How Technology Delivered Success for ibtm Arabia [Case Study]

This is a case study from Grant Morgan, Senior Marketing Manager at Poken. More information about Event Manager Blog’s case studies.

The Event

ibtm Arabia 2017 was held at Jumeirah Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi, UAE, between 7 and 9 February. ibtm arabia is a 3 day event for the MICE industry, that welcomes a community of approximately 300 exhibitors, hosted buyers, press and officials from around the world. This was the 11th year of the event, which is part of a wider ibtm portfolio, but has a very different approach.  

Rather than a traditional trade show format, ibtm arabia is a pod show. Each exhibitor has a meeting pod, and takes part in two full days of pre-scheduled, 20 minute, one-to-one meetings with hosted buyers. ibtm arabia also incorporates a keynote speaker, break-out sessions and further networking opportunities.

The first day is an off site discovery day, where everyone is invited to enjoy activities and networking opportunities across Abu Dhabi, such as visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, or Falcon hospital, enjoying the Yas Island adventure park, and participating in a city-wide challenge.

Quick Facts

  • A 3-day event for the MICE industry
  • exhibitors, hosted buyers, press and officials
  • ‘Pod show’ format focused on pre-scheduled, one-to-one appointments

The Challenges

ibtm Arabia has a long-standing reputation in the MICE industry as a show with a definite sense of community. When compared to sister shows such as ibtm world, ibtm arabia is much more intimate and everyone has the opportunity to get to know everyone on a more personal level. Offsite activities play a large role in meeting the networking and relationship building objectives, as well as showcasing Abu Dhabi as a destination for international meetings and events. ibtm arabia organizers wanted to strengthen the community of attendees and suppliers, to encourage better networking and business relationships.

The Technology

ibtm Arabia chose to work with Poken for the first time. Poken is a cloud-based 360° event management platform, that creates richer engagement through an ecosystem of tools and technology for event professionals. Poken brings together the digital and physical event spaces to drive engagement, centralize management and gain better insight through real data.

ibtm Arabia utilized the following products and services offered by Poken:

  • Onsite registration and badging
  • Poken interactive USB devices – for networking and attendee meeting check-in
  • Real time touchpoints – for meeting tracking and exhibitor lead generation
  • Event mobile app

The Objectives

There were 8 key objectives of ibtm Arabia:

  • To foster a tight ‘community’ amongst all international MICE professionals in attendance
  • Develop relationships to encourage business opportunities
  • Drive engagement with event activities, as well as networking between people.
  • Gain detailed metrics about interactions between participants
  • Have better insight and tracking of meetings attended
  • Provide a fast and reliable registration and badging system that can function in a dynamic and often changing environment.
  • Supply attendees and exhibitors with current information about the event, timetable, venue and their meetings schedules through a mobile app.
  • Promote Abu Dhabi as a destination for meetings, event and incentive travel

How Were the Objectives Achieved?

Before arriving in Abu Dhabi, several communications had gone to registered attendees, informing them how the Poken event technology would be helping them achieve their networking and engagement objectives. Attendees were invited to log into their visitor portals and add to their profiles. This served to not only inform them of what would be happening onsite, but also added to the value of the platform, as people added social media details, and profile pictures to their accounts.

On arrival, all attendees were issued a Poken interactive USB with their registration badge. For the entire duration of the event, the device acted as a personal digital business card, and meeting check-in tool. Simply by touching the interactive USB to another device it glows green, and contact information is exchanged. All the data was stored within the individual online visitor portal.

Changes to staffing and meeting attendance are common. ibtm arabia organizers needed a simple yet dynamic system for registration, that could be collaborated with predetermined meeting schedules but updated on site in real time with last minute changes and print new badges on the spot. Previously unregistered attendees were able to create new accounts, or amend existing accounts as appropriate. Approximately one third of all attendees were only registered onsite.

