We are continuing the discussion on how to develop a strong organizational framework for your virtual sponsorship program. If you haven’t already, please refer to our first post in this series by clicking here, as it lays the foundation for establishing a virtual sponsorship program. We covered things such as setting overall goals for the event and setting expectations. Are there things that you would like your attendees to learn? Will you need to adjust your usual content because it will no longer be just a handful of people that attend from each organization? And so on.
Sponsors will also have different expectations for a virtual event. Typically, your sponsors were interested in in–person one-on-one connections because they were perceived to be the most valuable return on their investment. However, that is one of the more difficult aspects of the virtual meeting. So, what can you provide them? Is it better data? Is it an opportunity to speak, something that has not often been allowed during in-person meetings? Over time, I’ve heard sponsors ask for an opportunity to provide thought leadership as the number one request and it is the number one thing that the association declines.
So, let’s get started here and continuing on the journey of building your virtual event sponsorship program. The next steps, once you’ve completed the strategic consideration exercise, is the design of your virtual sponsorship.
First, research to see what other organizations are doing. Study virtual sponsorship models of other associations. Everyone is in this together and learning at the same time. I’m not sure anyone would say they’re an expert in virtual sponsorships yet. However, everyone is learning, implementing, and testing so those experiences are things that you can learn from.
I really like the way many associations are promoting their conferences and how to use their chosen virtual platform to learn, engage, and meet other people. They’re providing a great number of tutorials about how to do this and I think that’s very valuable.
Compare association sponsorship pricing and benefits using public information published by other associations. Everyone is chasing their tail right now on pricing. This is why I think it’s important for you to be very clear on what you need to achieve financially because that is going to affect your pricing. If this is an attempt to just stay top of mind and reach as many people as possible, you’ll want to engage vendors and suppliers in your industry that have never been available. What I see here is the chance to have an entry level type program that can be used to build relationships that can then move into hybrid and in-person meetings and additional inventory in 2021. This initial research is going to be very valuable.
We’re seeing that most of the registration fees are on the low end, many around $250 for a program that used to be $1,000+ in the past. Keep this in mind as you’re building out your virtual event and pricing sponsorship opportunities. The worst thing you could do is ask on a message board, “What should I charge for a virtual sponsorship?” I don’t have the foggiest idea. I would need to conduct research in the industry, see what other people are doing, and learn what the expectations are of your organization.
When selecting a platform for your virtual event make sure that you learn about their sponsor benefit options. Exploring the options for virtual sponsorships is going to enable you to develop a great inventory. As a side note, we have developed a grid that has different qualities of various meeting platforms that we use to help our clients select the best platform for their needs.
One sponsorship option that has been a favorite is the improved data that our association clients can deliver for their sponsors. The other favorite option has been virtual exhibit halls, especially for those partners who did not participate in the past when the events were in-person. There are also new opportunities for associations to test out this option if they have never had an in-person exhibit hall and decided to have one for an upcoming virtual event.
You have to get familiar with whatever meeting platform you choose to use for your event, similar to what you used to do with a convention center or a hotel. They all have different components, qualities, and strengths. Get familiar with them in order to be able to build your sponsorship inventory based on what’s possible within the platform.
Call some of your colleagues in the association space and see what their experiences have been. I have found that people are very open to sharing their knowledge of what worked and what didn’t. Registration kits have gone virtual and event organizers are mailing items that, in the past, were room drop items. You can re-create some of these things within a virtual context.
Don’t be paralyzed by fear, instead use this opportunity to do some things that you have never tried before. For example, you can allow sponsors to conduct breakout sessions or demonstrations. This is liberating for your partners and enables you to become more innovative, develop new ideas, and implement them.
Remember the feedback that you received from sponsors about why they sponsor and the value they get from partnering with you? Sponsors are in a new territory, too, and may have a difficult time understanding the new opportunities that you present them. Help them by providing in-depth description of your sponsorship inventory and demonstrations of the virtual platform. Schedule webinars or record videos on how they can best utilize and customize their virtual exhibits and get the most out of their sponsorship.