Every year at the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association Wireless show, far too many first time attendees confess they had not prepared for the event because they didn’t know what to expect. Thus, they waste a lot of time and money coming to the show and not getting out of the experience what they see their competitors achieving.

Of course, they are perplexed by the enormity and propulsion of activity.  CTIA Wireless – the big show – brings together 40,000 professionals from 125 countries, all-working toward the common goal of revolutionizing wireless.

Why attend?

Here’s an anecdote that may shed some light:  I attended a one-day conference in Manhattan last year when an agency executive proclaimed, “What is a smart phone?  All phones are smart.  We have to agree today to change the term.”  Sorry to tell you Mad Man, not all phones are smart.  There’s a reason for the term and it came from within the CTIA, GSMA, and IEEE.  If the driving forces in these global organizations now want to call the smart phone “potato phones,” then we’ll be calling them potato phones.

Mobile marketers that originated out of a wireless technology hub such as San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Boston, or Dallas most likely have heard of CTIA Wireless and attend regularly.

Marketers based in non-tech metros such as New York, Miami, Chicago, or Los Angeles most likely have not heard of CTIA Wireless and usually attend small conferences that are vertically deep in advertising knowledge and agency-related issues such as OMMA and digiday:MOBILE.  These smaller conferences have been unable to connect with the audience on a fundamental topic: profit.  Further, these shows present data and insight 10 -12 months after CTIA has explored the issues.

Thus, many marketers walk around not understanding how the supply chain of
money in the telecom industry works.  In turn, I hear much fictionalizing of revenue achieved for clients through mobile marketing.  Or distracting, vague, and colorful responses that do not directly address client/customer questions on ROI and channel challenges.  Believe it or not, many marketers think they can get rich in mobile without networking in the wireless industry.  I recommend attending both the small conferences and CTIA to acquire the breadth and depth of knowledge you need in a constantly shifting technological market place providing advertising channel opportunities.

Below are tips to getting the most out of your experience at CTIA Wireless.

Tip One:  CTIA Wireless, the big show, is the largest active business-to-business market place for mobile is North America and the anchor industry association is the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association founded in 1984.

I’ve been attending for years.  It is a favorite for catching up with good friends, global colleagues, and corporate alums, as well as meeting with explorers of exciting new technologies that can bring my mobile dreams to operational life.

What I love about it is the generosity of knowledge, data, ideas, and introductions.  But, for cheap-talkers who are takers of information and attention, they will find few invitations to networking parties and their introductions will be empty.   So, I encourage you to come to CTIA with knowledge about companies and products other than your own; know the field and learn outside your niche.  And definitely before attending, learn about the next sandbox in which you want to play.

Tip Two:  This year, I began my tour with the Andy Seybold 20th Anniversary Wireless Dinner.  Seybold Dinners are the mother of all private parties.  CTIA events are about networking, networking, and more networking.  Most of this type of activity happens during the many corporate sponsored parties.  I’m not advising to crash festivities, though I did so in my early career.

Tip Three:  If you’re an executive, build-out your meeting calendar in advance.  Schedule interviews with publications in the morning –when you’re fresh and well rested for photo-ops and schedule business development meetings over meals.

Tip Four:  Best-of-show recommendations for any year include the following:

– Golf events
Andy Seybold Wireless University
4G Panel Events
– CTIA Unplugged Networking Happy Hour
– Qualcomm Party
NAVTEQ Network for Developers Events
– Fierce Wireless Party

Finally, it’s also important to plan for your day of departure.  Cab lines are long, airport security lines are even longer, planes get cancelled, and airport electrical outlets are in use by your fellow travelers recharging their phones.