, which is the stop for Fira Gran Via. Then it’s a 10 minute walk to the venue. I’m not sure how often the trains run, but I think it’s probably every 10 minutes or so. So with having to change trains, navigate Placa Espanya station, get on the train and walk to the new site, it’s going to be a good half an hour at busy times. So you need to allow for that.
Rather disappointingly, once you get there, there is no historical palace for a backdrop, no gorgeous fountains and no view of the city. In fact, there’s nothing there to identify the location as Barcelona save for the odd street sign in Catalan. To get your dose of Barcelona culture, you’ll need to head back into the city as you won’t find it at Fira Gran Via. But don’t worry, I’ll be running the Heroes of the Mobile Fringe festival again and all the events will be in the city so you’ll be able to learn, network and enjoy some Catalan atmosphere there.
And as happens every year, I’m asked the same question, ‘how do I get a ticket?’. Read on for hints and tips on how to secure your free exhibition ticket. The emails have started, so I’ve updated my top tips for you. And just to be clear, I don’t have a secret stash of tickets! I don’t even have one myself yet.
Buy a ticket. A ticket that gives you access to the exhibition is 699 Euros. The price is the same as last year so that’s some consolation. Yes, I know it’s not free but thought I’d better get this one out of the way. Not such a big deal for a senior exec at a large corporate maybe, but certainly a big deal for us lesser mortals who have to watch our budgets more closely. Conference tickets are even more expensive. The good news is that with an expo pass, there are still plenty of sessions you can attend and plenty of things to do do and see.
Buy a reduced price ticket. This one is aimed at SMEs. If you sign up to the B2B Matchmaking service, they put on a speed networking service where you can meet a lot of people in a relatively short space of time. The meetings are all held on site and for the Euro 310 registration fee, that includes your exhibition ticket. So you get some meetings and you get to access the exhibition. Not a bad deal. More info on their 'how it works' page.
Apply to attend one of the App Planet days. This is where the bulk of the tickets get allocated within the developer community. Several App Planet days are scheduled and each host will have an allocation of tickets to give away to ensure attendance at their developer sessions. I know that most of the WIPJam passes have now been allocated, but the others have not yet been allocated. So press the big button on this page to ‘indicate your interest in attending Featured Programme Sessions’. These tickets should be allocated over the next three weeks or so. If you’re allocated a ticket, you’ll get a reference number and a URL and you have to go and claim your ticket. If you don’t claim in good time, your code will be allocated to someone else. So if you do get a code – use it or lose it. At the time of writing, you can apply via Nokia, the Car Connectivity Consortium, Plantronics, Samsung and WIP.
Apply to attend one of the MPowered Theatre days. This is a relatively new stream for Mobile World Congress and is geared towards brands, media owners and the agencies who look after them. Nielson and InternetQ are confirmed partners for this, with more partners tbc. Here’s more information about those sessions and you can click the big button to register your interest for them.
Get a press pass. If you have an audience or community in the 1000s, then you may qualify for a press pass. Details of how to do that are here. I have never done this so do not know what’s involved or how hard it is to get a press pass. If you do have experience of this, then please share it in the comments.
Make friends with colleagues and contacts who are exhibiting. Each exhibitor gets an allocation of exhibition passes to distribute at their discretion. This includes stands organised by trade bodies representing countries and regions. Ask, and maybe you shall receive. This one is going to be down to your existing relationships and networking skills. So check the MWC website and see who is exhibiting who you can ask. They’re expecting 1500 exhibitors this year. The site may take a little time to load for you to be able to search.
Keep an eye out on social networks. Every now and then, tickets become available and get allocated through social networks (twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) and/or through various mobile and developer communities such as Mobile Monday chapters globally or local developer user groups. These are either competitions (sign up to our newsletter, add your app to our app-store) or they’re fairly last minute and get allocated very quickly, so you need to be quick off the mark. The twitter hashtag for Mobile World Congress this year is #mwc13 or #mwc2013. Current competitions to win a pass include Appsfuel and InMobi.
