Poken: Making Tradeshows Smarter [Review]

Poken: Making Tradeshows Smarter [Review]


Poken Smart Tradeshow: What Is It?

Poken’s event technology platform aims to make tradeshows smarter by offering a suite of tools to improve lead generation for exhibitors and for visitors to control the information they gather via smart badges and touchpoints. This enables organizers and exhibitors to gain real time insights into visitor behavior, as they interact with different elements of the exhibition.

Poken offer two types of smart badges. The standard smart badge has no battery and requires a reader (see the Stephen Hawking badge below). These are ideal for tradeshows, especially ones that are free or inexpensive to enter. The smart badge deluxe, otherwise known as a Poken, has a battery and can act both as a reader and transmitter.  This is best for networking events, especially with learning involved, conferences, corporate events, and so forth.   

The traditional tradeshow format has changed very little over the years so Poken wanted to explore innovative ways to improve exhibitor ROI and visitor experience. Successful trade shows are driven by face-to-face interaction and this is why smart badges resonate with trade show organizers, as they enhance the tried and tested formula and human element, without trying to modify visitors natural behavior. For this reason, smart badges can have the upper hand over mobile apps, which may present other unwanted distractions or can simply get forgotten about if an individual is busy exploring the show floor.

Smart badges are an easy to understand concept, particularly now with touch-to-pay, contactless systems becoming mainstream in retail outlets and on public transport. We also know that DIY, self-service models are often what modern consumers want in terms of speed, efficiency and convenience (one of the reasons why chatbots are such a big hit).

In March 2017 Poken was acquired by the N200|GES event intelligence team, offering a formidable partnership for the exhibition world. The Poken suite of products and services can still be purchased on a stand-alone basis or as an integrated package along with GES’ other registration products and services.

Poken is focused on visitor experience, corporate events, networking and gamification. Check out our earlier review of the Poken 360° Event Platform with an overview of the wider features Poken offers. This review today is focused specifically on the smart tradeshow features.

Poken review

The Main Categories of Features Are:

Registration and Smart Badges Poken offer a 360° seamless experience which starts in advance of the event for all pre-registered attendees and uses smart badges to capture the attendee journey throughout the live event.

Visitor Engagement Poken’s award-winning engagement platform uses “touch” devices for networking, gamification, collecting digital brochures and so forth.

Lead Capture Collect qualified and casual leads, and analyze “heat maps” for non-interacting visitor traffic patterns.

Intelligence Analytics and intelligence for session tracking, access control, real-time interactions, lead capture, and traffic pattern analysis.

These elements are the four pillars of a Poken smart event.


Poken brings together the physical and digital event spaces through hardware and software. As every attendee receives a smart badge it ensures 100% uptake of the technology, unlike an event app which visitors may or may not choose to download. The event lifecycle can be extended with engagement before, during and after the event. In advance of the live event attendees and exhibitors can log in to the visitor portal to plan their visit. At registration, the smart badges or devices are linked to their profile, with a RFID chip embedded within it. During the exhibition, all interactions and touchpoints are recorded, which allows attendees to view full details of their event experience and connections after the event, in a chronological format.

The touch-based engagement means that attendees can control their experiences at the event. It can add elements of excitement through interaction and lead generation via a physical product you can hold, see and touch. The physical nature of the technology does, of course, push up the cost of using the Poken infrastructure, making it more suited to larger exhibitions and events with some budget to invest.

The system doesn’t rely on WiFi to operate, which will make event planners breathe a huge sigh of relief. Instead, it works via 3G mobile data. The data charge for the touchpoints is covered within the package.  

Poken review

Lead Generation

Poken strives to create richer lead generation for exhibitors. Each exhibitor pod is equipped with a Poken real-time touchpoint (RTT). Each time a visitor touches an RTT with their Poken-enabled smart badge or Poken-device, they collect digital exhibitor information, while leaving their contact details (digital business card) in return. This enables intentional lead generation and a two-way digital exchange of visitor information for exhibitor materials which is unique to the Poken experience. Furthermore, exhibitors who don’t have time to meet with every booth visitor don’t miss out on opportunities to connect with anyone who expresses an interest.

