Fresh back from Mobile World Congress 2019? If you were one of more than 2,400 companies who exhibited at the Fira Gran Via, you’ll be forgiven if you didn’t make it around the full 120,000 square metres of exhibition and hospitality space!

No problem, our Experience team was onsite supporting a number of clients whilst also racking up some serious step count. We noted a vast array of key event, tech and design trends we’d like to share. Read on to hear about our thoughts as to the best designed show stands, what worked well including exhibiting and design trends we expect to see more of next year.

If you’re planning to exhibit at MWC 2020 or are exhibiting over the coming year, take a closer look at our reviews and recommendations, which may inspire you to improve your stand’s presence, performance and increase engagement and sales potential. 

We know you’re busy, so if on the run today we recommend a read of our quick-fire insights at the bottom of our blog – make sure you head back later for the full fat version! Spare a few minutes, grab a coffee and get the lowdown on what you may have missed at the world’s largest mobile expo.

Stand Design

With so many carriers, handset and tech companies across 8+ halls, it can be difficult to capture a busy attendee’s attention, let alone get them to venture onto your stand and engage with them in a meaningful way. It was noted that this year we actually saw a notable decrease in token stand gimmicks and attractors – much to our delight, and the hugely criticised ‘booth babes’ are now a thing of the past, well, bar one exhibitor. Exhibitors are beginning to understand that a token bowl of sweets on the side or a magician won’t cut it any more. The most effective stands pulled audiences in by creating a sense of intrigue and curiosity, fun moments and news buzz-worthy tech. They also maximised opportunities for visitors to co-create content, all relating to their services or products, which they could easily share via their social networks. There’s no denying the power of providing that exclusive hands-on experience to excite and draw in potential customers to engage with a new product. We enjoyed marvelling at the new Huawei and Samsung foldable phones, along with moving 360-degree self-video and life-sized drones that could carry people!

2019 saw a significant rise in robotics both as a stand pull but also as a showcase for companies’ main product line. From human vs. robot dance off competitions to robots playing music, we saw more robotics than ever before. With life-size chat robots and robot helpers, there was a shift to highlight robotics as a primary consumer product to enhance how we work and play. Commercial robotics played a particular part in brands exhibits tying in with this year’s theme ‘Intelligent Connectivity’.

Robots became one of the key mechanics in which brands demonstrated the future 5G promises to unlock. 5G is undoubtedly the next fundamental change in the telecoms industry but it was interesting to observe that its functionalities were not demonstrated in the most convincing of ways. Very few brands had access to actual 5G capabilities, and this meant that some were not able to realise/articulate the impact as well in a creative, physical and tangible way.

More than ever before exhibitors utilised environmental lighting effectively, whilst some exhibitors maximised it to its full impact creating bespoke brand worlds – others did not even consider it and relied on standard forms of lighting. Lighting has the power to make a stand look vibrant, welcoming and fresh but to make an impact you will need to consider your product, how you want the visitor to feel, as well as the practical requirements for lighting. By this we mean being aware of the overall exhibition environment, your stand’s position in relation to others and how the main lighting will affect and interact with your own designed space. It might be simple but if you get the lighting right it can do wonders to your overall stand design and elevate your product and brand positioning in a crowded marketplace.

On this note, let’s discuss stand screens. Advancements in the use of LED were clearly visible – we saw everything from angled, segmented, curved and even kinetic high-quality screens. The technology was brilliant – the application and what was on screen was the issue. In an event environment, the audience is usually stood a few metres back, so the screen needs to be positioned at the correct height and angled to attract a captive audience. All too often we saw screens that were placed simply too high for the human eyeline. Aside from screen’s physical positioning, it’s also important to note what’s featuring on said screens! Content is key. The most effective exhibitors had clearly spent time and money developing their event content with engaging HD videos, animations and product showcases.

Similarly, the use of big presentations to educate and engage with large audiences simultaneously worked well; however, they do take up a fair amount of valuable stand space, and again rely heavily on relevant and effective content, made all the more effective paired with an engaging presenter. Presentations need to be targeted to an audience in mind, pique interest and have brand representatives to follow up with prospects face-to-face immediately afterwards. It was a real shame and, indeed, missed opportunity to watch an engaging presentation but then lack an interactive human conversation afterwards. It has to be said that technology is enabling but is a difficult replacement for human interactivity.

