Having worked in the events industry for over 16 years, I’ve done everything from planning events and organizing logistics for hundreds of exhibitors at trade shows to coordinating and planning details as an exhibitor at global shows. Most recently, before joining Swapcard in October of 2020, I was the head of sponsorship sales for an association that receives over one-third of their organization's revenue from event sponsors. I've created sponsorship packages and have been a sponsor myself, so needless to say, I know a fair share on how to get the most ROI out of your event participation.
As we all adjust to this digitally blended world, the event industry must also prepare to implement hybrid strategies to navigate a path into the future. This makes it especially important for sponsors at hybrid events to understand the opportunities and benefits that are available to them, and how they can make the most out of their investment. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you start to look at hybrid event sponsorships.
1. Help sponsors understand opportunities for visibility and engagement
If your show has a digital element, make sure the sponsor understands all the opportunities available to them for brand visibility and attendee engagement. This means knowing the live dates of a show but equally as important, communicating exactly when you’re planning on opening up the show’s digital component. Most events nowadays open up a week before the live dates to help promote networking and create excitement for the show. If you offer digital booths, make sure your sponsors allocate appropriate resources to monitor incoming questions and meeting requests. Research shows that most networking and activity happen before the show even happens, so capitalize on this opportunity!
Everyone is well-versed in in-person sponsor opportunities like branding lanyards and sponsoring coffee breaks; but since show organizers are no longer limited by the live dates of a show, you can offer more digital engagement opportunities. Consider offering a sponsor the opportunity to host a special pre-event digital session with a key client or roundtable with valuable content or research for attendees. Perhaps you even can provide an on-demand session. Whatever it is, make sure you are planning for a digital presence, in addition to an in-person plan.
2. Encourage sponsors to be active, not passive
Encourage sponsors to look through the attendee list and reach out to attendees they’d want to meet, whether it be in-person or on a video call. Have them line up their conference and meeting schedules so that they can maximize their participation. Look through the agenda and build a schedule with sessions that align with the company’s expertise and mission. When attending those sessions, encourage sponsors to engage in the live chats and connect with those attendees who are equally as engaged to help foster a genuine conversation. If a sponsor is speaking at a session, make sure they have colleagues in the room or chat. Equip team members to monitor the chats and answer any question specific to the sponsor’s company. Real connections result from genuine engagement.
3. Help sponsors track & measure in-person and online objectives
Make sure that staff are briefed on roles and responsibilities for the in-person and online teams. If a sponsor has limited resources and the sales team will be doing double duty, make sure the physical booth has strong WiFi so that on-site members can take turns checking for virtual booth notifications. Strategize the best ways for sponsors to communicate their offerings and services for in-person and online attendees. You may promote different products depending on the environment.
Keep collecting your analytics from your past sponsorships and key into when and where you have the strongest activity and return. Ask your event organizer for comprehensive sponsorship packages that give you different marketing benefits based on the in-person and digital portions of the event. This way, you are sure to get in front of both audiences.
With Swapcard, sponsors have an ROI dashboard that shows real-time lead generation results. Your sponsors can export it at any time, upload it into their CRM and evaluate their investments. Make sure you give them the tools to become data-driven.
There’s no standard handbook on what a hybrid event is supposed to look like because there is no standard hybrid event. With hybrid events bringing the digital component to the forefront, think outside the box and the live dates of the event, since you’ll have more flexibility on what you can offer sponsors. This is your opportunity to work together with sponsors to help strategize a partnership plan that works for you. Make the most of it.