So that’s how to score a ticket. Last year, I ran a competition to win free expo passes, but at the time of writing, I have no plans to run a competition. Obviously, if that changes, you’ll hear about it!
So what about the networking? How do I make the most of it?
Congress is huge and quickly becomes overwhelming. With 1500 exhibitors, after the first hour, every stand seems to look the same and they all merge into one. At least, that’s how it feels to me. Everyone seems to be your ‘best mobile partner’ or ‘best mobile solution’ or carrier grade technology’. Not terribly helpful when you’re trying to navigate around eight very large halls. Equally, everyone is in town and it’s the ideal opportunity to network, to build on existing relationships, to discover new things and to make things happen. However, you have to put the legwork in. So this is what I recommend…
1. Shameless plug alert! There will be a wide selection of events, meet-ups and things to do, see and get involved in at the Heroes of the Mobile Fringe Festival. Background to last year’s festival is here and I’ll start to list events later this week over at http://mobileheroes.net. Most events will be free to attend.
Heroes has moved on somewhat from last year’s festival. Although the festival will be similar in flavour to last year, we’re also running events throughout the year in other cities. Next month in Barcelona, we’ll be covering a wide range of topics from start-ups to security to finance to emerging markets to mobile marketing and lots more besides. And there’ll be a whole bunch of parties to attend too. So allow yourself some time to attend some of these sessions as you will most definitely meet people there.
2. Create your own event. That’s what the fringe festival is for. Create an opportunity for like-minded people to get together, whether that’s a round-table discussion, a panel session, a lunch or dinner, or something else, then go for it. You can promote the event yourself and we can promote it on the fringe festival site too. Please get in touch. I’m very happy to discuss.
Please note, the Heroes of the Mobile Fringe Festival is not associated with or endorsed by the GSMA or MWC in any way. I just want to make that clear. Also, all our events will be in the city centre. We will not be including anything at Fira Gran Via this year.3. Schedule meetings in with people you *can’t* see easily at home. There’s no point having a meeting with someone who is in an office down the road from you. You can do that any time the rest of the year. Make your meetings brief and to the point and at sensible times. If you’re partying into the wee hours (and some of the best networking happens then), then a 8am breakfast meeting may not be appropriate. Also allow time to get to and from meetings. At peak times of day, and the main drag is very crowded, it can take a good 20 minutes or more to get from the front entrance of La Fira to App Planet (assuming you know where you’re going). And with the new venue being even bigger, it could take even longer. Plus you won’t know the layout until you get there.
4. Be clear on who it is you want to meet there and why so that when you’re at a networking event, you can say that. The person you end up talking to may not be the right person, but they may know someone who is if they know who and what you’re looking for. Hone that elevator pitch.
5. Attend the parties. To some people, these will seem like jollies and just an excuse to get drunk as a skunk. And true enough, there is an element of that. However, the mobile industry is very sociable and the parties and meet-ups are where I have always met the most interesting people. You need to allow for serendipity at large shindigs like MWC. Hint, Swedish Beers will be on the Wednesday night as usual.
For more tips on networking at tech events, you could do worse than check out Kevin McDonagh’s post on how to attend a conference.
Let’s not forget personal safety.
My last bit of advice is about safety. Barcelona is still notorious for theft. I’ve written about this before. Please be street smart and heed the warnings. It can happen to anyone. And it is an all too frequent occurrence. There are 60,000+ gadget-geek execs in town with pockets stuffed full of devices. It’s like bees to a honeypot where thieves are concerned. Consider yourself warned.
And where to stay.
I always stay in an apartment. I’ve never stayed in a hotel the week of MWC so have no pointers there.
Please feel free to add your own top tips in the comments.
Last year’s Road to Mobile World Congress post can be found here. The comments are worth a look for more advice.