Virtual event sponsorships are a huge topic for associations right now. Take a listen to this week’s episode as JP Moery discusses the pros and cons of virtual events and then takes a deep dive into what you need to do to launch your own virtual event sponsorship program.
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Hello and welcome to JP Moery’s Association Hustle Podcast. President of The Moery Company, JP’s mission is to arm today’s associations with insight and strategy to thrive and a progressively complex and competitive business landscape. 21st century associations must move forward with a little bit of hustle and revenue development at their core.
Virtual sponsorships are a huge topic for associations right now and we’re on fire about it!
Today we’re going to cover the pros and cons of virtual events and sponsorships and then we’ll cover how to get started in creating your own strategy.
Pros of Virtual Events
I’ve had multiple conversations with association executives and the following are the positives of virtual events and sponsorships that we all agree on.
There is an overall positive reception and feedback from attendees, they are having a pretty good experience when it comes to virtual events. One thing they’re happy about? They’re saving the cash by not having to travel. The other? They are able to download information that they want on demand.
The ability to track new attendees and new audience is a big pro. The opportunity is there to be able to connect deeper with our member companies. The events used to be a corporate decision. Before, a member company may have sent two folks to the annual meeting. Now, they can have those two people and all of the people that report to them attend as well.
There is also an increase in opportunity for content delivery and the ability to include sponsor and vendor thought leadership. Associations are more liberal with the content that they’re providing based on the prospectuses that I’ve seen thus far. You can add additional sessions without anyone being upset because they have the opportunity to attend them all. This enables us to allow sponsors, vendors, and suppliers deliver case studies and thought leadership.
Archived and on-demand content is another major pro. And, if you structure it the right way, you can have shorter and tighter programming options – two to three hours a day has been a favorable mix.
A virtual event is less expensive to execute. We’re not flying everyone out and buying a bunch of $30 gallons of coffee. We can execute these programs for less.
Virtual Event Cons
Here are some of the cons, or areas where virtual events have yet to prove their value over in-person events:
We’ve seen networking engagement be uneven with a wide variance of success here. No doubt that, in networking forums that I’ve seen, there is a need to facilitate and lead those sessions. The ability to bring people together around a particular grouping such as a topic or a specific subject matter is really important. You need to cultivate these opportunities for your attendees, both members and sponsors.
Gross revenue is lower and we use it to pay for the infrastructure back at the headquarters in Washington, DC or wherever you’re at. In some ways, that gross revenue supported a lot of other functions. However, the net margin of a virtual event may actually be better.
The effectiveness and sustainability of virtual exhibit halls and sponsorships is yet to be known. I don’t know if people will continue to do this. I do know that there’s a lot more ability and flexibility for the sponsor to share new collateral materials, post case studies, and do other interesting and unique things.
Schedule adjustment is needed for the surge of programming because we have shorter attention span. Another way of looking at it is that we used to fill a room full of people in classroom style seating and the guy in the middle of the row had no choice but to stay for the entire session because it was difficult to leave without anyone noticing. People no longer feel like the have to show up if the content is not good or to sit through the entire session.
Innovation and flexibility are needed when it comes for awards, passing of the gavel, and other similar tasks. We’re probably not going to be able to replicate the awards and recognition – things that we’ve done so many times. Were these valuable and interesting in person anyway? Maybe for the person that’s getting the award, not sure it’s really that interesting for everybody else. This is something that we’re going to have to replace, or innovative, in terms of delivering this type of benefit.
The other con to consider is that speakers will require additional training on the virtual platform. We’ve heard from several associations that have had virtual meetings where a speaker messed up the delivery because they did not take the time to learn the platform or the association did not provide proper training. And, as the CEO or the lead of the meeting, you need to evaluate whether that speaker that used to be really good in person and is a legacy appearance at the annual meeting can still deliver the goods in a virtual format.
Getting Started on Building Your Association’s Virtual Sponsorship Program
The first thing I would like for you to do is to connect with your meeting planning team to understand the virtual event platform and the event agenda to see where everything is and what is possible. Then, take a look at one year of sponsorship data that includes past participation, the amount of money they spent, and the type of sponsorship that they opted into. Then evaluate what is possible in terms of pricing, what your partners wanted in the past in terms of deliverables and other things like that. You’re going to have to adapt your sponsorship inventory and pricing to better fit a virtual event.
The next step is to conduct internal and external team interviews to discuss barriers and opportunities for virtual event sponsorships. If their focus and worry is content delivery they may not able to give you the bandwidth to deliver sponsor related promises and you need to know that now. Then, have conversations with your sponsors to learn about the value and the expected return on investment that they may have for your virtual offerings, including what data they interested in.
Data is one of the major benefits of virtual event sponsorship programs that can be delivered to sponsors in larger numbers and the data is better than what they have received in the past by walking around or meeting people at a reception.
This is the time to establish expectations for this program. It won’t be the same.
Gross revenue is going to be smaller, however, the margins may be really good.
Sponsors are going to have a different experience. They’re not going to have the type of face-to-face interaction that they’re used to, however, in many cases the interaction may be better.
To compare a live event to a virtual one is really unfair to both; they each have strengths and weaknesses.
Get ready to go throw your net wider and attract a larger volume of sponsorships and virtual exhibits. The barrier to entry is much lower. Potential partners can sign up online and “put up” their virtual booth. The ability to attract new partners enables you to broaden your reach. I’m hearing from association executives that they are pulling in folks to their virtual platforms to advertise and participate that they were unable to get previously. Your current and potential partners recognize that there’s more flexibility in a virtual exhibit hall. They don’t have to travel and put up a 10 by 10 booth anymore. They can upload collateral, information, case studies, and video chat sessions and track who visits. This kind of upfront assessment of the platform, its capabilities, and the ability to implement it all in collaboration with your meetings team.
Finally, it is absolutely essential to make sure you’re meeting the expectations of your existing sponsors and that you can deliver what you promise.
I hope this is helpful for you. I think it’s an incredible opportunity. Don’t apologize and say that it’s not going to be as good as your previous in person events. It’s going to be different and it might be better.
Thank you so much. Our listenership over the last month has grown literally by the thousands and it’s because you’re sharing the content. I’m grateful for that. And I hope this is helpful for you. See you soon.
We hope you enjoyed this edition of JP Moery’s Association Hustle Podcast. We’d love to connect with you. Check out our blog at moerycompany.com and subscribe to our weekly newsletter. You can also connect with JP on LinkedIn and Twitter at @JPMoery, as well as The Moery’s Company’s Instagram and Facebook page. To purchase a copy of JP’s book, Association Hustle: Top Strategies for Association Growth, go to JPMoery.com.
Need help launching your virtual event sponsorship program? Let us know below and we’ll be in touch.