In today's crowded marketplace, sponsors need more to justify their continued investment in your event. They're counting on you to step up and help them capture something bigger.
As I scan through a pile of sponsor prospectuses, nearly every one leads with what the conference host will provide (logos, signage, ads, podium time, etc.). A scant few manage to connect the value dots back to what the sponsor will get. And again, other than a few pie charts about show demographics, the attendee is conspicuously missing.
In her book, The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit, Kim Skildum-Reid outlines action steps for a Win-Win-Win Leverage (or Activation) plan where the focus shifts from opportunities to results. All too often, that third "win" party (the attendee) is forgotten. Let's face it. Without satisfied attendees, there is no conference.
How's Your Sponsor Activation Plan Shaping Up?
Your sponsors ante'd up to participate at your conference. They don't want to be viewed simply as funders. They'd much prefer to be seen as industry thought leaders or as agents who help improve the attendee experience. How can you help them activate more effectively and connect with the people they most want to see?
Align with Sponsor Goals & Objectives: For top-tier sponsors, you need to approach this like a true consultant, not an order taker. Sit down with potential sponsors and ask about their goals and objectives. Find out what they most want to achieve at your event. How would they define a successful sponsorship experience? Then, create custom sponsorship bundles that map back to their success vision, not yours.
Deliver Attendee Value First -- Then Link it Back to the Sponsor: Don't start a General Session with the usual sponsor acknowledgments. Have your A-List speaker be the first person your audience sees. Let this speaker dazzle the crowd, deliver meaningful insight, spark chats and reflection.... Then, near the end of the session, have the speaker (not you) say something like, "If it weren't for XYZ Company, this session wouldn't happen. Let's thank them." That applause will be much louder (and more memorable) than anything they'd ever get at the beginnning of the session.
Boost Sponsor Value Through VIP Experiences: Attendees love it when they're invited to something exclusive and special. They also appreciate behind-the-scenes access to speakers and industry leaders. Connecting sponsors to these experiences will yield far more value than most of the other things on your sponsorship menu.
Extend the Game: Provide exposure before, during and after the conference. Find ways to link sponsors with things (and experiences) that attendees value most. Make them a part of your conference best moments and later, drip out follow-up messages that continue to shine a light on sponsors. If you can link sponsors to post-event activities that attendees appreciate (webinar, blog post, case study, etc.), they'll move another notch higher on the thought-leader grid.
What new ideas are you working into conference sponsorships? Chime in with your thoughts and let's build a better sponsorship activation plan together!
Written by Donna Kastner