MWC Barcelona for Startups

By Cara Mormino
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Ins and Outs of Exhibiting at MWC Barcelona

MWC Barcelona is the largest event of the year for the wireless industry, bringing together more than 110,000 attendees from 208 countries. It’s the best opportunity all year for you to meet with prospects, customers, and partners from every corner of the world, all in one place. In fact, GSMA’s 2019 exhibitor survey reported that an average MWC 2019 exhibitor hosted 58.8 meetings. That’s roughly 12 per day, which they rated 8/10 for quality and satisfaction. 

MWC Barcelona is crowded, the days are long, and the logistics can be confusing for a first-timer. In this post, we’ll review the ins and outs of exhibiting at MWC Barcelona, with some helpful budgeting tips for selecting your space and packing your schedule. 

Startup’s Guide To Crushing It At MWC Barcelona

Space Selection

MWC Barcelona’s Fira Gran Via venue consists of 2400+ exhibitors across eight separate halls, spanning 100,000 square meters. Your first order of business is to determine where you fit into this massive abyss.

Carefully review the floor plan and take note of where your target meeting prospects are and where your competitors reside. Because the venue is so large, it can be difficult to manage back-to-back meetings and stay on schedule. So while you may be hesitant to select a space in the same hall as your competition, it’s a good idea to stay nearby if your key prospects and customers also reside in this hall. Locating your booth one or two halls away often results in last-minute cancellations when meeting attendees’ schedules inevitably get thrown off track throughout their busy day. 

Booth sizes vary greatly, from small kiosks in country or state pavilions to stands the size of small cities. If you are on an extremely tight budget, check to see if your state has booked a pavilion at the event. Meeting rooms may seem like an enticing lower-cost option, but it’s not something we recommend. From experience, I can tell you that you will miss out on a lot of walkup and referral traffic at the event by being closed away behind doors. You’ll also be more difficult to find, resulting in attendees bailing on your scheduled meeting rather than continuing to search for you. Your booth size ultimately depends on your budget, and we’ll get to that in a moment. First, let’s jump into GSMA’s wonky space selection process.

At U.S. shows, it’s common to view a floor plan, pick the space closest to the front of the venue, and book it. Easy peasy. This is not the case for MWC. GSMA operates on a point system that favors longtime exhibitors and sponsors over newcomers. You have the opportunity to express preferences, such as booth size, hall location, and distance from key competitors, but the ultimate choice belongs to GSMA. GSMA will offer a booth space option that most closely fits your criteria, and then you have the option of accepting or declining it in hopes that a better offer will come along. Pay close attention to any obstructions in the space, like in-ground electrical panels and pillars that may obstruct your use of the space. Once you’ve made your selection, you’ll need to decide on a standard shell or a custom build. 

Stand Building & Budgeting

When you book space at MWC Barcelona, you are literally reserving a slab of concrete. You have the option of keeping it simple by upgrading to a shell scheme or building a booth from scratch using one of the millions of builders that have probably already sent you email solicitations.

Let’s take a look at your options:

Standard Shell: This option consists of white walls and a header that wraps around the top of the booth space with your company name typed on it. It is possible to apply some graphics at an additional cost. The package includes a table, a few chairs and a cabinet for storage. The cost is £1,070 per sqm.

Stand Plus: This is slightly fancier than the standard package because it includes a graphic on the back wall and front counter and a TV. You can add your logo to the header graphic for a nominal fee. For a couple of thousand more, you can expand the graphics to cover all of the walls. The cost is £1,325 per sqm plus any graphic upgrades you may desire. This is a solid option for a limited budget.

Meeting Room: As I mentioned earlier, we do not recommend this option. The cost is £1,070 per sqm for the most basic package, with a top end of £104,300 for the most extravagant package.

Custom Build: The cost of building a custom stand will vary by builder and material quality. A ballpark budget for a basic 9 sqm stand build is $20-30k. Upgrade this to include a small meeting area, and $40-50k would be a good budget range. 

