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Seven Steps to MWC Success: Step 5 — Scheduling meetings

Mobile World Congress Logo 2011

Can you feel the MWC heat? We’re getting close now — it’s only a few weeks away. And it’s time now for the fifth post in our ‘Seven Steps to MWC Success’ series. Zoe of communications consultancy Buzz Method is back once again to examine the topic of scheduling meetings.

In case you missed the other parts of the series, here they are:

– Step One – Announcements
– Step Two – Always be relevant
– Step Three – Tailor your approach
Step Four – You can never over-plan

Ok, let’s begin — over to Zoe!

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5. Scheduling Meetings

Companies start trying to schedule meetings to take place during MWC from as early as October. What’s more, many journalists and bloggers will make arrangements at this stage to be “hosted” by a vendor. Essentially this means that the vendor will pick up their bill, arrange for them to meet all their senior executives and generally put on a programme of entertainment for them. The most pragmatic vendors allow their hosted media plenty of time to see the show itself and beyond a skeleton programme, don’t interfere too much. However, hosted media will find that their time to explore the show and meet other companies is limited. If you really need to speak to these people, you’ll need to make your hook compelling and (we can’t say this often enough) relevant to them.

All media and analysts, whether hosted or not, are likely to start receiving invitations to briefings well before Christmas. One analyst we spoke to said that he tends to let the invitations flood in until mid January at which stage he will sit down to review them all and decide who he wants to meet – a process that can take a couple of days. The message is clear – competition for share of voice is every bit as intense in the run up to the event as during the event itself. Go back to the principals of good comms outreach – make your pitch as relevant and powerful as possible and hope that it hits the mark. Try to speak to your key targets early on to get them interested in a meeting either before or during the show.

Elisabeth Rainge, Program Director, Telecom Software, IDC told us:

“Mobile World Congress is the single most productive trade show event on my calendar, but the challenge is time management.

We will attend some, not all, major events at the show – some events can be a key meeting place for analysts. It has been useful to have that informal networking in the past.

I think it’s also key to note that each analyst has their own working style.

I use this event to meet small up-and-coming companies as well as existing clients, but please note that I don’t want a product pitch and please put presentations on USB – paper is too cumbersome and heavy – PowerPoint decks are a widely-used tool and I am happy to review a presentation after we have met.

Don’t expect immediate follow up… we’re exhausted after the event and need time to gather our thoughts and recoup!”

Do what you can to make the process as painless as possible for the journalist, analyst or blogger. When you have agreed a meeting, send a confirmation, preferably with a diary appointment. Follow up with any useful background material nearer the time and send a reminder on the day. But be realistic: schedules will change, press conferences will overrun and sometimes people simply can’t fight their way through the crowds in order to get to a stand on time. But, when they do turn up, it’s your job to make sure there is someone there for them to speak to, with something compelling.

Stephen Loudermilk, Head of Global Services Industry Analyst Relations at Alcatel-Lucent gave us the following tips:

“We start securing time in diaries as early as possible – some of our really key contacts, such as senior industry analysts, need as much advance warning as possible because they’re in such demand at the show. And of course we have to match their availability to those of some extremely busy Alcatel-Lucent senior execs.

Of course, having a stand is useful because visitors can plot us into their schedule and help us work to find a time that works. However, we’re quite imaginative when it comes to when and where meetings take place – you have to expect the unexpected. It may not be possible to stick to an agreed time, so we brief our execs to be as flexible as possible. If we do miss a meeting, we’re quick to reschedule it – that means extremely long days for everyone, so we try not to focus on detailed presentations and stick to conversations and verbal updates.”

Don’t over-complicate things. The simplest place to hold your meetings is at – or very near to – your stand. But make sure you know exactly where you are going to hold your meetings – in the middle of the stand on a very busy show floor is not great. Ideally, you will have private rooms or areas on your stand – somewhere to sit down and a coffee will also go down well! Unless you have legendary sound-proofing, you can still expect it to be noisy, so plan ahead and bring speakers if demos will need them.

