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  • Jennifer Kerhin, MBA, CEM

Virtual Sponsorships: Leads, Connections, and Brand Recognition

The exhibit hall has long been the focus of in-person trade shows. Elaborate booth displays, colorful signage hanging overhead, and crowds of people networking in convention center halls are familiar and comfortable for event professionals.


As you seek to replicate the benefits of in-person meetings with virtual options, shift your focus from exhibits to sponsorships. Without the live hall, it’s time to move sponsorships to the forefront of your virtual event. Sponsorships offer companies the three things they want, leads, connections, and brand recognition. Your virtual sponsorships should focus on opportunities to bring together sponsors and attendees.


Start With What You Know

Chances are that your event traditionally offers sponsorship items. Eblasts, website branding, banner ads, splash pages, and gamification are among some of the more common sponsorships for trade shows, and it is likely that your prospectus contains many of these options. Adjust the price of your sponsorship items to reflect the virtual nature of the event. Companies are hyper-focused on budgets, and the success of your virtual sponsorships hinges on attractive pricing.


Content is King

Don’t limit your sponsorship selection to those mentioned above. As stated earlier, sponsors want three things - leads, connections, and brand recognition. In today’s virtual world, the optimal way for a company to achieve all three goals is to share content with attendees. The value proposition of content-based sponsorships is clear. Reaching large numbers of attendees with a targeted message is a win for the sponsor.


Here are three content-based sponsorships with high value proposition for sponsoring companies:


1. Hour-Long sessions - These sessions are very well attended by participants who seek current research in specific areas. They offer an opportunity for companies to share their expertise, communicate their message, get their brand in front of attendees, and secure valuable leads. Make certain the networking during the session, whether it be chat or a discussion board, is robust.


2. Lightning Talks – These sessions last between 60 and 90 minutes, and feature several speakers from different companies. Sponsors each receive ten minutes to speak about their company, products, or services. These concise and efficient talks are intended to grab the attention of the audience, convey key information, and allow for several presenters to share their ideas in a brief period of time. Networking is important with these sessions as well. Companies should have the opportunity to chat with attendees, answer questions, and schedule breakout meetings.


3. Panel Discussion -Host a panel with three to five speakers on a specific topic of research. Sponsors and invited guests can participate.


It’s All About the Numbers/Analytics

Finally, it is imperative that you consider the ROI for sponsors when planning your virtual sponsorships. Provide detailed information about the analytics companies will receive during and after your event, so that they understand how they will be able to track and communicate with attendees who receive and react to their message. When choosing your platform remember that leads are the primary reason sponsors spend money at events, so choose a provider that excels in this area. It’s important to remember that most virtual events are seeing double the number of attendees of traditionally in-person events, so sponsors could increase their exposure exponentially by participating virtually in your event.






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