Attracting event sponsors is – and will continue to be – a hurdle. Nine out of ten event professionals believe it will be a challenge to secure sponsors for events this year, according to an Eventbrite survey. Nevertheless, there’s no magic bullet for attracting and retaining sponsorship partners. Sponsors are looking to see exactly what every business seeks when measuring the success of marketing efforts: return on investment.
Event owners who can show a good return on sponsor investment will inevitably have an easier time attracting and retaining sponsors than those who can’t. While this might imply that data measurement, as it relates to sponsorship, is the end-all, be-all, event success in the eyes of sponsorship partners isn’t always a numbers game. Event hosts have to actively drive ROI with an effective, integrated content strategy.
Technology Meets Strategy
Sure, it would be nice to draw a straight line between event sponsorship and an impact on a businesses’ bottom line, but these days it’s not so direct. ROI has many different dimensions and identifying what is most valuable for a potential sponsor is crucial. To do that, event owners need a modern, technology-driven content strategy.
Christopher Powell, chief marketing officer at Commvault, told IDG Communications that organizations – both hosting and sponsoring – can’t expect robust ROI from an event simply because they showed up.
“You need great content for your events,” Powell said. “Is it relevant for that audience? How are you going to engage them with compelling content?”
Sponsors want to spread brand awareness, but they also need to offer value to event attendees to kindle relationships. After all, attendees are consumers, so the event should mirror the buying process. Attendees go to events to talk, learn and network. The event owner’s responsibility, therefore, is to facilitate this conversation. And to do that, owners must integrate sponsors into the event’s content strategy.
What does that integration look like? In most instances, it’s a technology play, including:
Digital billboards/apps with content playlists
Digitally enhanced presentations and panels
Event specific apps
Networking receptions and one-to-one meetups
Specifically, an effective content strategy should leverage responsive technologies such as AI-augmented playlists showing attendee interests, live streaming and captive-audience marketing techniques. Each solution should seek to create opportunities to engage target personas on a personal level.
Part of the Conversation
Simply throwing money at tech isn’t going to guarantee ROI. Technology is just the vehicle for great content. It’s a sophisticated, smart content strategy that’ll position sponsors to fully leverage the power of an event – which in turn will help event owners attract and retain sponsors. The goal is to make the sponsor an integral part of the conversation. Opportunities to position the sponsor at an event beyond the lanyards and banners include:
Active sponsor participation with main stage content
Sponsor-owned fireside chats with exclusive seating
Playlists populated by sponsor generated/curated content
Branded charging or other resource stations
Exhibit floor opportunities
Event owners must do more than just put up a sponsor banner and hope attendees form positive associations. Giving sponsors a voice throughout programming by weaving them into the content being presented, puts the brand value of a sponsor – in the form of knowledge, authority or as a forum for relevant industry conversation – front and center while limiting the “hard sell.”
The effective employment of content strategy bolsters the bottom line of both sponsors and event hosts. That’s where the tech comes in handy: Technology quantifies opportunity. When event organizers can show robust ROI, they can charge sponsors a premium. Event owners should be able to show that their event represents a highly exclusive marketplace filled with desirable buyers. And nothing is more convincing than hard data. Utilizing data from RFID technology, beacons, event surveys, social media engagements and more demonstrates value in a clear, measurable way.
Selling Knowledge, Selling the Brand: The Times They Are a Changin’
B2B marketing has changed a lot in just the past five years. It’s no longer true that you perfect your product or service, hang out your shingle and wait for the market to find you. Today, sponsors need to sell valuable knowledge to develop credibility and brand loyalty, which will in turn drive sales of products and services.
Like technology, business models change quickly. Twenty years ago, a company could develop a strategy that would carry it well into the next decade. That just isn’t possible in today’s market. Look at Netflix, for instance: Less than a decade ago, Blockbuster was poised to dominate the direct-to-home video market, but a failure to adapt its business model made it all too easy for Netflix to gobble up Blockbuster’s market share. And Netflix didn’t stop there. It went from a content distribution platform to a business that spends upward of $8 billion a year on developing its own content.
