MWC Barcelona 2021: Post-Show Review

We always like to provide a post-tradeshow report, giving our opinion on the highs and lows of the event. However, our review on MWC Barcelona 2021 is a little different, given the obvious reasons.

What did it look like and how was the experience?

Deveo still attended MWC Barcelona 2021 physically, although on a much smaller scale, which was the same for most visitors/exhibitors. There were only 3 Halls in use and GSMA reported 20,000 physical attendees, compared to the normal 110,000. From this number, we believe only 2 or 3% were Telco’s, whereas normally it is about 10% of the whole figure.

Even with only 3 halls, there were still many empty booths (especially from Asian organizations), and many simply with signs saying, ‘let’s meet virtually’. Cloud City was one of the main talking points from this year and was certainly impressive to visit.

From our perspective, as always, the event was very well organised by Fira and GSMA, even with the extra health and safety protocols that had to be in place. However, these necessary measures impacted the overall attendee experience. MWC Barcelona is one of the greatest opportunities for Telco’s to network, swap business cards, shake hands (and quite often share a few drinks with one another). This was not possible this year, especially as the networking aspect was hindered greatly by having to communicate in a noisy hall behind masks.

Looking ahead…

In our opinion, and especially with the Delta variant on the rise throughout the globe, tradeshows will not be able to continue successfully until the threat of the virus is really under control. Digital events will need to improve, to try and match the experience a physical one brings. This move to digital attendance was clear at MWC Barcelona 2021, with 5 times more digital attendees than physical. We think this will continue, and organisers (not only the GSMA) will have to offer a very different attendee experience by being creative for new business models and new types of interactions.

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