When scheduling meetings, think about people’s priorities – your executives want to meet the media and analysts, but if there is a big deal on the table, they need to focus on that. It is frustrating and potentially damaging to have an exec fail to turn up to a briefing you have spent weeks trying to set up. Do what you can to get them there on time – and make sure you have some for them to meet when they do turn up. Try to group meetings fairly close together and don’t build too many into their day. Brief them on who they are going to meet – they’ll be more up for the meeting, if they’re prepared.

– – – – –

Thank you Zoe. Incidentally your point about speakers for presentations — hugely valuable. I’ve been in quite a few MWC briefings that relied upon good sound to get the message across. But unfortunately because of the high level of background noise/chatting/music/bustle at the conference, the laptop’s own internal speakers didn’t work too well. It’s a small thing but it can mean the difference between a good and a brilliant pitch.

In case you haven’t come across Zoe and the team at Buzz Method, here’s a quick overview:

Buzz Method is a boutique communications consultancy based in Barcelona and London. Its consultants have decades of experience in advising ICT companies of all sizes and from all regions on how best to identify and engage with different stakeholders. Moreover, Buzz Method partners with the world’s best PR agencies to deliver award-winning international communications programmes for their mutual clients.

Buzz Method’s senior consultants will be onsite in Barcelona in the run-up to Mobile World Congress and are available to help you in your final preparations for the show. They can give you feedback on your presentation content and delivery, coach senior spokespeople in working with the media, or run ‘media handling’ sessions for your stand staff. It’s well worth bringing in someone external to ensure that what you are planning to say really is compelling and relevant.

Meanwhile if you’ve got an opinion or perspective, do drop me a note: ewan@mobileindustryreview.com.

And if you’re looking around for MWC options, do check out the Mobile Industry Review MWC Sponsorship packages.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

3 replies on “Seven Steps to MWC Success: Step 5 — Scheduling meetings”

“Hosted media” — that’s not a good concept. It surely calls into question impartiality. No? It seems the situation is that there are publications that can’t afford to pay for staff to attend a major event, but it’s still worth getting coverage in these publications. Did I get that right?

Now, a lot of publications will have sponsored content at the event… (videos, etc). That’s what covers costs, contributes to profit, etc, and is legitimately part of the business model, so long as it’s clear what is sponsored content. But this is different to what hosted media seems to imply.

I think ‘hosted media’ is one of those things that is highly widespread. I
wonder if any PRs reading could give us an estimate as to what percentage of
the media visiting MWC is being hosted?

I was discussing the possibility of going to MWC at the invitation of a
major chip manufacturer. In the end I couldn’t make the logistics work. But
I’d have been very clear — as I always have been — if I was there at the
invitation of someone covering the costs.

I can appreciate that ‘hosted media’ as a concept might raise a few eyebrows. So let think of it as a ‘press trip’. ‘Press trips’ – where the vendor picks up the bill, arranges for journalists to meet all their senior executives, and generally puts on a programme of entertainment for them – happen every day of the year.

For a major international press trip, a company will bring together their most senior executives from all around the world to provide a full briefing on the company and share their latest, most compelling news to a small group of carefully chosen media. There are opportunities for one-to-one meetings and relationships are formed.

If you are going to demand time from your most senior executives – taking them away from their day jobs and flying them half way round the world – then it is vital that you have people turn up. And putting them on a plane is a good way of making sure that they do. This does not buy a favourable opinion and editorial integrity is always paramount. For all concerned.

From a journalist’s perspective, it’s not about going on a jolly and dashing out a few words to keep the vendor sweet. They are getting an, ‘access-all-areas’ insight into the company and the opportunity to build relationships with senior executives who they may never otherwise meet.

A big part of a PR’s job is to create meetings that are mutually beneficial for their client and the journalist / analyst / blogger. ‘Impartial’ media coverage is not for sale to the highest bidder – if your company has nothing interesting to say, no journalist will write anything about them, whether they have been sponsored or not.

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