“How do I start with my virtual sponsorship program?”
I’m going to dive deep and explain the strategic decisions you need to walk through.
First and foremost, learn the platform that you’re going to be using for your virtual event. This may require you to collaborate with your meeting planning friends that are learning a whole new way of doing business. Understand the platform, know what is in place, know if you’re going to have a virtual exhibit hall option, and comb through all of the components that a sponsor or an exhibitor may have available to them.
You’re going to need to be able to educate your sponsors, exhibitors, and speakers on how to use your chosen platform. They knew what it was like to show up at the conference center and put up the pipe and drape for their 10×10. They may not know how to do this in a virtual setting and you’re going to have to educate them. The more you and your sales team know about your platform, the sales process.
Next, look at your data. How much sponsorship and exhibit revenue did you bring in from past events and then break it down by what each individual sponsor and exhibitor wanted to or gained from that event. Is there a strategic business objective that they’re looking for? Is it the same as last year or is it different? You need to find out what they want from their sponsorship so you can replicate it in a virtual platform.
The next step is very important. Set up a series of 30 minute conversations – three to five – with your sponsors to see what they think about the virtual event opportunity. Ask them about their expectations on their return on investment and get a sense of what they may want from you in terms of data.
The one thing that’s going to be missed during the virtual events is the ability to have the handshake or meeting the person at the reception. The upside is, more than likely, you’re going to bring more numbers to the game in a virtual setting because people don’t have to travel.
Bigger numbers mean better data sets for the sponsors.
Barriers of Entry
And then finally, the virtual exhibit halls and sponsorships are going to have a lower barrier to entry for new sponsors. They may want to try working with you for the first time because more than likely, the sponsorship and the exhibits are going to be less costly.
Be ready for your sales and marketing plan to go out broader than you’ve ever anticipated. This is the way to get started. I hope it’s helpful for you going forward.