Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The road to Mobile World Congress 2012

Update 14 January 2013 - I've written an update to this post with links for 2013 and some logistics info for the new venue. Check it out here.

mwc logo_02
Yes, it’s that time of year again when the mobile world focuses its energy on the annual shindig that is Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. If you haven’t been before, and you have anything to do with mobile, then you should consider attending. It’s huge (60,000 attendees last year apparently). It 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 also a large conference element and I’m lucky enough to be moderating a session there this year looking at the role of social media in mobile marketing. There’s pretty much something for everyone.
And every year, I get asked, without fail two questions from a lot of people.
1. How do I get a free exhibition ticket?
2. What should I see and do there?
I’m going to answer those two questions here.
How to get a free exhibition ticket
*Update: Poynt has five tickets to give away. Closing date to apply is 10th February 2012 at 18:00 GMT. Details on the Heroes of the Mobile Fringe site. More competitions on the way on the fringe festival site*
  • Buy a ticket. A ticket that gives you access to the exhibition is 699 Euros. 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. More on that later.
  • UPDATE 21 Jan: Buy a half-price ticket. You can still apply for a meeting brokerage service to help you meet other companies at MWC12. The fee is 300 Euros and includes one expo ticket. You do have to agree to make and attend some meetings, but you're there to meet people right? The deadline has been extended to Sunday 29 January. More details here.
  • 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 (Nokia, Samsung, BlackBerry, IMGA, WIPJam and one more tba) 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 blue button on this page to ‘register your interest in attending one or more of the App Developer Conferences’. 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.
  • UPDATE 27 Jan: You have until 31 January 2012 to apply for a free Samsung App Planet pass  http://developer.samsung.com/mwc2012/registration.do
  • UPDATE 12 Jan: Apply to attend one of the MPowered Theatre days. This is a new stream for Mobile World Congress and is geared towards brands, media owners and the agencies who look after them. I'm guessing key themes will be mobile marketing and advertising, consumer insight, mobile search, mobile and social, location based services etc. Nielson and McCann are confirmed partners for this, with more partners tbc. Apply here by clicking the big orange button to register your interest. 
  • Sign up to the Heroes of the Mobile Fringe Festival. I will have an allocation of tickets from sponsors to give away. The website will be launched w/c 16 January (all being well) but until then, you can add yourself to the mailing list here, you can like the Facebook page here and you can follow proceedings on twitter too.
  • 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 relationship and networking skills. So check the MWC website and see who is exhibiting who you can ask. There were 1400 exhibitors last year, so there are a few to choose from.
  • 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 tickets are usually 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 #mwc12 or #mwc2012.
  • UPDATE 11 Jan: If you're an ICT company based in the North West of the UK, then you may qualify to join a Trade Mission to MWC which includes organisation of one-to-one meetings with potential clients and partners as well as an expo ticket. The cost is 300 Euros (cheaper than a ticket anyway) and there may be other finance available to help you with your trip. Details here  https://connect.innovateuk.org/web/mission-to-mobile-world-congress  and you must register by 20 January. [Update 21 Jan - I believe the deadline has been extended to 29 Jan]
  • Be a speaker. If you’re quick, and I mean really quick – the deadline is 12 January – then you can apply to be a discussion leader or storyteller at WIPJam which is on the last day of Congress, 1st March. Details of what they’re looking for and how to apply here. I’m pretty sure whoever is invited to speak will be sorted out with at least an exhibition pass. [I believe this opportunity may now be closed]
What should I see and do there?
Congress is huge and I know it can seem overwhelming. With 1400 exhibitors, after the first hour, every stand seems to look the same and they all merge into one. 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 8 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. There will be a wide selection of events, meet-ups and things to do, see and get involved in at the fringe festival. Background to the festival is here and you can sign up for alerts at http://mwcfringe.com . 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.
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.
3. Schedule meetings in with people you can’t see easily at home. Make them 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).
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.
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, Mobile World Congress is a very sociable place and the parties and meet-ups are where I usually meet the most interesting people. You need to allow for serendipity at large shindigs like MWC and the parties and the fringe festival are an ideal opportunity to do that. Hint, Swedish Beers will be on the Wednesday night as usual.
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. It’s like bees to a honeypot where thieves are concerned. Consider yourself warned.
And finally, no, I don’t have any top tips on where to stay or how to get a cheap hotel room. If I do, I’ll blog it!
Please feel free to add your own top tips in the comments.

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