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Looking back at MWC: the return of in-person training at trade shows

Following their first major trade show in two years, we caught up with our training team to find out what it was like to train in front of live audiences again.

MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS in Barcelona is normally a calendar staple for the Quadmark training team. However, the pandemic brought all in-person training, from big trade shows to smaller team training sessions, to a halt. This February at MWC, the training team were back out there delivering demos and showcasing cutting edge technology to brand ambassadors. We ‘sat down’ (we’re a remote company after all) with our training team to find out more about their experience delivering in-person training after so long, and what effect the last two years have had on major tech events.

A picture of our MWC training team from Android Avenue.

Our MWC training team: Nathan, Callum, Stacy and Leon.

Leah: What was it like to be back at a major industry event after so long?

Callum: “This year felt like a real turning point. [MWC was] the very first event that was canceled in 2020, a matter of weeks prior to worldwide lockdowns and our entire world being turned upside down. The last major event we attended was CES in January 2020, and CES 2022 is (hopefully) the final event to be canceled.” 

Nathan: “Having said a last minute farewell to CES at the start of the year, there was a tangible sense of relief on day one. Despite fewer attendees overall, we managed to attract significant footfall and the atmosphere [was] energized and interactive. Though the current restrictions meant that the overall experience was a bit different (one size fits all masks are a myth), we still delivered an engaging and immersive experience.”

Stacy: “It was fantastic to be back! Working together as a huge multi-disciplined team to deliver amazing experiences is such a buzz, and of course seeing those wow moments for attendees in person is always a fantastic feeling.”

A walkthrough of Android Avenue, where the training team led product demonstrations.

Leah: What effect have the last few years had on trade shows like MWC? Has the experience changed at all? 

Stacy: “The last few years have allowed for rapid innovation in the exhibition industry. More people have been able to take part in events virtually, who may not have been able to access in-person events because of location or other accessibility challenges. For trainers it’s given us the opportunity to hone our skills in virtual delivery — from getting the lighting and sound just right, to finding that balance of energy when delivering training.” 

Callum: “In-person industry events simply haven’t existed for us. Some events went ahead virtually, but were restricted to keynote speeches and live streams. We play a slightly different role in major trade shows like MWC, as we bring our clients’ products to life and enable teams to take that message to attendees through training and experiences. These have been sorely missed by both attendees and the teams of people — like us.” 

Leon: “Industry events have suffered massively. Virtual events have been a good replacement, but [they] come with their own difficulties, such as having to have specific home setups, with lighting and not having quick enough broadband. Human interaction is tough to completely replicate virtually. You can’t keep people engaged through a screen if they don’t want to be engaged.”

Leah: What were your highlights from MWC? 

Leon: “The collectiveness of the brand ambassadors. Most of them met each other for the first time on the first day of training, yet six days later, it’s like they’re the best of friends! Taking VIP tour demos and getting great feedback from the client and the VIPs about what a good job we’ve done was a win. Personally, I loved seeing the familiar faces of people that I’ve trained in years gone by.”

Callum: “Just being there, the buzz of the event, the relative normality of MWC, and seeing the surprise and delight moments that you only get by creating an experience that people can be immersed in.”

Nathan: “The overall sense of achievement. Having a room full of people willing to learn, and then seeing them take in what you say and asking you questions. Add to that the applause and gratitude from the attendees who experienced our demos and you've got a proper feel-good event.”

Stacy: “The teamwork. It’s a huge team that bring MWC to life, from the folks who design and build the stand, the brand ambassadors who bring the experiences to life for attendees, the catering team ensuring there is always a tasty treat available, to the support team behind the scenes who were doing 30,000 steps per day to keep it all running smoothly!” 

Leah: We are still in the midst of the pandemic. Were there any challenges related to COVID regulations that you had to adapt your training to or find workarounds for? If so, how did you adapt?

Stacy: “Wearing a mask for the whole day was a challenge, however it didn’t impact the experience. We all found by turning up the volume we could communicate easily and attendees could hear us with no issues. The brand ambassadors were fantastic at taking care of each other and swapping roles so they could give their voices a rest.”

Nathan: “We tweaked the demos so they were brand ambassador or trainer led, however, that change led to an unexpected innovation. We screencast demos to entire groups of people, rather than demoing to one person at a time, meaning more people could see and enjoy the demos.” 

Callum: “We had to adapt experiences to be much more trainer-led than self-discovery, to minimize the number of people touching devices, but we also had an opportunity to showcase some accessibility features, which meant touching the devices wasn’t needed.”

A picture of a training session for Google brand ambassadors.

The training team taking a selfie with an enthusiastic group of brand ambassadors.

Leah: There’s been a lot of digital adaptation and innovation in the last two years, and MWC itself was partly virtual this year. Is there still a value to these big, in-person training events? Are they as relevant after the pandemic?

Callum:100%. Using technology is great, but nothing compares to being there in person, having real conversations and soaking in the environment. Wearing a mask, washing your hands more often and using hand sanitizer is a really small sacrifice for the reward of being there. This kind of event really can’t be replicated virtually.”  

Nathan: “Even more relevant. People have missed them, and many have received sub-par virtual training, or none at all. When people have the opportunity to experience a product, environment and personal interactions, that culminates in an experience that just can't be replicated through a screen.”

Leah: And finally, is it back to virtual events for now? Or are the face-to-face events ramping up again this year?

Leon:Face-to-face events seem to be on the rise again, thankfully! I like that some things can be done virtually, as sometimes it makes more sense. I think the blended approach we used in Barcelona… with a lot of trainer-led learning moments, such as casting from devices to big screens, is a nice blend of the virtual and in-person, while keeping Covid safe.”

Nathan: “Fingers crossed. There will always be a place for virtual training, with the financial, time-critical, and geographical elements at play. But blended learning is an ideal fusion, where we can supplement events and face-to-face sessions with virtual learning to increase knowledge and retain engagement.” 

Stacy: “It’s exciting to see our calendar filling up with more face-to-face events. However, we still deliver virtually as well. Our clients have many different requirements when it comes to training and we have the tech, skills and talent to deliver sessions virtually or face-to-face!”

Are you keen to get back to in-person training? Get in touch to find how our trainers can support your brand at trade shows and training events.

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