Event owners need to think like Netflix if they want to aid sponsors in accomplishing their goals. Five years ago, a great sponsorship strategy consisted of banners, lanyards and booths – and not much else. That strategy doesn’t cut it anymore. Sponsors need to be integrated into the event’s content strategy so they can educate attendees and foster relationships.
“A couple of decades ago, we would take months to research and build a campaign and then put it in market, at an audience,” Charif said. “Now, what we’re doing is more agile development of our content. It’s not so much a campaign as it is content that is meaningful and useful. We develop it with a persona in mind.”
In other words, event owners and sponsors shouldn’t try to interact with attendees the same way they did five years ago. A content strategy that integrates sponsors in a meaningful way provides multiple opportunities for a deeper connection to attendees – fostering fruitful, long-lasting partnerships between event owners, sponsors and their mutual customers.
OVATION is an event production company that simplifies the increasingly complex event space for global brands.
From ‘wow-worthy’ event design and production to anywhere, any time, any device content design, development and distribution, we integrate your event content and strategy with your company’s overall strategic initiatives. Let us help you identify opportunities for strategically integrating sponsors into your next event. Contact us today.
We are awash in data – some of it crucial to operational success, some of it simply noise. Virtually every device we pick up and piece of software we use offers insight into our habits, our desires and our patterns. High-growth, cutting-edge companies have long ago learned to channel and leverage this data into actionable insight driving critical business and marketing decisions.
Even for companies well aware of the value of data, translating this insight to events and event strategy – in real-time, no less – is a leap. We possess the ability to collect and measure an amazing amount of attendee data with incredible levels of granularity – but is that enough? What are we really learning and what do we do with what we’ve learned?
Today’s competitive landscape requires innovative companies to not only learn lessons from past engagements, but also adapt in the moment. For B2B companies that host their own events, the challenge is twofold: Event hosts need reliable methods of data collection, and they need inventive ways to analyze and act upon that information in real time.
How Do You Gather Event Data in Real Time?
Collecting useful data from a throng of attendees is certainly a challenge, but emerging technologies are making it easier than ever to glean actionable insights from event crowds. The primary difficulty isn’t the actual capture of data, but determining which types of data are most relevant to your needs.
For instance, if you want to optimize pedestrian traffic between event halls, it probably won’t do you much good to collect heart-rate data from smart watches. Rather, you could create a heatmap of the convention floor using static floor sensors, wearables, or smart cameras. Another option might be to include an RFID tag on attendee badges or wristbands. The method with which you collect attendee data should be specific to your purpose. Then, you’ll need some way to analyze that data so you can make adjustments accordingly.
Likewise, event-specific apps can provide another way for attendees to submit data voluntarily through live polls, Q&A interactions or integration with social media apps. Indeed, social media itself can become a powerful channel through which to collect attendee feedback. Hashtags allow event producers to place their fingers on the pulse of the show, gaining valuable insights into what parts of the event are generating the most buzz.
New technologies such as facial recognition could make it even easier for event managers to get granular insights into how individual attendees interact with the show. For example, if attendees register with their Facebook accounts, a facial recognition algorithm could identify registered attendees and track their movements across the show floor, allowing for personalized interactions via the event app.
In addition to delayed forms of feedback such as surveys, comment cards and email follow-ups, real-time data gives event managers the ability to boost engagement and satisfaction rates. However, collecting this information isn’t enough. The data has to be actionable.
How Do You Make These Real-Time Insights Actionable?
Having data is great but getting the most out of face-to-face events requires more than just hoarding data. Having the ability to utilize that data in real time allows B2B companies to interact with attendees on a more personal level, creating a more involved, exciting experience.
