Conferences and industry events are very expensive to produce. Most industry events rely on Conference sponsorship to make them possible. Sponsorship dollars allow events to host in great venues, hire top keynote speakers, have great food and entertainment and more.
Today, getting sponsor is harder than ever because you compete with so many other events. It's important to make sure you meet and exceed conference sponsors expectations to ensure their continued support.
I recently spoke for a teachers conference. The conference was run by a volunteer board. The board had full time jobs and planning a conference that relies on sponsorship dollars is challenging. Also, every year that board turns over and new members have to familiarize themselves with event sponsors.
In this case, the board had neglected to inform its conference sponsors and exhibitors of key deadlines and important information.
Things started to unravel during the motivational speeches, the vendors were still setting up their booths, which was very distracting. The booths were lining the auditorium where all the keynote speakers presented. I'm a regular funny keynote speaker for this event, until it was cancelled due to lack of sponsorship.
One of my favorite books on the topic is The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit by Kim Skildum- Reid.
Below are some considerations for managing and communicating with conference sponsors:
- Start recruiting sponsors for the next year immediately after the current conference. Produce a package that outlines the value of sponsorship. Consider offering a discount for sponsors to send delegates to the event.
- Have an exhibitor and sponsorship database
- Promote and thank your exhibitors often ( before, during and after the event)
- Verify and communicate early on the resource commitments and funding requirements conference sponsors can anticipate. For example to host a trade show booth, identify what resources are needed for staffing, funding, equipment, travel, training, and any other expenses.
- Communicate how best to set up a trade show booth, how to get the most out of a trade show space, how to engage conference delegates, how to collect and follow up with conference leads and more. Make sure deadlines and deliverables are clear.
- Any sponsorship will have weak results if a sponsor fails to support it adequately. Discuss responsibilities and timelines before, during and after the event and get commitment for ongoing support from your conference sponsors.
- Set timelines for shipping materials, equipment and communicate consequences of any delays.
- Prepare sponsorship proposals and manage ongoing relationships with vendors. Walk the trade show floor and liase regularily with vendors.
- Follow up, get feedback, thank and most importantly get commitment from your conference sponsors to participate in future years.