Saturday, February 6, 2010

MingleStick -- It's Not What You Think

Never heard of a MingleStick? Don't worry, chamber Prez Mike Nicastro will soon get one into your hands and you'll be mingling like mad. Confused? Read the story I wrote for Saturday's Bristol Press ( about the latest gizmo coming next week to the Mum City:

BRISTOL – Look out folks, the MingleStick is coming.
The latest in techno-cool, the MingleStick will be unleashed for the first time in Connecticut on Tuesday at the economic forecast luncheon put on by the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce.
“It’s a very simple little device,” said Mike Nicastro, the chamber president.
But Nicastro has high hopes for the MingleStick, which he said may replace the use of business cards and brochures in many instances and offer new opportunities for the chamber and its members.
The MingleStick resembles a key fob for a car and a computer jump drive.
It works like a jump drive in that it stores information, but beyond that, it can exchange information, too. That’s where the “mingle” part comes in.
On one end of the device is infrared technology that, when it meets another MingleStick, copies the information from it.
“Your business card is all in there,” said Nicastro. He said the MingleStick includes whatever information a person would want to exchange, such as name, phone number, email address and even a photo.
After collecting information at a business gathering, the owner of the device would then plug it into a computer port and go online to download the information through the MingleStick website. They then have it in their computer without any need to retype information.
Nicastro said the MingleStick is being marketed primarily to chambers and for use at trade shows, where people are networking. He said the device can be used to transfer pamphlets, brochures, even entire presentations, reducing the need for paper copies.
“It’s got huge potential,” said Nicastro, but it will take awhile to get members actively using them.
Everyone who attends the forecast luncheon will get a MingleStick as part of the deal, said Cindy Scoville, an organizer of the event.
But the luncheon is only the first stop for the MingleSticks.
“We’ll start deploying the sticks now at every event,” said Nicastro, who said he’ll sell them to people at the Bristol Home and Business Show later this month. He said they’ll cost about $5 each.
Once a critical mass of chamber members are using the MingleStick, it can be used as a loyalty program similar to the chamber card, said Nicastro, but in a more beneficial way.
If a business had a “station” that read MingleSticks, it could entice customers by offering a discount for those who use the device. Then, it could easily track the names and affiliations of its customers.
At a chamber event, members could wave their MingleStick in front of the station, which would then collect the information about who attended. That information is valuable to sponsors, Nicastro said, who want to know who came to the event.
“It has ties to both LinkedIn and Facebook,” said Nicastro. “You’re really speeding up the process of connections with people.”
It’s got infrared on one end, which is used to read someone else’s MingleStick.
There’s a cap on it that, when removed, can be inserted into a computer USB port.
The luncheon ,which features economist Nick Perna as the keynote speaker, is at the AquaTurf banquet hall in Southington, said Scoville, because the facility has wireless.
Though tickets will be available at the door, Scoville said people who register in advance will have a MingleStick waiting for them with their information already on it.
“I think it’s going to be a pretty cool tool for everyone to have,” said Scoville, who said she’s eager for “Mingle mania.”

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