The solution needed to be speedy, so that the registration and badge retrieval didn’t create queues and unnecessary waiting time. To achieve this, a series of 15 inch tablets were set up in the registration area, for attendees and exhibitors to add details to their online visitor accounts (such as mobile numbers, photos and their social media accounts), and also to amend badge details if necessary.

It was integral for ibtm arabia organizers to have the most relevant and accurate data in several key areas. Firstly they needed to track precisely who had attended the registered meetings and at what time to make sure everyone was taking part as part of their hosted buyer commitment. This data would serve to judge the success of the event for both exhibitors and attendees, and would help them adjust future show formats if required.

To achieve this, touchpoints were stationed on every exhibitor pod. The tiny 4cm x 4cm NFC readers could track all the meetings in real time. At the commencement of the appointment, attendees simply touched the reader with their interactive USB to check in. The challenge was getting attendees to check into every meeting, to make sure accurate data could be collected. Through pre event communications such as e-blasts to attendees, as well as onsite communications such as info cards and announcements, attendees were much better informed about the process of checking in by touching the interactive USB to the real time touchpoints. Additionally, as they had been using the interactive USB through out event already, this behaviour came very naturally.  

The second data objective was to gain insight into the interactions between attendees. This would also be used to review the show format, what areas had been successful and what could be improved upon for future editions.

Poken also provided the event app. Features included key information aimed at providing a more engaging and informed experience for attendees such as an interactive floor plan, information about the city, venue, event schedule, exhibitors, sponsors, keynotes, as well as access to their personalized meeting schedule. Meeting schedules needed to be updated continuously with current info, as timetables often changed.

The Results

The use of the Poken interactive USBs was infectious, as people at the event saw the glowing green hand they instinctively wanted to touch their Poken with others too, opening a new conversation and relationship, while also capturing the person’s details.  

The device was the icebreaker to encourage new connections between attendees, particularly during the discovery day. The adventurous nature of the ‘discovery day’ meant that traditional business cards were often forgotten but Poken interactive USB devices were carried by all, and utilized thoroughly.

The result was a total of over 5,700 connections made over 3 days, from a total attendance of 312 guests.

Exhibitors received detailed lead generation reports, outlining all the people they had met at the show. Poken real time touchpoints measured that 88% of all meetings were attended over the course of 2 days. As touch points tracked meetings in real time, organizers were also given insight into periods of heavy and lower meeting attendance, thus allowing them to adjust and improve the format for next year.

Takeaways for Event Planners

There are three key areas of learning that event planners can take from this case study:

  1. Define Your Objectives and Challenges

By understanding the detailed objectives of the event, it was easier to find the event technology to match. Furthermore as the technology was offered via a single provider it ensured all functionality and data was streamlined seamlessly, in real time. Each product from the Poken platform answered a specific need, without any excess. The result was a beneficial deployment of technology for all stakeholders, that was easy to understand, greatly adopted and offered genuine value.

  1. Ensure Adoption

The key to getting people on board with any technology is communication. Initially, attendees and exhibitors need to get an understanding about how the technology will benefit them. The technology at ibtm Arabia allowed participants to engage with the event and each other, and prove that they had attended their quota of meetings, as well as providing a lead generation platform for exhibitors.

It is also important to educate attendees about how simple a solution is to use so that it is met with the least inertia. Getting attendees involved with using technology ahead of the event helped to remove potential barriers onsite, and got them excited for the event itself. This was supported by easy procedures and support materials.

  1. Collect Crucial Data

Data is crucial for exhibitors and attendees in terms of recording new contacts and potential business, but also for organizers who rely on improving ROI for their stakeholders. Measuring metrics from key areas, such as engagement, time, locations and activities, allows organizers to learn from their event, identify what is functioning well and why, and then apply this to improve future events.

In Conclusion

ibtm Arabia chose their technology partner wisely, ensuring that they could help to achieve all of their event objectives through a single platform. The technology excited the attendees and offered clear benefits, which resulting in an excellent adoption rate. The data captured is already being used by the organizers to make improvements and refine the 2018 show even further.