Other budget line items to keep in mind include internet, electrical service, badge scanner, travel, AV and furniture.

> Need help designing your stand? We can help.

Pre-Show Sales & Marketing

One year at MWC, I spoke to a first-time exhibitor across the aisle from our booth. They had high hopes for the event and prepared a lot of marketing materials and demos in advance. “They were ready!” they informed me. The show opened, and exhibitors began to flood the aisles until we were all elbow to elbow in the exhibit hall. My new friends across the aisle stood expectantly at the edge of their booth space, faces beaming at the implied opportunity of the enormous crowd. Visitors stopped now and then, but I noticed that very few stayed to chat or sit down to watch their carefully curated product demo.

At the end of the event, I strolled over to ask how they fared. Their key takeaways were that 1) It was a bad event, and 2) Maybe Americans aren’t so bad after all. While I’m happy that I could successfully serve as an unofficial representative of the American exhibitor population, I wish I could have met them a few months earlier to tell them these four things:

  1. Reset Your Expectations: It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle at such a large event. A press release sent before or during MWC will likely get buried in the noise surrounding the event. Be strategic and laser-focused with your sales and marketing efforts to ensure the best results.
  2. Pre-Schedule Your Meetings: It’s imperative that you pre-book all of your meetings in the weeks leading up to the event. Standing in your booth space hoping to be discovered simply won’t cut it. The exhibitor list and the networking app are ripe for prospecting, and when you carefully target your list, attendees can be very responsive and eager to meet.
  3. Follow Up And Then Follow Up Again: It’s a busy time for everyone. If you don’t hear back right away, keep checking back in. Many people wait until the last minute to finalize their schedules. Follow up with a reminder the day before your scheduled meetings and then again the morning of the meeting to get ahead of any last-minute rescheduling needs to decrease your no-show rate.
  4. Be Efficient: If I haven’t made it clear up until now, I’ll say it again, MWC is busy and chaotic. Although the show hours are soul-crushingly long, you will constantly be racing against the clock regardless of your carefully laid plans. Schedules change, people are late, new people arrive requiring immediate attention. Have demos prepped and timed to fit a thirty-minute time slot to ensure you can complete your presentation quickly if your time is cut short. Have a shorter overview ready for passersby or people on an even tighter schedule.

If you are efficient and flexible, you’ll be well-equipped to handle any challenges the day has in store for you.

Onsite Activities & Materials

When we attend MWC with our clients, we encourage them to bring a couple of hundred brochures and data sheets and some low-budget giveaways for mass distribution. A QR code printed somewhere easily accessible from the exterior of the booth is a great substitute for attendees that prefer not to carry hard copies. A looping overview presentation or video is great for passersby and products on display are even better, as long as they are properly secured.

In-booth catered events like a cocktail hour can be a fun draw for your audience. We recommend sending invitations and requesting RSVPs to help inform your catering order and to portray an illusion of exclusivity. Tuesday and Wednesday have the highest attendance and are the best days for your promotions. 

Travel Tips

Since I am likely preaching to road warriors, I won’t spend much time on travel logistics. I have two pieces of advice to offer: 1. Do not book your hotel anywhere other than the official MWC booking service. Anything else is likely fraudulent. 2. The taxi line will be a million miles long. If you’re comfortable using public transit, skip the line, use the free metro card that comes with your pass, and head to the metro station on the lower level of the Fira.

Getting Started

It’s time to form your MWC action plan. We recommend getting started early, in September or October. If you have questions or if you’d like some pointers, reach out to us, and we’ll put you on the right path.

How We Can Help

We’ve been the go-to team relied upon by startups at MWC for decades. Rocket can design your stand, manage its buildout, lead the charge on prospecting and meeting scheduling, and we’ll also prepare all of your marketing materials and initiatives. We’ll be there with you every step of the way to organize, plan, design, and execute every aspect of your MWC Barcelona presence for a seamless, stress-free experience.

Ask Us How We Can Help