If you’re planning on exhibiting at any events in 2015, or you’re an event organizer and you’d like to know what you should be thinking about when it comes to your technology choices, read on. We recently had a chat with Steve Shatsoff – Senior Vice President at SmartSource Computer & AV Rentals to get a glimpse into upcoming event technology trends for 2015. Steve has been in the technology rental business for decades, so he has a good perspective on what trends are coming up that are worth tapping into.

Steve, to get started we’d like to ask you, when it comes to technology at events, what’s going to be different in 2015 than it was in 2014?

One of the first things to understand when we’re talking about technology trends for events is that the use of technology at events is somewhere behind the curve of general technology trends. The event business has been slow to adopt some aspects of technology; however, now with Millennials coming more to the forefront, the demand for cutting-edge technology at events is gaining greater momentum.

One of the biggest pushes we see coming from that momentum is more interaction and interactivity between attendees and organizers. Things such as social media, like Twitter walls, are part of that.

We’re also going to see more gamification. Explained loosely, gamification is about using game thinking in a non-game situation to increase user interaction and contribution. For example, you could create a contest to provide a “wow” interactive experience that totally engages the user who might otherwise walk right by your booth.

And here I thought gamification was only about playing games.

A lot of people think that. Gamification is the kind of thing which, when used properly, can be promoted to increase attendance and even help attract more top-notch speakers.

So interaction isn’t about creating more engagement just for the sake of it – a lot of positive outcomes can come from increased interactivity. Can you give us some additional ideas of what could potentially be done to improve interactivity at an event?

Certainly. You can create greater interactivity with the integration of hardware and software, like a large touch screen, for instance. There’s a big movement towards touch screen and interactivity or motion screen interactivity (think of the movie Minority Report) and the ability to manipulate screens.  This helps improve matchmaking and networking and messaging between an attendee and the event. What this means is that the message the viewer sees gets changed dynamically with the use of technology—for instance, blue tooth technology like iBeacon. As you walk past a digital sign, the content could change based on who you are. This allows for more personalized welcome screens and alerts; it can even tie into badging and say hello to you. This can be powerful stuff – someone walks past your booth and they get a personal hello from the screen. Who can resist walking in to your booth to see what this technology is all about? Personalization can certainly create more dwell time in booths or in different areas at an event.

There is also interactive technology such as projection mapping – which is a big projector that makes something look 3D that someone can interact with through hand gestures.

Near field communication technology, or NFC, is continuing to gain traction. An example of this is iPay, using near field, where someone uses their touch phone to make a payment.

Also, greater interactivity can be part of continuing education credits at events; checking people in and out and providing CEU tracking and the metrics that come out of that can all be enhanced with newer technology.

In fact, it would be hard to think of an event where most aspects couldn’t be improved by greater interactivity. It’s all about incorporating the tech lifestyle into the event lifestyle. People are going to want and expect that they can do everything at an event that they do out in the world, and then some. The best events spark imagination, and technology used right plays a major part in that.

So, if a company or event organizer is looking to tap into some of these trends, how can they make sure the technology they choose creates a meaningful interaction, rather than just being a gimmick?

Great question, which brings up one of the key factors for making technology work for you, whether it’s interactive or not. Any technology you select—and this is where it pays to have an expert work this out with you—needs to be the right technology for your purpose, your brand, your message. It does no good to have cutting-edge technology that captivates attention but does nothing to further a specific purpose.

You need to match the type of interactivity you are creating with what you are creating it for. As an example, if you want to create greater interaction in a break out space, you can set something up which not only captures attention but also gathers data that you can use in real time. You can use interaction to find out what hot topics people want to hear about, who they want to hear it from, or to get real-time feedback on how they rate a speaker.

Anytime you’re creating interactivity through technology, you shouldn’t just think in terms of capturing an audience’s attention.  You should also always think in terms of what data you could gather, which can then be used for better event marketing and design, or for the ability to brand well.

Thank you so much, Steve. You’ve given us a lot to think about. Any last words about interactivity for the upcoming year?

Yes, I’d like to wish everyone happy and joyous interactions this holiday season – whether they are low tech or high tech. Remember that, at the core, everything is about connecting with people.