A lot of our clients that are planning to host a virtual trade show, which involves sponsors or partners, ask us for ideas and best practices for how to package and sell sponsorships.
Since the typical sponsorship includes a booth, let’s focus there. We’re trying to rethink the traditional virtual booth a bit, tweaking the model or the package in order to help our clients offer more value to their clients. We’re also evaluating how to better integrate sponsors into the overall virtual program.
Here are a few best practices that may help with your own virtual event planning:
- All booth space isn’t the same. Like on the physical trade show floor, try to provide your sponsors with real estate appropriate to their sponsor level. At a large physical conference, platinum sponsor booths are not only front and center but also filled with prominent signage. Bronze sponsors have little signage, and a much smaller footprint. In the virtual world, think along the same lines. We offer booth layouts that include large signage and prominent brand exposure at the high end, and simple “table top” exhibits at the low end.
- While booth space may vary, don’t limit sponsor content. Our virtual conference platform supports this, but it is not something that we recommend as a best practice. While number of items may impact service level or build time, your sponsors should be able to cram in as much content as they want. Likewise, if I have just one area to list all my content in my virtual booth, allow me to stuff that area full, or to be sparing and selective. In other words, let your sponsors manage their own content strategy. (a side benefit – one less item for you to track and manage across sponsors). Compelling content is what draws attendees.
- Enable live activity in every booth. Allow your smaller sponsors to host an open public chat and your largest sponsors to schedule moderated expert chat sessions, live demos or even live webcasts. Of course attendees may still shy away from exhibits, fearing a hard sell, so be sure to coach your sponsors on offering value – exclusive access to experts or executive, sneak peeks at new products, consultative strategies for deployments, or relevant case studies – anything that’s NOT a product pitch is more likely to gain attendee interest.
- Schedule, schedule, schedule. When you plan your program agenda, include your sponsors. In addition to specific breaks for “exhibit hall networking” be sure to included your sponsor’s live booth activity (per above) into your program agenda. Your sponsors will gain additional exposure as attendees plan their time, and they are more likely to pick up visitors if their (valuable) live activity is seen as part of the overall agenda.
- Everyone likes a freebie. What can your sponsors offer attendees? An hour of time with a consultant? An exclusive whitepaper? A free hour of wireless on their next plane ride? A fitbit watch? Encourage your sponsors to offer something in their booth. Each attendee’s time is valuable, so offer something in return for engaging in a chat or downloading collateral.
- Everyone likes to win. Consider using a leaderboard or other gamification strategy to drive attendees through the booths. Offer points for not only entering a both but also engaging with reps, downloading assets, attending sessions. Prizes are a great draw – and don’t have to be expensive – but do keep in mind that sometimes being at the top of the leaderboard is enough – seeing where you rank among your peers can often drive exactly the engagement your sponsors want.
Suggestions beyond booths:
- Include a “sponsor” tab on your registration page to highlight gold and platinum sponsors.
- Craft your main stage agenda around your sponsors. While attendees may sign up to hear the industry keynote, you can bring your sponsors onto the “main stage” by offering sole-sponsor thought leadership sessions or panel slots. Depending on your audience, you may or may not need to call these out as “sponsor sessions” but either way, if the content is valuable and it’s on the main agenda, attendees are more likely to join.
- Offer sponsored spaces or activities – just like in the physical world, where a sponsor package might include logo napkins and a signage at breakfast, or exclusive sponsorship of the in the networking lounge, allow your sponsors to include signage in the virtual lounge or the help desk. Or offer an exclusive opportunity to sponsor all public chats.
- Offer follow up mini-events for specific sponsors. Remember that your virtual environment can have a life after conference day. For your top sponsors, allow them to schedule follow up live activity, maybe a few weeks after the live day. They’ll want to have something unique to offer– again, maybe a new whitepaper, or an exclusive Q&A session – that will draw attendees back. At the very least, they’ll have a chance to send a unique email to both attendees and non-attendees, and at best they engage with prospects and drive a few sales leads forward.
Hosting a virtual trade show for the first time can be a daunting task. Partner with a provider that has experience and can help make your virtual event a success.
For more information on Communique’s Virtual Trade Show software platform go to www.virtualtradeshowhosting.com.