The growth of virtual conferences has raised so many questions: What platform to use? What to charge for registration fees? How does a virtual exhibit hall work? And so on, and so on – there’s a lot to learn, and many different stakeholders to consider, and keep happy.
Earlier this month, IAEE presented an informative webinar about monetizing virtual events through sponsorships. Meg Fasy, CMP, spoke about setting objectives and goals, different types of sponsorships to consider and what your sponsors will be seeking.
She explained that it’s important to understand both the event’s and organization’s goals, as everything that is done from a a sponsorship perspective should roll back into those goals.
Finding and Retaining Sponsors
When it comes to sponsorship goals, she spoke about ways to increasing the number of sponsorships sold, how to build attendance engagement and growing revenue.
To find new sponsorship prospects, she suggested looking at companies that support your competitors’ events. Another avenue: ask attendees for referrals. Fasy also discussed working with non-endemic sponsors.
Retention is also very important – she stressed the need to look for ways to make your sponsors feel as though they are part of your community. As organizers move to virtual events, she recommended getting information about the event out early, so they can think about how they will fit in.
When it comes to attendee engagement, it’s important to understand that live events and virtual conferences do not offer the same thing. At live events, exhibitors will look at the number of leads generated and the amount of dedicated exhibit time. When it comes to virtual conferences, possible measurements to use include click-thru rates, social media buzz and chat room word clouds.
Fasy spoke about two sales processes: transactional and consultative.
“If you treat your sponsorship opportunities as a transactional sale, it is much harder to sell value,” she said.
Selling virtual events presents a new challenge – as you most likely will not have analytics to share.
“We don’t know how many attendees will show up – that’s where your relationship with your sponsor comes into play,” she said. “If you have an honest conversation, they will be much more willing to blaze that trail with you.”
Branding is one type of sponsorship that organizers can move into the virtual space. You will be able to offer analytics and show who is engaging with their brand. Some of the examples she discussed:
- Banner ads
- Customized splash pages
- Micro-sites, i.e. a virtual happy hour
- Swag rooms
- Mobile app
- Pop-up ads and banners
- Commercials prior to keynotes/breakouts
- Branded transition slides
Fasy also offered some ideas for experiential sponsorships, explaining that these type of events will help attendees feel they are part of the community:
- Streaming parties – group attendees from the same city together in a chat room.
- Happy hour – attendees get the ingredients mailed to them, and a bartender livestreams the recipe for them to make, then they chat.
- Snack break – mail them a snack, and they have the snack break together.
- Social media events.
- Peer-to-peer chats.
- Live-streamed competitions with voting.