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How to incorporate sponsors in your association’s virtual events to drive more non-dues revenue

Since last year, many associations have been running virtual events to drive more revenue and provide networking, career advancement, and other benefits to members. In fact, association industry research from Community Brands shows that organizations are looking to replace lost revenue with new non-dues revenue activities – mostly virtual events.

As you plan your virtual events, make sure you’re driving more revenue by incorporating sponsors into the online experience. Not only does this give you the opportunity to generate additional non-dues revenue, but it also gives sponsors the opportunity to reach a broader audience and extends more of the in-person experience to online attendees.

TIP: Work with an experienced team to plan and support your next virtual event. The Event Tech Group by Community Brands offers event management software, and can help by advising you on an ideal registration and exhibit plan, providing training on event software tools, and offering call or email customer support to your attendees and exhibitors.

Offering attractive sponsor and exhibitor packages is a must-do for recruiting sponsors for your virtual event. Taking it a step further – adding extra value and perks throughout the event – will keep your sponsors and exhibitors happy and coming back again and again.

Here are some ideas on how to incorporate sponsors in your virtual events:

Create appealing virtual event sponsorship packages.
To incorporate sponsors in your virtual events, you must first offer great sponsorship opportunities. Some ideas:

  • Sponsor announcements – Allow industry partners to sponsor sessions and provide a one-minute sponsor announcement at the beginning of each session. This can include a visual image or quick demo of their product for the benefit of online viewers.
  • Branded live session window – Use a custom-branded viewer for virtual sessions that has the capability to incorporate custom logos to highlight sponsors.
  • Sponsored tab – Incorporate a custom tab in your session viewer that has text, videos, or downloadable content about a sponsor or exhibitor.
  • Spotlight interviews or vendor demos – Pre-record spotlight interviews or vendor demos with your sponsors and exhibitors to play during session breaks.
  • Networking or breakout session sponsorship options – Allow industry partners to moderate or sponsor breakout sessions on a certain topic. Sponsoring a virtual networking hour offers great exposure for companies as well.
  • Recorded commercials – Capitalize on the time attendees spend waiting to join a session by displaying pre-recorded commercials or rotating slides from sponsors and exhibitors.
  • Virtual exhibit hall – Give your attendees a place to learn more about relevant products and services with an online exhibit hall. Virtual exhibitors can host online booths and be available for live chats with attendees during pre-set hall hours.

TIP: Keep sponsorships going year-round by offering sponsors integrated packages. For example, in addition to virtual event sponsorships, these packages might include a virtual career fair booth or advertising opportunities via your job board.

Provide value.
Even without the in-person environment, it’s still important to demonstrate value to your virtual event sponsors and exhibitors to make sure they return year after year.

What most sponsors and exhibitors want is more exposure to your event attendees. They also want to be known as leaders in your industry.

With these things in mind, here are some effective ways to provide value to your association’s virtual event sponsors:

  • Get them involved with sessions.
    Many of your sponsors and exhibitors work in your industry and have helpful insights and experience to share. Beyond asking them to sponsor a session and provide a brief intro, ask them to participate in session development.
  • Ask them to share data and resources.
    These same sponsors and exhibitors might have timely industry data and other resources. Ask them if they have recent research data, papers, articles, or other resources that could be share with attendees.
  • Provide a virtual meeting space.
    A great “perk” for sponsors at in-person events is providing them with a meeting room for one-to-one meetings with attendees. Give them a similar space, online, in which they can have on demand or scheduled meetings with prospective clients.
  • Help attendees find them.
    Another great way to connect sponsors and exhibitors with the attendees who need their products and services is to provide an interactive sponsor/exhibitor directory. Make sure the directory is easy to find and navigate. And be sure to include all the basic information, such as company descriptions, website links, and contact information.
  • Invite them to provide giveaways.
    One way to keep attendee enthusiasm and engagement up is to offer drawings for prizes throughout the event. Ask your sponsors to “donate” items for these giveaways, and be sure to recognize each sponsor (verbally and on screen) as you announce each winner.
  • Ask for their input.
    One of the best ways to provide value to your sponsors and exhibitors is to ask them what would be valuable to them. Survey some of your top sponsors from previous events and ask what would make their sponsorship of your virtual event extra special.

Say thank you.
Give your sponsors and exhibitors added exposure by thanking them often in front of your online attendees. For example, include a “thank you to our sponsors” slide throughout the event. Remind attendees to check out the virtual expo hall. Highlight any special giveaways or offers from sponsors or exhibitors. Just be sure that the exposure you provide each sponsor and exhibitor is appropriate for their sponsorship level.

Learn more.
Discover more ways to drive revenue for your association: Read the paper, The Association’s Guide to Retaining and Diversifying Revenue in Challenging Times.

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