#MWC14 Recap with Michael O'Hara, GSMA’s Chief Marketing Officer

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This year’s Mobile World Congress set a record with 85,000 attendees and 1,800 exhibitors in Barcelona. Before taking off for a well-deserved vacation, the GSMA’s Chief Marketing Officer Michael O’Hara graciously took the time to share some of his post-show thoughts about the 2014 Mobile World Congress conference and exhibition with Calysto. Enjoy!

This year’s Mobile World Congress was HUGE! As you look back, is there anything you would you do differently?

We came in at 85K at the close of the event — which was a record by a long way — so we are thrilled! I think we feel really good about how it went. Of course we will take time after the show and look at every detail, but there’s nothing that I think about now as something we got wrong. We just plan to continue improving to keep the MWC as the best show out there. 

It’s easy to get overlooked at a show this big. From your perspective, what helps a company that doesn’t have the budget of a Samsung, LG, Sony, and others get a return on their investment?

Be clever with your approach. I think the press and attendees are always looking for the cool idea well presented. I saw floods of people around the connected toothbrush Oral B had on display, and I loved an idea of beer brewing controlled by your phone from a company called Brewbot. You just have to be creative with your product and how you display it and you will stand out. 

What should companies NOT do?

We have worked really hard to remove the so called “booth babe” from the show. I still find it amazing, in this day, that marketers think that’s an appropriate approach. We will continue to push our dress guidelines to make sure Congress is a comfortable environment for all of our attendees. 

It’s been predicted by some that the nature of MWC will change. How much has it has changed this year from last year?

I don’t see the change as sudden, I see it as gradual. We have always believed Mobile World Congress is the place where the industry comes to do business. Now we are seeing it as the place where the whole mobile ecosystem comes to do business, with more and more industries taking a presence. Ford actually decided to launch a new car at Mobile World Congress, rather than at the Geneva Motor Show, because they consider the car to be a mobile device. This is a trend we expect to continue. 

What devices caught your eye?

I loved Oral B’s connected toothbrush! A very cool device that connects by Bluetooth to your mobile device and tells you how to brush your teeth more effectively. It got a lot of press! Also, Android-based Nokia phones - who would have believed that?

Did anything surprise you this year? 

Even though we knew the Facebook keynote would be a huge hit, we did not expect it to be so huge with the general public. Bars were showing it, and I heard of banks bringing in TVs so staff and customers could watch. It was amazing for Congress to get Mark to come — it was quite an unforgettable keynote. 

Has the move to the Fira de Barcelona Gran Via worked out as you hoped? What are your future plans?

The new venue has been amazing. Everyone seems to love the experience. The only thing we need to crack is getting the metro connected to the venue. We are working hard with the city to get that done as soon as possible, which will make the transport experience seamless. 

Did you use a FitBit device during the show by any chance?

I did, although I was not anywhere near the crazy people at the venue. We had some folks walking the distance of a marathon in a day at Congress. Crazy!

Were you able to make it to any of the parties and networking events this year?

It’s a busy week for us, so I don’t get out much until later in the show. I went to the Sony party on Wednesday and thought it was great. And I heard the Samsung Galaxy S5 event was good on Monday. 

Any insider tips to share about dining (and please share your favorite)?

I try to get back to the city to eat and love the tapas bars on La Rambla. Bar Lobo is my favorite. 

Fill in the blank: “I wish more companies that come to MWC would …”

Hold great parties and invite me to them! 

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