Back to the future – I mean Fira ???

22 02 2009

Having spent years working in marketing groups and managing major events, it is still amazingly, a delight to attend exhibitions and observe what has been effective, who has made a major impact, where the innovation is coming from and learn about new stuff!

Should I stay or should I go?

Fira de Barcelona - Home to Mobile World Congress

Fira de Barcelona - Home to Mobile World Congress

As carnival parties continue it must be time for the annual GSMA Mobile World Congress (formally GSM World Congress). Over the years it has become the hot show for anyone wanting to do business in mobile communications. As I sit here in my French villa looking out over the snow-capped Alps my travel plans are set to go to Barcelona. I do miss the event’s previous location, in Cannes, that had a great sense of glamour. Of course the location had various limitations that contributed to the city switch: success of the show drove up attendance figures leading to over crowding, insufficient hotel rooms, high costs and navigating the rabbit warren to seek out exhibitors and hospitality rooms created difficult challenges for attendees. It was a fun spot: there was always competition for the best hospitality marquees on the beach vying to host THE event party. The harbour would be bursting with yachts and the super class monster boats hoping to lure senior level attendees to hang out to discuss business – a change from those cramped noisy event halls. Or witnessing scenes like Richard Branson (Virgin Mobile fame – who made it hip for American teens to use mobile devices) running down the “Croisette” – late for his early morning keynote at the show, due to late night partying and having his pr man tackled to the ground by over zealous security men – thinking he was being chased and attacked as he scrambled up the red carpet and into the Cannes Film Festival Home at the Palais des Festival! What halcyon days – great fun.

So pre-show preparation was required and questions prepared. How is the mobile industry working to improve our lives? What “must have” innovation would I find, which partnerships or new products will this year’s show unveil?

As both a consumer and business user it has become apparent that the strict boundaries and roles of organisations and services from my youth are now becoming blurred. Everyone in the food chain from goods (be it groceries, clothing, music, books, event tickets etc) and services that we wish to buy or obtain online is now stepping up to re-evaluate their role. This is no more true than in the mobile world where operators, financial services, retailers and mobile devices and applications suppliers are figuring out how to make it all work together. Will I discover at MWC ’09 some new service that will change my life for the better?

In this economic “belting tightening” times that we have entered, companies need to fight to remain in business. That means working to reduce costs while revenue is falling, but investing to improve customer service and retain customer base to retain market share by launching new exciting services. Hang on minute, doesn’t this all sound familiar? – the same mantra of the 1990’s….

There is a big difference from the mini crisis experienced in 2001-2003 – we are now facing the worst global economic downturn for 70 if not 100 years. The overspending and problems of inflation cannot be wiped away in one year – so hang on to your hats, it’s going to be a bumpy ride, perhaps it will be 7 even 10 years before recovery returns.

On that note, I re-considered my trip, finances and carbon footprint. Together with other annual attendees (this year’s show attendance was reported to be down 9pc – the Hotel Association of Barcelona reported a 32% drop in hotel bookings… maybe more people are sharing rooms or renting apartments). I decided to abandon my trip to MWC ’09. I had after all sufficient business colleagues and friends attending who could provide show feedback, so a virtual attendance was my plan for 2009, thanks to technology – my feet and wallet thanked me as well!


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