At the registration desk at IBTM Chicago in June, I was handed a small four-fingered gadget and directed to set it up at the next booth over, where I entered my contact information. “Oh, like a virtual business card,” I thought to myself. That gadget (called Poken) was attached to my lanyard and sat on top of my name tag—there was no ignoring it.
I digitally exchanged information with the people I met and checked in at the booths where I had appointments with a simple “high-four”—the green glow that emitted from our Pokens indicated a successful exchange. But it wasn’t until Julianna Fazio, digital content editor, and I met with Stephane Doutriaux, founder and CEO at Poken, that we realized the full scope of the technology. Spoiler alert: It’s not just a virtual business card.
In an effort to minimize the amount of paper material handed out at events, Doutriaux developed this “touch and collect” concept as a way to exchange content digitally. The strategy eliminates waste and also the burden of lugging papers around; I carried home a 64-page magazine in my Poken after touching it to a touchpoint—all it took was a second. With Poken, attendees can collect whatever type of digital data exhibitors and organizers want to share—including videos, pictures, presentations, brochures and coupons.
Clients can employ Poken in a number of capacities. It can be as pervasive as encouraging engagement with gamification components or as logistical as being used for registration and ticketing/badge printing. These components are, without exaggeration, just to name a few of Poken’s capabilities. There are benefits for exhibitors, attendees and event organizers at every step.
Poken uses NFC (near field communication)—which does not require an Internet connection—to exchange the data. (Doutriaux showed us a neat trick: By holding up his Poken to his smartphone, a web browser popped up and he was directed to his Poken IBTM page.) It operates sort of like a thumb drive; when I returned to work, I plugged the device into my computer and a “Connect to Poken Website” window appeared. I clicked on the Chrome HTML Document and was taken to IBTM’s Poken page, where I signed in and explored all my connections by timeline and map (clients can choose what features they want displayed). I had the ability to export my contacts into different formats—a handy quality if I were to enter those into a list. Doutriaux designed the micro-technology and patented it, so there is truly nothing else like it.
Finally (and maybe most importantly): the caps. The Pokens at IBTM came equipped with a standard cap wearing the trade show’s logo. When we met with Doutriaux, we upgraded to a “fun cap” (Julianna and I chose monsters). Custom caps are an option for events, too. For example, at a European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) event, Poken created doctor, surgeon and nurse caps. It may seem like a throwaway detail, but the “fun caps” promote an element of fun and create fodder for breaking the ice.