Although this is not my first time navigating the bustling halls of the Smart City Expos in Barcelona, I am always surprised by the lack of business wisdom displayed by most exhibitors, especially the larger ones, and am yet to find an answer to:
The Great Enigma: Why Are We Here?
As I found out rather unexpectedly, I am not the only one asking that question as the Smart City organizers themselves, perplexed by the motives of attendees, even hired a UK consulting firm to unravel this mystery. Perhaps they suspected some folks were just there for the swanky booths and freebies, who knows?
If You Know How Much It Costs...
In the land of Smart City dreams, the price tag dances from €495 to €575 per square meter when booth sizes range from a humble 9 square meters to a whopping 400 square meters. For those aiming for premium visibility, a 100-square-meter space demands a hefty €50,000 investment. And don't forget the cost of sending delegates from distant lands, accommodation and diet expenses.
...Avoid These Pitfalls or Prepare for Epic Fails
- The Lost in Translation Award: Korean companies stole the spotlight, sending representatives without a grasp of English or Spanish. Pro tip: invest in translators or save the airfare.
- The Bureaucracy Blues: Ever tried offering a hedge fund to invest in a country, a region or a city at a Smart City Expo? I have. The majority of public organizations I visited couldn't guide me through the process. Special shoutouts to India's empty booth and Finland's government-paid rep who turned down private funds. Hilarious!
- The Techie Overdose: Techies, techies everywhere. But can they distinguish between debt and equity or business development and coding? If he does not have a business card, you've found a techie.
- The Never-Ending Sales Pitch: Everyone's selling, but who's buying? The bitter truth – these expos are more about the show than a sale. Your impressive sales pitch might just be drowned out by a chorus of others.
But it was not all doom and gloom. I visited around 40 booths and had interesting conversations with 37 of them, of which I believe that
...the Stars of the Show Were...
- The Italian Trade Agency: Kudos for professionalism, from a digital agenda to one-to-one meetings, and two fantastic hostesses, Ms. Joana Alcolea and Ms. Amara Bermudez.
- Mobility Rentals: Mr. Slavu Alexandru-Daniel, COO extraordinaire, left an indelible mark with his market insights and impressive business model.
In conclusion, Smart City Expo 2023 was a mix of time-wasters and a few shining stars. As we bid adieu, let's hope for smarter cities and, dare I say, even smarter exhibitors at the next expo!