This year we saw less traditional theatre-style setups and more creative designs. Increasingly more brands created exclusive closed off stands to entice curiosity and boost traffic. Stands that worked well were those that created smaller access entry points to watch or engage with video content – these evoked feelings of discovery, exclusivity and intimacy with a brand or product. If your brand is already recognised and evokes this curiosity with ease, then great! Watch as your stand traffic soars! But if you’re not yet an established brand, be careful that you have a robust strategy in place – one that takes your target audience into account and delivers excellent content tailored to them. Failing this you may run the risk of appearing unapproachable and closed off to visitors.

As you know too well, stand space at MWC comes at a premium so being creative and strategic can ensure your budget goes further, and returns more. An ingenuitive tactic we observed at MWC was when only a handful of exhibitors utilised the top of their stand by having a branding roof capturing the attention of those walking on the concourse. The rules state that a fabric or solid ceiling must be used but by placing printed graphics atop of your installation, you can capture an audience from above! We’d bet that many more exhibitors will clock onto this at next year’s show.

Engagement & User Experience

To really get the most out of exhibiting at MWC, you need to adopt the quality over quantity mindset. It’s not necessarily about how many people passed by your stand, it’s about who you spoke to and the quality of that interaction. With more than 109,000 visitors from 198 countries at MWC19, how you approach engagement and user experience is vital. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, carefully define, profile, and prioritise your most important target audience to avoid wasting valuable event time on the wrong audience.

If you take one thing away from reading this article it’s that stand reps absolutely need to be trained with a key message that they can lead and return to at any given point in a conversation. It was a shame to see so many stands empty without a sales rep, or worse those reps actively ignoring attendees who showed an interest in their stand. If you’re exhibiting at MWC you cannot afford to dismiss prospects: put your best people on the stand – your brand advocates – who can effortlessly interact and provide excellent customer service. And if you’re doing all of that, and attendees miss a chance to speak with someone face-to-face, your stand needs to speak for you. So, make that brand message loud and clear!

Engagement begins when someone walks towards your stand. Ask yourself is the signage positioned in the most optimum place? Approach your stand from different angles and consider the pathways delegates will take when walking around the exhibition floor. Will you receive most of your visitors from the east where they have visited the keynote theatre or the west? At MCI Experience, we work with psychologists who can demystify human behaviour and help to understand the innate patterns we often end up following subconsciously!

Sustainability and Wellness

It was refreshing to see so many of this year’s stands were built with sustainability in mind. Many stands were refurbished, made of reused materials or were due to be recycled after MWC. We saw a rise in wooden structures and recycled materials like cardboard and honeycomb board.

Wellness was also a key overarching theme for attendees with the formation of the MWC Running Club. We expect to see this grow in numbers at the next MWC as people put their physical and mental wellbeing first. With that being said, we see a real opportunity to improve the catering and offer healthier food options to suit an increasingly healthier audience. GSMA are to be commended for their sustained certification as the world’s largest carbon neutral trade show – long may it continue and others follow in their footsteps.

More, better technology

One thing future sages don’t need to debate or worry about is whether technology is going to be an integral part of future live experience. We will continue to see breakthroughs in new experience technologies, apps, social media, AI, VR, drones, interactive video, projection mapping, holograms and more. What we now need to think about is how we apply this dizzying array of technology in the best and most meaningful ways to enhance and extend the experience?

Quick Fire Insights

Stand design

  • The days of gimmicks are over (almost!) and giveaways are almost redundant
  • Robotics commanded a large presence, and we’ll see more of this next year
  • LED lighting caught our attention, sometimes for the wrong reasons!
  • Never underestimate the value of human interactions for engagement
  • Consider the user experience from all angles
  • Have one strong key brand message

Mobile World Congress might be over but it’s never too early to start thinking about your presence at next year’s show! We hope we’ve got you thinking about how to improve your exhibition stand and unlock deeper audience engagement. Do check out our 10 Tips to get the most out of exhibiting at Mobile World Congress, or reach out to us for a healthy discussion to see how we can design a compelling stand strategy for your brand.