In our recent article “The Right Way to Tap into Technology Trends for a Successful Event,” we picked Steve Shatsoff’s brain – Senior Vice President at SmartSource Computer & AV Rentals  – about how properly utilizing technology trends is one of the best methods for creating the customer base you need and want.

This article, also based on information gathered from an interview with Steve Shatsoff, is all about how you can essentially read your customer’s mind by using technology to collect data. Data collection now goes way beyond gathering the information a customer, or potential customer, gives you. From knowing where they touch an interactive screen to face recognition and more available technology now—it makes it possible to learn things about your customer base that was unthinkable not that long ago.

Welcome back, Steve. Can you tell us a bit about the information and data revolution we’re currently living in and why it’s so important for a successful business to understand?

Well, not that long ago information used to be much harder to track down. There were fewer sources to go to, it took more time to locate those sources, and not everyone had access to all sources.

Now, of course, that has all changed. While people who grew up in the “information dark ages” have to mature into the idea of all this easy availability and the ever-present ways to enhance data collection, the newer generations, such as Millenials, just get it. They were born into this technology in a way that makes it integral to every walk of their lives, and that is changing the face of the business world.

For businesses, at the end of the day it’s all about data – technology that captures data, interactive technology, and then using that data to create customer solutions. The best ideas are always going to come from their customers, what they need, what they want, and what they are seeking. The right data can give you a virtual glimpse into their mind.

And how does this play into events and trade shows?

As an example, at trade shows and events registration used to be all manual, so no one focused on more than the basic data. Now, with multiple technologies to expedite registration in better, faster, and more interactive ways, we’re just starting to get it. It’s not just about getting through someone’s registration, it’s about learning why they are registering, what solutions they are seeking, and what they believe would make their life better. Technology such as a touch screen kiosk, for example, gives you the opportunity to interact digitally with everyone who comes to one of your events and capture important data.

But we’re moving into an era where capturing data is going to be about a lot more than the thoughts and facts someone enters into your database. I’m also talking about where people touch an interactive screen, the ability for facial recognition, who is looking at something particular on a screen, and how much time they spend looking. All of these things are changing advertising. For instance, when you use technology that recognizes a face, then things of interest to that person can move onto the screen. All these types of data are only going to continue to grow, but the key—and this is always the key—is that using the data effectively is what really matters.

So, we can see that the concept of data collection at events is changing. What is the best approach then for a business to get the most bang for their trade show buck?

As I’ve said before, whether you’re exhibiting, attending, or creating a trade show, getting the most bang for your buck is always dependent on what you are trying to accomplish.

If you are going to exhibit at a trade show, it can be very costly, so one of the primary goals is always getting a good return on your investment. If that is one of your primary goals and you’re looking to combine good ROI with some great data collection, a great technology that is highly effective would be a digital document library.

When you exhibit at a trade show you’re almost always going to need to distribute information. Think about how many handouts you get at every trade show. All of that material has to be printed, shipped to the exhibit location, and then you have to find a way to get it into the hands of as many people as possible. You have to figure that about 75% of the documents people collect at a trade show get thrown out. Plus, the ones that you weren’t able to pass out have to be shipped back to your headquarters. This all costs money, and frankly, it can be a lot of money down the drain.

In addition, all that handed out information doesn’t give you any feedback. Offering the customer or potential customer valuable information should be only part of the equation. There are so many other factors to consider. For instance, when you use technology such as a digital library, avoiding the cost of printing and shipping is only part of the value. Not only do you save all that time and money (not to mention the trees) but you also get, yes you guessed it, the data. You learn who used which documents, how long they spent reading them, and other vital data, and from there you can easily develop sales leads – something that is rarely possible with printed material. This makes it so much easier for an exhibitor to hugely increase their ROI for every trade show.

So when we think trade show we should be thinking data, data, data, all the time?

Absolutely. Approach trade shows and other events with the idea of using the best technology to gather the right data, which is kind of like virtually reading your potential customers’ minds. You can utilize this data in ways that increases your customer base and customer information. This not only gives you a leg up from those who aren’t taking advantage of the technology, but it allows you to deliver solutions to your customers that they truly want and need, and that is the best way to a successful business.