August 18, 2021 | By Warwick Merry

One of the most significant challenges moving from face-to-face to virtual events for an event organiser is the shift in value for our sponsors. Let’s be honest, it is not always an easy shift. In fact, it can be a plummet if you don’t do it right.

The core of the problem is the shift from analogue to digital. In the analogue world, it is easy to have a loose conversation over lunch or a coffee. That conversation can easily shift from the whole event to “So tell me what your company does” to “Actually we have that problem. Let’s have a chat next week”. It’s a non-confrontational experience and you can easily move on if you need.

In the digital world, it is more intense.

You have to purposefully click on the link that says “Talk to Us”. You are not likely to do this for a casual chat. Then if you do click on the link, often you get “You are now in a queue”. This can be because the sponsor rep is bored of waiting for people to come so they have gone off to get their own coffee or they only have one rep monitoring the booth and if you get a second interested person they are in a queue for who knows how long.

Add to that, there is no coffee or food vendor because that is in your own kitchen. You are more likely to spend the break catching up on emails that having a possible conversation with someone who wants to sell you something.

So, at the end of the event the sponsor feels like very few people asked for a conversation, not many watched their full video or downloaded their PDF, and therefore thinks, “Where is my ROI?”.

As event organisers we need to help our sponsors shift their approach. We can’t do the same thing just in a digital space. Yes, it can look cool – the digital booth with branding everywhere but it is less likely to work.

This is what you need:

  • Delegates to WANT to connect with you
  • You want to ATTRACT people to watch your video or get your download
  • Delegates need to welcome the conversation so it can’t be framed as a sales connection
  • To make sure that delegates can do these things almost instantly

So how do you do that?

Make it fun. Your videos need to be like a TickTok or YouTube Shorts video. Less than a minute, fun, engaging and all about them. We don’t want your glossy brochure, we can get that from your website. Give us something that is a break from the conference, gives us some energy and address our pain point.

Make it short. Remember, we are speed dating. This is the first, second or third date. Don’t go for the sales. Go for the connection. Short and sweet with a follow-up is best.

Make it about the delegate. Let’s be honest, we don’t care about you, we care about us. OUR problems, OUR issues and OUR desires. How can you help us?

Make it count. With the right people in your digital booth, doing the right thing, you can build a bit of viral buzz. How would it be if delegates were messaging their colleagues saying, “Oh you have to go and see XYZ booth and do their Bad Advice quiz, it’s a cracker!”?

Digital is a brave new world and it is here to stay. For our sponsors, it is time to reinvent your approach and make it work for you. Sponsoring events is my favourite form of marketing as you are tapping directly into your ideal market. Invest the time, effort, and money to get it right. For us event professionals, we need to help them get it right so we all benefit.

Warwick Merry is a certified speaking professional, dual certified virtual presenter and past national president of Professional Speakers Australia. He hosts and produces online events globally.