Traveling gives you interesting perspective, and this time I’ll use it to compare mobile conferences. China VS. the US head to head!
In the last month I’ve been to 3 different conferences. 2 in China and 1 in the US, All of which were practically back to back. This gave me a perspective by just observing the eastern VS. Western style of organizing conferences.
Since I’m in the mobile space, all these are mobile specific, so I can’t comment on any other conferences or other industries. Still, I believe you can learn from it about this market.
I’ll give a short intro to where I was and then will jump into insights and the nitty gritty!
Where I visited?
GMIC (Global mobile internet conference) and GMGC (Global mobile gaming confederation) are two major conferences organised in Beijing each year around the end of April , beginning of May. Both are pretty big.
This year there were 35000+ people joining in to GMIC. Also compared to last year, the size of the conference was at least 50% larger, a 3rd day was even added to the exhibition VS. 2 days in previous years.
These conferences are the place where major companies launch their products and make special announcements about the market.
Right after these two conferences, I flew to the US for another conference, Apps World in San Francisco (there was also an attempt to go to Tech Crunch disrupt in NYC the week before, with no success. I have a few words on that as well…)
Here are the key differences I noticed between the conferences.
1. Ease of getting your tickets
When you need tickets in China for an event you find a way to get them. You can either hook up with one of the sponsors and get a ticket or buy one (which most of the people visiting don’t really do…) .
In the US on the other hand getting tickets to Techcrunch disrupt was impossible! Even though the tickets were very expensive, you couldn’t even get any. All my attempts to get a ticket failed.
On the other hand, getting tickets to Apps World was very simple. Just register and get a ticket for free to the exhibition. Then they try to up-sell to you all types of services to network while in the conference which were not cheap. But frankly, when I was at the conference itself I kept wondering where would paid tickets get you. I didn’t notice ANY difference.
2. Exhibition style
US get a move on, China is right behind you! This is crystal clear when you visit US and Chinese conferences. Chinese conferences are energetic, fun, noisy (with many scantly dressed models).
The US ones on the other hand are heavy, quiet and calm. It feels like the US is the old world which for years was on top of everything and there is a runner behind it coming at full speed ahead. Wake up America! You are about to lose the race!
This reminds me of a question I was asked by a relative of mine on this trip, if what’s being said in US media about China taking over America is true. She was asking if this is correct or just America being paranoid. Here is my view on it (and this is what I told her as well). “No, they are not paranoid, China is taking over.”
Some would claim though and I respect that, that I didn’t visit many other US conferences, which might be larger and more energetic. So, I did present this question to a bunch of other people. I even had a meeting with a colleague who had a booth at TechCrunch disrupt in NYC and met him out of the building in a coffee shop. He said it was somewhat quiet / sleepy….
As I mention before, scantily clad models are a very common sight in conferences in China, obviously also impacting the vibe. While in western conferences they used to be much more common but became socially unacceptable in recent years.
If you’ve been to conferences in Europe or the US in the last year, I’ll be glad to hear what you think, leave a comment, it would be nice to compare.
3. Content of exhibition – more of the same
Content was not missing on all exhibitions. when you walk trough the booths on the exhibitors floor you find an Ad network, then an analytics tool, ad network, app marketing agency, Analytics tool, ad network, analytics tool, marketing agency, etc. It’s all of the same! Competition is fierce and you really have to work hard to figure out the differences (if any…) between the exhibitors.
China had some advantage in including more interesting presentations such as robots and drones.
I found a big difference in the way that Apps World organised the stages VS. GMIC/GMGC . Apps World had 4-5 different stages with different streams going on. They were in the exhibitors hall in an open space. fairly modest.
China has a completely different standard, grand stages , with the best technology and screens behind. A totally different league.
5. General feeling from the participants
GMGC and GMIC market themselves as being international, and though there is a vast change from previous years where this year there were more foreigners in the show, they are still not really international. It’s very Chinese, which is actually a good thing!
And when I say ‘Chinese’ what do I mean?
– Almost all booths are in Chinese, team members are also Chinese speakers. If you only speak English, people at the booth will try to locate an English speaker to explain things.
– Most of the talks are in Chinese (But you can still find simultaneous translation devices).
– You see very few foreigners walking around compared to the number of locals.
I spoke to a friend who went to MWC Shanghai and asked her how did it go and how international is it. She said it’s very international and not so much China oriented. We concluded that in order to get to know the mobile and internet world in China, the conferences in Beijing reflect it much better.
Apps World – Speaking to a few of the exhibitors, many people were disappointed from the turnout and felt it was weak. The first day which is suppose to be the one with the most people , was disappointing to them. I also felt the same. Not so many people….
For me personally, I wanted to speak with more developers and except of the indie games area which was dedicated to them it was hard fisng them out. I did meet some clients and partners there, so it wasn’t a waste of time, just was hoping to achieve more.
Oh, and speaking of the indie games , there was one guy there, Scott Stevens, who is a one man show with a really really fun game for iPad called 2Play Tap. I came back to play again and again every now and then when I was bored (and even some meetings came out of it after we started playing together and had a joint match? . (Update: 2play Tap is now live on iTunes!)
If Apps world is to represent the heart of America’s mobile industry (it was in San Francisco after all), then it’s just a matter of time , and perhaps it’s already happening, that China will take over. The facts are Apple sells more iPhones in China then in the US, and half of all the money Android is making comes from China, so it seems pretty clear where the market is heading. Still, I’d expect a decent fight!