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| Written by Mae Ibe, CMP

Top Tips to Engage Sponsors in a Hybrid Environment

Chef Demonstration Event Sponsor

Many organizations that rely on revenue from sponsors have been scrambling to reimagine conferences and tradeshows in a world now filled with a lot more virtual than in-person events. And, let’s add the latest option into the mix — the hybrid environment.

You may have heard planning a hybrid event is the equivalent of planning two simultaneous events. The reality that we quickly learned in planning our own hybrid event, the M&IW Events Reimagined Forum, is that it is more like designing three experiences simultaneously, one for just in-person, one for just virtual, and one for both audiences.

With all of that in mind, organizations must consider the business goals of their sponsors to understand how a hybrid format can uniquely help them identify leads, connect with prospects, grow brand awareness, and close sales. We know that sponsors are looking for more than logo placement or a virtual exhibit hall to justify their continued support whether they attend in-person or virtually.

5 Ways to Offer Value to Sponsors For Hybrid Events

1. Demonstration Scheduling

A great way to increase engagement with your sponsors is to allow attendees to sign up to attend demonstrations that the sponsoring organization hosts, or even better if they can feature their own product or service. For example, a hotel property could engage its executive chef to give a cooking demonstration at the event which is live-streamed for the virtual attendees. For a greater impact, send the virtual attendees a gift pack in advance with the items or finished product to taste. Amplify the opportunity for your sponsor by consistently promoting this special event in your marketing communications.

2. Session Content Contribution

Create session opportunities that offer your sponsors the ability to position themselves as thought-leaders in their area of expertise. Whether enlisting representatives as moderators, presenters or broadcasting a sponsor’s educational content, sponsoring companies are often great resources and they value the opportunity to demonstrate their industry knowledge and leadership to your community. An example to offer a truly blended and dynamic experience is to have a panel discussion that features both in-person and virtual panelists.

3. Discussion Forums

Allowing your sponsors to participate in online and in-person discussion forums organized by topic is a popular strategy for enhancing the conference experience. You can even consider allowing the sponsor to host their own forum which creates another opportunity for them to attract and engage with new business prospects. One of the benefits of the pivot to virtual and hybrid has been the ability to create a dialogue between event hosts, sponsors, and attendees through chat features, social walls, discussion forums, etc.

4. Attendee Access

Being able to directly connect with attendees is one of the most cited reasons for sponsoring the event. Most in-person conferences include networking opportunities whether on the tradeshow floor, during meal functions, breaks, etc. While it doesn’t replace face-to-face, we are finding that the technology continues to get more robust and authentic when it comes to virtual networking, chat functionality, dynamic tradeshow booths, one-on-one appointments, and the ability to converse in the session chats. We see that the future will be a blend of virtual and in-person networking opportunities extended over time. Engaging your sponsors early and often with your community will be key.

5. Network of Prospects

Of course, sponsors are interested in qualifying their participation by knowing your group’s demographics (titles, locations, employers, etc.) to determine fit. Sponsors need to make new connections and sharing targeted data can be key in helping them build a network of prospects. Just providing a list of attendee contacts has fallen out of favor whether in-person or virtual. However, there are creative ways to let your attendees self-select to participate and engage with the sponsor. This approach ensures your organization is following all GDPR, CCPA, and privacy protocols aligned with permission-based marketing.

Designing Sponsorship Packages for Hybrid Events

Sponsorships are incredibly important to the success of conferences and tradeshows. Enhanced sponsorship opportunities of the future will take advantage of the unique characteristics of both virtual and in-person events to create better engagement between attendees and event sponsors.

As you begin planning a hybrid conference and tradeshow, continue to keep a strong focus on your sponsors and innovative ways you can deliver value to them in a hybrid environment. Remember, decision-makers and buyers will be participating in-person and virtually so your sponsors should do the same. Give sponsors the option of having a presence in-person, in the virtual space, or even better, both.

Interested in learning more about our conference and tradeshow services or how M&IW can help you secure top dollar sponsorships for your next in-person, virtual or hybrid event? Visit Exhibit & Sponsorship Sales and Conferences & Tradeshow Services or call 262-835-3553 and ask to speak to conference and tradeshow expert.

You also might be interested in our article entitled, Attributing Revenue to Various Conference Activities. Whether you’re hosting or attending a conference or tradeshow it’s likely that your organization commonly questions the monetary and time-investment spent on these live events.