I'm in a restaurant! I would obviously prefer blogging from the train, but I was crossing London during the rush hour, so the idea that there would be a seat, or even floor space, was obviously fanciful.
So here I am, in the lovely surroundings of Gatwick North Terminal. Actually, at this time in the evening it's not so bad; there are only nine more flights on the departure board for this evening (I am choosing not to say “nine more flights leaving this evening”, as I have counted chickens before), so my natural misanthropy is not exercised into overdrive: the music is only borderline intolerably loud, and my fellow travellers are not overwhelming.
I'm on my way to Barcelona, for the tail-end of Mobile World Congress. From previous experience, and news reports, the sharp end of the event is the first couple of days; certainly, when I've been before with my company, the majority of the contacts made and business-cards collected have been from meetings on the first couple of days. On the other hand, when I've been before with my company, I have emerged from the week with a skin tone the colour of my suit, a hacking cough that took months to subside, and a deep desire to hide away from everything in a darkened room.
There are a number of things that make MWC unsuited to the introvert, particularly the introvert exhibitor (not that there are any punters at all, I'd expect). The noise, the harsh lighting, the constant need to intercept and interrupt people in order to deliver the 5-second pitch. (The experience for me improved vastly when we hit upon the trick, for a change finding an advantage in our Swiss corporate identity, of offering chocolate to our interlocutors: then if they were totally uninterested in our product, they were up at least one chocolate in the transaction.)
MWC was described in the weekend newspapers as “less glamorous”. Mind you, in the freesheet I read on the way to Gatwick Mark Zuckerberg was described as a “baby-faced bearer of evil”, so clearly you can believe some things you read in the papers. I haven't attended any of the presumably more “glamorous” trade shows (I suppose they mean the likes of CeBIT and CES; certainly mass-media coverage of MWC concentrates on handset announcements and other consumer electronics rather than infrastructure). I wonder though if the “glamour” is one of those dog-whistle words; the first two MWCs I attended certainly had their share of blatant objectification of women: and while I haven't personally experienced it as much in the last two years I suspect that's because I only attend for the last day, and mostly stay within the confines of our stand, and not because the ethos has miraculously changed.
And, of course, I feel odd going to MWC, as I remain stubbornly resistant to the mobile revolution. I don't own a smartphone; I routinely forget to charge my dumbphone; I recognize that if I have an addictive personality, my productivity will not improve if I have an instant dopamine dispenser in my pocket. So along with the the general misanthropy and introversion that goes with exhibiting at a trade show with 80,000 attendees, there's the overall antipathy to the whole show in the first place: why are all these people wasting so much time and effort on shiny? I have made my peace with my segment of the market: communications infrastructure may be “unglamorous” but it is on balance probably a good thing; the rest of the industry, including practically everything consumer-facing, leaves me not just cold, but actively wondering how as a community we have got to this position: prioritizing the matching of coloured jewels over anything meaningful. (I recognize the irony, but at least my addictions generally don't involve the upload of my contacts database to the NSA's command-and-control centre.)
The experience of the show itself was tolerable; my colleagues were jealous of my freshness at the start of the day, and by the end of the day I'd more or less turned the same shade of pale grey as everyone else. I don't do well in loud, fluorescent-lit sensory-overload environments. But I participated in some potential partner and customer meetings, and of course helped in the post-show debriefing session, and of course there's plenty of time at Barcelona airport to finish this blog entry.