On the stand exhibitors can even choose to use RTT’s in an interesting way, such as to collect survey data and feedback, to identify the product enhancements visitors are most interested in and to select the specific information they are interested in.

Lead Capture

The Visit Connect mobile app for exhibitors works on iOS and Android phones and tablets to record leads at the booth and is perfect to capture one-to-one conversations for follow up, as well as viewing real time data of interactions with the touchpoint. The app is not available for Windows devices.

Booth staff can view and enhance prospect data, verify and rate leads (e.g. 5*) and allocate them a pre-set status, such as their value, interests, priority level or the information to send. Photos and audio notes you have dictated can also be added, as well as photos and survey questions. Via the app exhibitors can add staff and add licenses with different privileges. It is possible to edit, set sales targets and review progress in real time. 

With Visit Connect exhibitors can also manage that information so it better fits their organizational sales processes. Leads can be assigned to colleagues for follow up and the tool offers a complete picture showing the sales pipeline and encouraging you to monitor forecasts, send reminders and email blasts and track progress and conversions. Most sales leads are only closed after 6-8 follow ups so the system supports you through the post event communications to help get your exhibitors more business.

Wider Reach

At a tradeshow visitors will have different degrees of interest in each booth. There are the hard and qualified leads who may already have some knowledge of the product or know the information they want to find out. They may be ready to buy or interested and want to talk directly with someone on the stand. The Visit Connect app allows detailed information to be captured.

There are soft or passive leads who are potentially interested and would like to know more. For these visitors, they often like to be self-sufficient and the touchpoints enable them to collect more information and relevant content, whilst enabling exhibitors to follow up with them. If a passerby picks up a printed leaflet without interacting booth staff they have no way of following this up but with the Poken bi-directional system it doesn’t allow anyone to be anonymous. This also allows booth staff to focus more time on the qualified leads, safe in the knowledge that they can still contact the softer leads post event.

Finally, there are the lookers and passers-by for stands. These are lost leads if they linger but then walk away without any interaction. Using smart badge sensors and Blitz RFID technology, Poken can create a heatmap to detect attendee behavior and even track the movements of those that lingered but left the booth without interaction. This can help analyze whether the footfall was there but the interest was not or identify other improvements which could be made to convert even more traffic at future shows.

Overall the system gives a 360 degree insight into the visitors to each booth, right from the movements of lingerers and lurkers outside the booth, through to “hit and grab” soft leads and active, qualified leads captured on the stand. Each and every one of these leads are valuable, no matter how far along the sales funnel they are.

Greater Distribution of Content

Exhibitors upload digital marketing content onto RTT’s for collection via smart badges. This content can be their contact details, digital brochures, data sheets, videos and more. The result is a greater distribution of exhibitor materials and information in a convenient format, as well as a more environmentally friendly approach.

Session Tracking

The seminars and content can be a big draw for modern trade shows and the smart badges enable the organizers to see exactly where each attendee went. Although the proactive interactions are what exhibitors and organizers are most interested in, it also allows passive interactions to be tracked too via gates which track everyone as they pass through. This is handy for self check in and reporting, for example, if CME/CEP credits are available.

Networking and Appointment Tracking

The smart badges track interactions between attendees and between exhibitors and visitors too, sharing digital business cards in the same way. For trade shows using a hosted buyer model, the smart badges can be used to track attendance at hosted buyer meetings. It can even enable automatic reminders to be triggered via email or SMS if the visitor doesn’t check in at their scheduled appointment time.

Visitor Journey and Engagement

The smart badge issued to every visitor is their key to the event, allowing them to collect via touch. Post-event, each attendee can log into the visitor portal, where a custom profile shows exactly what they collected and their journey through the event. This technology saves them from needing to carry around heavy printed materials while allowing them to easily collect the information that interests them into a digital briefcase. Summary emails are sent to visitors at the end of each day to showcase what information they have collected and the exhibitors they connected with. This can be useful for sharing with colleagues what they discovered at the show.

