7 Lessons We Learned from Mobile World Congress, and How We're Changing Our Booth This Year
MWC Barcelona, or the GSMA Mobile World Congress, is the world's largest exhibition for the mobile industry. The event brings together prominent executives, device manufacturers, vendors, and content owners from all over the world.
In 2018, LMT's first time exhibiting at Mobile World Congress, we created a unique trade show booth called “Garage” in collaboration with contemporary artists. The booth was made of natural wood and metal and was created as an interactive safe space where adults can become children again, build future ideas and dream big.
Even though we came prepared, there were a ton of issues that took us by surprise. But we’ve learned from our mistakes, and we're back at MWC in 2019 — with a new outlook and a much more polished booth.
To avoid making the same mistakes we did, here are seven lessons to get the best out of your trade show experience:
1. Tell a unique story.
The main goal of your booth is to help tell your brand's story in an entertaining, yet educating way, and design plays a very important role in conveying that message. To create a compelling story, think of your brand in these terms:
- What value does your brand add to the customer?
- What makes your brand authentic?
- What reaction does your brand attempt to evoke?
What we did last year: As a mobile operator, we have always been experimenting with fresh ideas and new technologies, and we tried to depict that in the design of our trade show booth. Therefore, last year's booth for MWC was designed as “man cave” of sorts, where people could escape from reality and explore innovative ideas:
What we're changing this time: This year, we want to take it even further. The booth will be entirely made out of peat moss, an organic material known for its abilities to improve soil quality and grow every little seed planted in it. Besides, peat moss covers 10 percent of Latvia, the country of origin for LMT, emphasizing the company's roots and our local contribution from the Baltic Sea region.
2. Ditch plastic.
Don't be afraid to experiment with materials, especially if there are alternatives with more environmental benefits. By picking an unconventional material to create your booth, you will increase your company's chances of standing out. For example, if you decide on organic material, your booth is guaranteed to be in the spotlight amidst the sea of plastics.
What we did last year: During our first time at MWC, we were shocked to see how many companies rely on plastic as the main material for booth construction. There must be tons of plastic that go to waste after each trade show! That's when the idea hit us — we have to ditch it, for good.
What we're changing this time: We'd already been using wood and metal in our booth for 2018, so we decided to take it a step further and implement organic peat moss that is decomposable and helps to reduce our ecological footprint.
3. Make your booth interactive.
Getting people interested in your booth and making it memorable does not depend only on the visuals; it's about the experience you provide, too. Your goal from the get-go should be to create an adventure for the visitors and immerse them in a memorable experience, instead of focusing on perfection and loads of facts about the company.
What we did last year: We incorporated a lot of tech into our “Garage” booth. Visitors could try self-driving connected cars on a 5G-ready track, drones, check their LTE network safety against cyber-attacks and more. The booth itself was created in the form of a rotating robot's head and visitors could put on headphones and hear a men's chorus imitating the sounds of machines. The people went nuts. They enjoyed being a part of the booth and trying out the technologies for themselves.
What we're changing this time: We realized that this works. So this year, we're bringing in even more tech to interact with, including AI-powered rescue drones with computer vision, universal IoT module and a smart smoke alarm.
4. Location matters.
A lot of your company's visibility in the trade show is related to the location of your booth. Is it placed somewhere near the entrance or in another hot spot, or completely out of the way? If you're not happy with your location, it's never too early to start thinking about the future. Do some scouting around and notice attendee behaviour. Take note of the busier spots and keep this information in mind when picking a spot for your booth next year. More importantly: Make sure your booth is accessible from multiple sides. It can be tricky to lure visitors in as it is, and blocking their entry will not do you good.
What we did last year: Our booth was located in one of the niche halls for innovation and drones, and it was way too calm in terms of foot traffic.
What we're changing this time: We're moving to a busier exhibition hall that's twice the size of the previous one and has more visitors. The media centre is located right above us, which is a convenient bonus.
5. Maximize visibility.
Increasing your trade show booth's visibility comes down not only to design but to the way you use space. The problem is booth size can often be restrictive, so it's important to utilize the space you've been allocated to the max. For that reason, use the vertical space of your booth. You'll get extra square footage, or you can use this space as a design element to make your booth more visible.
What we did last year: We created an improvised “tower” that overlooks the exhibition area and can be seen from a distance, significantly increasing our visibility to the attendees of MWC.
What we're changing this time: While we're not continuing the “tower” theme, we are still going to utilize as much of the vertical space as possible. This year, we're creating an elevated logo stand that rises above other booths.
6. Create your own infrastructure.
Trade show floors are not known for their quiet and calm — often the noise level can reach that of a medium-sized music festival. This can get particularly inconvenient when you have a potential client or investor you want to meet on the spot.
What we did last year: Whenever we had a one-on-one meeting, we'd use the designated meeting and conference room area that MWC provided. However, these rooms would quickly get booked, and they never seemed to be available when we needed them.
What we're changing this time: We're going to expand the infrastructure of our own booth and add built-in meeting rooms for one-on-one meetings and closing deals. It's a great way not only to avoid queues but to set up meetings whenever you want to, as well as get some occasional peace and quiet for the team.
7. Don't have salespeople man your booth.
Usually, the general idea for trade shows is to have your best salespeople on the team to represent your company at the booth. While this may work for some businesses, we figured that getting visitors, potential clients and partners genuinely interested in our products was more important than landing many sales.
What we did last year: Our practice was to have product developers manning the trade show booth. Each of our people knew their product inside and out and were the best at describing what each product does in simple terms, yet in an engaging manner.
What we're changing this time: In this case, we're actually not changing anything and still having product developers man the floor. It's not always about the big sales number or leads you to take away from the trade show. In plenty of cases, quality conversation with several potential partners can play a bigger role in the long-term.
Having a truly successful trade show experience takes time and practice. But learning from other companies' mistakes and making your own will get you there — you can count on it.