The acclaimed Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, having grown in visitor numbers, faced the added challenge this year to help attendees navigate around the new and larger venue, Fira Gran Via.

 

Story by LEILA BOTHAM

Few will disagree that mobile technology has come to pervade almost all aspects of life. Being “plugged in” has become a vital part of everyday life, within both the private and business spheres. From Facebook to Linkedin, Google Maps to online banking, the most basic daily tasks are now accessed via your phone.

The numbers are mind-boggling. The mobile industry contributes US$1.6 trillion (2.2 per cent) to global GDP. For the period through 2017, the mobile industry will invest US$1.1 trillion in capital expenditure and will contribute US$2.6 trillion to public funding. It is estimated that in five years, companies across the mobile industry will employ nearly 10 million people globally.
So it is no surprise that the World Mobile Congress held annually in Barcelona attracts some 72,000 attendees and 1700 exhibiting companies. The Mobile World, organised by the GSMA, is recognised as the mobile industry’s must-attend event. It attracts executives from the world’s largest and most influential mobile operators, software companies, equipment providers, Internet companies and media and entertainment organisations, as well as government delegations from across the globe.

micenet ASIA spoke with the event director of the World Mobile Congress Eulàlia Ripoll Giralt. Responsible for managing the entire event, Ms Giralt works with a very large cross-functional team at the GSMA, as well as several third-party companies and local stakeholders such as the Catalan government and City Council.

Tell us a little about the mobile industry.

Mobile is a vibrant and evolving industry at the heart of everyday life for billions of people around the world.
With the number of mobile subscribers standing at 3.2 billion people, nearly half of the world’s population now uses mobile communications.
Mobile World Congress includes an industry-leading conference with C-level speakers from around the world; an exhibition showcasing innovative mobile technologies, products and services; a developer-focused programme; a government and ministerial programme; as well as sponsored educational programmes and free seminars.

What are the key objectives of the congress and how do you achieve them?

Each year, we strive to deliver an event that is vibrant, exciting and insightful, while continually meeting the requirements of the ever-expanding mobile ecosystem. Mobile World Congress has grown significantly over the past eight years since it moved from Cannes to Barcelona, from 51,000 attendees in 2006 to more than 72,000 in 2013. At the same time, the industry has changed dramatically, with new technologies, products and services introduced every year.

We focus on making Mobile World Congress the place that people come to do business. Critical to this is providing the right mix of exhibition, conference and educational opportunities, and of course, business development and networking. We spent a lot of time reviewing each of the programmes comprising the event, and in developing new event elements.

What are some of the main challenges when organising the congress?

As you can imagine, the sheer size of the event, with more than 72,000 attendees this year, requires significant planning. We work very hard across all areas of the business – sales, operations, customer care and marketing, etc. – to ensure that attendees are well-prepared to visit Mobile World Congress and that they will have an outstanding experience.
This year presented new challenges, as we moved to our new home, Fira Gran Via in Barcelona. It was very exciting to move into a new, larger and more modern space and to see all of the new opportunities for us here, but after being in one location for so long and being so familiar with the Montjuïc venue, it took a lot of preparation.

Can you tell us one story about how you overcame a potential problem for the 2013 congress?

I think getting our attendees acclimated to our new venue posed a potential challenge – we had been at the old venue in Montjuïc for seven years, and Fira Gran Via is larger and, of course, laid out differently.

We addressed this in several ways. We held many exhibitor days at Fira Gran Via, where our exhibitors had the opportunity to come and visit the new venue months in advance to get an understanding of how the venue is laid out, where things would be located at Mobile World Congress, how far apart things were, etc., and this helped a great deal.
Our marketing team also developed on online New Venue Orientation that included: a “Virtual Fly-Thru” feature that took viewers on a virtual “walk” through Fira Gran Via; a “Where Is It?” feature showing where various event features could be found; a “Transportation and Logistics” feature to share the location and type of transportation options; and a “Travel Times” map that could calculate the estimated time required to move around the venue, helpful to attendees in planning their schedule.

What is next for you and the congress?

We conduct both internal and external debriefs – internal with members of all of the teams that contribute to the event, to understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats across each element of the event, and then externally, with many of our key clients, to understand what they thought worked, and what didn’t. All of these goes into our planning for next year’s event, and this begins about a month after the event itself.

As we just moved to our new home, Fira Gran Via, and as we move into the 2014 event, we’ll be looking at how we can utilise the space throughout our venue even better, and we of course are always looking at new event elements that we can introduce that will deliver even greater value and create an even better experience for our attendees.

The numbers

  • 72,000 attendees from 200 countries
  • Over 50 per cent hold C-level positions
  • Over 4300 CEOs
  • 1700 exhibitors
  • 94,000 square metres of exhibition and hospitality space
  • 3400 international media and analysts
  • 143 government delegations and intergovernmental organisations