I’ve just worked out I’ve been going to Mobile World Congress for 155 years this year. Yes, my first MWC was 1861 when it was located at the very epicentre of 19th century tech scene: Dudley. As I recall, the focus of that year’s show was looms.
Actually no. My mistake. This is my 13th MWC, which makes 2004 my debut. Back then the venue was Cannes, rather than Barcelona. On reflection it wasn’t the best host city. The locals reserved their unique Gallic contempt (and prices) for the visitors. That was fine by me, an Englishman familiar with this ‘charming’ side to the French. But I did feel for those big-hearted Cisco execs. You know them. The ones called Hank with the firm handshakes. They just couldn’t understand why the baguettes were 20 euros and served with a scowl.
But enough of my casual racism. MWC has moved to Barcelona – a city with the scale, history and innovative street crime to meet the needs of one of the world’s great expos. Originally, the venue was the Fira de Montjuic. And what a bizarre spot that was. A trade show venue with a massive waterfall. And a palace. And Hall 4 – a space so confusing it defied all conventional notions of geometry. I believe mathematicians call it a tesseract. It’s rumoured there are delegates who arrived there in 2012 and still can’t find the way out.
In 2013, of course, congress moved again. It needed to. MWC was growing and Montjuic couldn’t cope with 80,000 white men. So off we skipped to a new convention centre just outside the city. I say skipped. I actually mean processed inside trains. The new Fira Gran Via doesn’t have the grandeur of its predecessor. It lacks a royal palace, for example. But it is larger, and indisputably more rectangular.
After three years and hundreds of miles, I think I have the measure of it. So here are eight things not to do at MWC…
Don’t need a poo
Mobile World Congress is such a great place to be a guy. You could say it’s fun to stay at the MWC. You can get yourself clean, you can have a good meal. You can do whatever you feel. That said, it’s not easy to go to the toilet. They’re always full. And they give off that rich aroma that you only get in warm Mediterranean countries. Women, on the other hand, you can poo to your heart’s content.
Don’t schedule a meeting in Hall 8.1 after a briefing in Hall 1
Yes, there are travelators. But here’s the brutal truth: Hall 8.1 is so far from Hall 1, it is actually in Portugal. Stay away from the traffickers who will offer to get you a ride on an MWC buggy.
Don’t go to a keynote
Unless you want to see Mark Zuckerberg answer questions like: “Mark, we’re so grateful you’re here. Tell us honestly – why is Facebook so great?”
Don’t remove your badge when you leave the Fira
It’s nice for Barcelona’s muggers to know you are Hank from Cisco before they shake you down.
Don’t have lunch at lunchtime
When MWC moved to the new bigger and blander Fira, we assumed there might be more places to eat. Maybe. But it’s like traffic on the M25. Open a new lane, and it just fills up with more cars. Thus, the restaurants are always rammed. So my advice is have lunch at 4.45pm. It shouldn’t be a stretch. Your bedtime will be 5.20am, so your body will adjust.
Don’t assume the stand numbers make sense
The halls might flow logically from 1 to 8, but once you’re inside them the numbering is anyone’s guess. Looking for stand 5B10? Why of course, it’s between 5Z35 and 5T27. Just turn left at ?. You can’t miss it.
Don’t go to the Google party
Every year, people get very excited about the Google party. In their minds they picture glamour, networking, good times. The reality is a long queue at a venue miles from your hotel, followed by three hours of ear-splitting R&B before the endless journey home. The only person who enjoys the Google party is Jason Derulo, paid $50,000 for a 20-minute set featuring classic poetry such as: “Been around the world, dont speak the language. But your booty dont need explaining. Talk dirty to me (oh yeah). Get jazzy on it.”
Don’t look for the C-Boss stand
The Fira Gran Via has yet to host a fashion parade by C-Bosss ‘booth babes’. We can only hope that their joyless, dead-eyed contempt will return one day. In the meantime, enjoy the show!
This article first appeared in the February 2016 print edition of Mobile Marketing. You can read the whole issue here.