How can you, as a conference organiser, help your sponsor to get as much return as possible on his investment? Conference Holland gives nine tips for a successful conference for the organiser, the participants and the sponsor.
Illustrations © iStock.akindo
1. Do not be a vendor, be a consultant
During the sponsorship recruitment, present yourself as a consultant rather than a vendor. Talk to (potential) sponsors and ask them questions. What are your goals, what kind of audience do you want to reach, what is your budget? Then, determine your strategy based on the concrete needs of the sponsor. Talk about the measurable return for your backer, not for you. The sponsor can then justify his investment to himself and his colleagues. Give the sponsor the feeling that you are a partner in his success. This way of working takes a little more time, but yields more for you as well as the sponsor. This is because the sponsor will then be more willing to sponsor your next meeting.
2. Continue to think along with the sponsor about the stand
Remain a consultant for the sponsor in the run-up to the conference; even if the deal has already been closed. Help think about how they can use their stand effectively during, for example, the coffee breaks. Often, such a stand is ignored by the public. Think up something together that has added value for the delegates. Tell about your experiences with stands that were successful and why that was. This could be, for example, because there were enthusiastic people minding the stands who were warm and welcoming, without being intrusive. It could also be because a particular product presentation was given where delegates could enjoy something playful and healthy, such as, for example, an oxygen bar. Another dynamic possibility is that the keynote speaker could sign his book at the sponsor’s booth. Ultimately, it’s all about the delegate. Added value for the delegate is also added value for you and the sponsor.
3. Be modest with logos
Some meetings turn into one big logo-fair: on the handouts, the badge, on banners, on the packaged chocolates with the coffee, on everything you could possibly put a logo on. An over-abundance of logos is irritating for most delegates. They feel like they are at a promotional event, while they probably had to pay dearly to participate. Moreover, in any case, the logos go way beyond their goal, and they do not provide a positive association for the delegate, insofar as the brand names are even noticed at all. An over-abundance of logos is, therefore, bad for the organisers, the delegate and the sponsor. Keep the logos to a minimum. There are so many other ways to place the sponsor in the limelight.
4. A speaker can do more for a sponsor than you think
Customisation is very important for the sponsor. For one, a banner is all that is necessary; for another, for example, it is a sponsored speaker. There are several ways to sponsor a keynote speaker without the speaker being substantively limited in his speech.
For example, the speaker can:
- use a sponsor’s best practice as an example in his talk (but do not make it into a product presentation for the sponsor; that irritates most participants);
- thank the sponsor at the beginning or the end of his speech;
- give a premium/gift from the sponsor to someone in the audience if he/she has answered a question correctly or pro-actively participated in the discussion;
- stand in the sponsor’s booth during the break to answer questions so that more of the audience comes to visit the booth.
5. Let the sponsor profit from the PR of the event
6. Don’t forget the PR in social media
Before, during and after a conference, there is now quite a bit of twittering, face-booking and instagramming. Some annual conferences often already have a lot of followers on Twitter. This may mean a wider range for the sponsor but the backer is often barely mentioned in social media. And that is even though the sponsor usually has some significant things to say, without turning it into a bit of advertising. Again, consultation is important in order to determine a social media strategy together. And remember to use the hash-tags of the sponsor so that everything is optimally linked.
7. The sponsor as saviour
Look closely at the evaluation of the previous edition of your conference. If there were, in particular, complaints that there was no Wifi or, for example, that it worked poorly, let this year’s mega, super-fast broadband Wifi sponsor you. The sponsor will be seen as the saviour or, at the very least, as a supplier of quality that was missed so much in previous years.
8. Promises, promises
Sometimes, so much has been agreed upon with the sponsor, and the organisation – especially just before the event – is so hectic that, in spite of all the good intentions, something is forgotten. There are 1001 things that need attention. And if you’re worried that the keynote speaker will be on time, other interested parties sometimes disappear to the back of one’s mind. But the sponsor has paid to make sure that all promises are kept. So take a moment to double check that all agreements with the sponsor have been/will be met. It would be unfortunate if a small slip of memory casts a slur on the collaboration.
9. Gratitude multiplies
He who is sincere in his thanks will be paid back in spades. That is a cosmic law. Thank the sponsor not only during the meeting, but also when everything is over. A phone call of thanks and, perhaps, for a bit of evaluating is usually greatly appreciated. In this way, you indicate that the collaboration was highly appreciated and that the sponsor has contributed significantly and importantly to the meeting. Do this without immediately submitting a proposal for the next event. That will come later. Make sure the appreciation you express is sincere, otherwise the sponsor will see right through it and it will backfire. With a sincere show of gratitude, you give each other a positive vibe and there is a greater chance that the sponsor will want to work with you again in the future.