While integrating entertaining features into an event is a great way to engage attendees, it takes money to do that. The easiest way to generate revenue is through sponsors and underwriters. This isn't news to anyone planning events, but most aren't thinking about it in an integrated and holistic way.
Today's association event sponsorship offerings consist largely of a menu of options and a few pre-bundled packages. The offerings are usually based on items needed at an event: name badge holders, coffee breaks, Wi-Fi, etc. The approach is highly transactional. The sponsor gives money to pay for something, and in return, their logo is displayed in many places. Perhaps there is a booth or speaking opportunity. The association gets the money to pay for the event. The attendee has some awareness of the product and enjoys the coffee or the swag. In almost all cases, the value to the association, the sponsor, and the attendee does not extend past the actual event.
A shift in thinking is needed. Attendees and sponsors are looking for more meaningful connections and ways to improve their business relationships. Sponsors have solutions to attendee's issues. It's an organizer’s job to connect them. Start with research. By understanding attendee motivations, buying habits, and purchasing power, associations can obtain a clearer picture of the types of solutions needed, even if there are needs that extend beyond the typical offerings of an event.
No matter the industry you are involved in, your attendees likely use paper. Do you know how much paper they buy in a year? If it's a strong number, don't you think Dunder Mifflin would like the chance to sell to them? Every association is sitting on data that will lead to new partners and new sources of revenue.
Associations can take that data and design new sponsorship packages that will resonate with business partners.
Now, there is more money available for more cool features, and the event is delivering more value to all groups. By thinking about sponsors as true partners to help attendees succeed, instead of as just a paycheck for the event, opportunities increase for everyone. The attendees get better access to more companies that can help them further their mission. The sponsors get access to new customers and qualified data to help them sell. And the association gets more revenue. As Michael Scott would say, "Win, win, win."
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