Making Connections at IBTM Arabia

October 2, 2017

Originally published in Engage Magazine, download your free copy here.


What: Increased visitor engagement

Who: IBTM Arabia and Poken by GES

Where: Abu Dhabi’s Jumeirah at Etihad Towers

When: 7th–9th February 2017


"In this region, there is huge importance placed on networking and building a relationship ahead of formal meetings,”  Shinu Pillai tells Engage.  

Pillai is an exhibition manager at Reed Travel Exhibitions, working on the Middle Eastern edition of market-leading MICE event ITBM.

For 2017 Pillai and his team partnered with tech provider Poken by GES to take networking at the show to the next level. Poken uses a system of digital and physical products to measure visitor interaction and engagement, with its handy ‘Poken’ devices enabling visitors and exhibitors to digitally swap information and check-in at different points around an exhibition at a touch. 

With IBTM Arabia, Pillai and his colleagues wanted to use Poken’s technology to enhance the show’s already thriving networking environment, which is based around pre-scheduled hosted buyer meetings.

“IBTM Arabia is one of the more dynamically evolved events in our portfolio,” he explains. “The show has an exclusive ‘pod’ format that we created with the aim of providing our attendees with a direct and effective environment that lays equal importance on business appointments as well as on increasing the opportunities for meaningful interactions among attendees.

“We allow attendees to use our matchmaking system, which gives a personalised diary to each of them with appointments matched together based on mutual preferences. We also hold nine networking events across the three days of the event, which gives the attendees the time to build relationships with each other.”

Alongside its sophisticated matchmaking system, each year IBTM Arabia welcomes a completely new group of hosted buyers to ensure a fresh audience for exhibitors to meet with, enabling the show to attract high-calibre exhibitors each year. Poken’s involvement began when Pillai and his colleagues were looking for ways to track attendee engagement.

“We were also looking for an organised and automated way to collect real-time data of the appointments on-site,” he adds.

Poken’s check-in facility really helped us monitor and follow the pre-scheduled appointment schedule of all the attendees at any given point of time.”

In terms of preparing visitors to use the technology, Pillai says that almost no advance information was necessary. 

“The device is deliberately designed to be simple to use, therefore we didn’t do any special prep upfront,” he explains. “Attendees collected their devices when they arrived and we explained how they were used and what the benefits were. This was backed up with on-site signage and a Poken helpdesk to provide customer service throughout the event.

“The incentive to use the device was simple. For exhibitors, the device offered a tangible way to record that appointments had taken place and an effective way for us to follow up no shows and drive better buyer behaviour.

“The Poken tap device is an engaging tool with a fun factor so attendees were motivated by that as well as it being something new.”


Data driven

The use of Poken not only provided visitors with a new experience during the show, it also provided organisers with a whole new raft of data and insights on exhibitor and hosted buyer behaviour.

During the event 8,641 digital exchanges were made using Poken. 5,715 digital business cards or attendee profiles were exchanged through the Poken devices.

We now have a better understanding of both exhibitor and buyer behaviour,” says Pillai. “Including the time taken to complete an appointment and the number of unique interactions between people.

“These shows are designed not just to help you do business, but also to improve the way you connect, interact and do business with people. We are always looking to provide a better customer experience, which ensures a ‘return on experience’ along with the return on investment and time.”

Tracking visitor interaction and engagement has long been a desire of organisers, especially those who work in B2B events. Knowing exactly how visitors move around a show, interact with each other and network enables organisers to create smarter and better trade events for their customers.

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