A leaderboard can be generated which uses gamification to incentivize behavior. For instance, points can be awarded with every check in and interaction, which ranks and feeds into a public scoreboard.

Insights and Analytics

Poken is designed to provide greater insight through real data. Through the event manager platform, exhibitors can see precisely who has collected their digital materials, and what materials have been collected by each individual.

Exhibition organizers can see what is happening on the event floor in real time, based upon the interactions of visitors at exhibitor booths. This allows them to identify possible bottlenecks, peak periods and high traffic zones and gives insight for the improvement of ROO. Organizers and exhibitors who are managing multiple events through the event manager platform can also compare ROI across event portfolios to gain a much richer insight into attendee behavior and ROI. This detailed data can then be customized to a much greater degree and enables event communications to be personalized much more effectively, and increase visitor satisfaction in the future.

Revenue Generation

The 100% take up rate encourages greater utilization of the Poken Smart Tradeshow tools, which means more quality leads for exhibitors, and hopefully more sales and effective conversions as a result. In turn, a proven ROI for exhibitors means that it is an easier decision to return to exhibit and invest in the show the following year. Organizers also have the opportunity to upsell and create additional revenue by sharing basic data with all exhibitors but offering more comprehensive reporting to those exhibitors that want it and that value it enough to pay for an enhanced package.

Poken review


Registration and Smart Badges

  • A 360° experience which starts in advance of the event for all pre-registered attendees
  • On-site registration via tablet kiosks and thermal printers
  • Smart badges and devices
  • Can be customized to specific branding

Visitor Engagement

  • Smart badges or “touch” devices are used for networking, gamification, collecting digital brochures and so forth
  • Visitors can network and interact with information and spaces
  • Collect videos, pictures, presentations, brochures, coupons and virtually any type of digital data
  • Environmentally friendly – reduces printing
  • Session check in

Lead Capture

  • Collect qualified and casual leads
  • Real-Time Touchpoints can be placed by the show organizer or by exhibitors themselves, anywhere in their booth or around the venue
  • Every time a visitor collects information, they leave a digital business card
  • The exhibitor has the details of everyone who has dropped by their booth and collected their information
  • Record detailed information and notes about specific leads to make follow up more effective
  • Allocate leads to staff for follow up
  • Leads can be qualified and analyzed in real time, making pre-defined triggers possible
  • Analyze “heatmaps” for non-interacting visitor traffic patterns
  • Track progress against targets


  • Analytics and intelligence for all interactions
  • Session tracking, access control, real-time interactions and lead capture
  • Traffic pattern analysis
  • Rich metrics
  • Organizers can monitor and collect data in real time
  • Run reports for organizers
  • Reports for exhibitors

Poken review

Who Is It For?

Poken is aimed at exhibition organizers and corporate event planners (conferences, launch events, congress, etc). It is also of interest to marketers, such as those creating larger in-booth experiences at trade shows, even if the rest of the show isn’t utilizing the Poken system.

Pros and Cons


  • Provides lead generation based on content and interest for better follow up and more effective conversions
  • Qualified metrics based upon behavior, and interaction that can extend across multiple events to gain far richer insight into attendee behavior and ROI
  • Ability to personalize and manage the experience through event communications, session tracking, and exhibitor content management


  • GES has only recently acquired Poken and N200, so the combined offering is not fully integrated at the moment
  • Organizers, exhibitors, and visitors are still getting used to the concept of NFC/RFID, however, with contactless payments people can understand the concept much better
  • Poken is not aimed at smaller events

Pricing and Plans

Please contact Poken to request a demo and for bespoke pricing information.

Poken review

In Conclusion

Poken offers an exciting 360 degree solution to make exhibitions smarter. The sophisticated tools encourage exhibitors to capture, manage and follow up on leads much more effectively, resulting in higher conversions and sales. Exhibition managers can also analyze their events much more scientifically, including tracking against other shows in their portfolio. For larger event projects that Poken is built for the results should speak for themselves.

Disclaimer: Reviews are paid for placements. While Event Manager Blog receives a fee to extensively look at the tool and review it in detail, the content of the review is independent and by no means influenced by the company. If you have any questions please use the contact us section.