Marketing guru Seth Godin explained to BizBash that unique connections are what make events special to attendees.
“If you want [the event] to feel special, then the more impromptu Q&A, live elements you can add to a speaking event, the more likely it is the audience will feel they are witnessing something special. All of those things introduce risk for you and all of those things are worth it, because that’s why the audience is there: to feel like they were touched by other people and by the speaker,” Godin said.
An example: Say analytics showed that a particular speaker’s talk was packed with attendees, and then those attendees went on social media to discuss what they heard. This might prompt the event managers to schedule an encore performance later in the day, so more attendees can experience it. The announcement could be delivered via the smartphone app, or by a live content distribution system such as Marquee.
Likewise, this access to real-time feedback can improve the value proposition for event sponsors. By being able to identify less-trafficked areas on the conference floor, and redirect attendees via content distribution systems and digital signage to these areas, host companies can improve experience for sponsors by driving traffic to their exhibitions. Approximately nine out 10 event professionals in the U.S. believe securing event sponsors will be a challenge this year, so improving the value proposition will be even more important. Showing ROI through real-time analytics may provide some peace of mind for event planners and sponsors alike.
Gathering and utilizing real-time data is soon to become a standard for B2B events. Be ahead of the curve by embracing the power of this moment. Reach out to find out how OVATION can help you harness data to shape your next event.
OVATION is an event production company that simplifies the increasingly complex event space for global brands.
From ‘wow-worthy’ event design and production to anywhere, any time, any device content design, development and distribution, we integrate your event content and strategy with your company’s overall strategic initiatives. Contact us to find out how OVATION can help you leverage data to improve your overall event experience for attendees.
Live events are exciting not because they are predictable, but rather because something big could happen at any moment. That’s why conferences are such a powerful tool for companies: There’s something to be said for making your way to a bustling convention center to be part of the action and see it all happen in real time. Whether it’s the announcement of a new product or an amazing innovation, the waiting crowd wants something to talk about.
That said, if we’ve learned anything from the seemingly endless stream of viral bloopers and mishaps, it’s that when you’re “live,” anything can happen. You can build out a contingency for every possible calamity under the sun, but ultimately, it’s not just how you expect the unexpected, it’s how you handle it. If a technical failure should happen, brands can either let the mistake become the story told the next day, or work with agility to control the narrative.
PTC AR Demo
Creative Contingencies, Memorable Moments
Sometimes, a smooth save is more impressive than flawless execution. This is because it plays with, and often subverts, expectation. People expect an event to go off without a hitch, so when something goes awry, it’s critical moment of shock that makes an impression.
To most businesses, this might sound unsettling, but think of it this way: When attendees are jarred out of complacency, opportunity to harness the moment and create something memorable abounds. A show that goes awry, and then is masterfully righted again – that is something worth talking about.
For example, at the 2018 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a power outage stole the show away from the event’s 4,000 exhibitors. Yet a few of those companies had the foresight and innovation to steal back more attention than they’d lost.
Car manufacturer Tesla leveraged the blackout with an ad-libed light show highlighting the vehicle’s lighting and audio technology. Elsewhere on the show floor, Energizer acted as if the blackout hadn’t happened, as its battery-powered booth continued to function flawlessly.
These examples show that contingency plans aren’t just methods of circumventing an incident, but rather solutions that can completely turn the situation on its head. Attendees walking the floor during the blackout were sure to note the novel ways these brands were making the most of the situation, building positive associations and creating viral, organic engagement.
Essentially, a brand is a set of expectations. We hold these expectations because they are promises that these companies have made good on again and again. To a crowd of spectators, it doesn’t matter if the plan is executed flawlessly or if it stumbles and finds balance again. If it is entertaining, informative and fun, it will be remembered and talked about.
A power outage at the 2018 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). This image courtesy of Dialsmith, Inc. – http://www.dialsmith.com/
Developing Effective Contingency Plans
It’s one thing to (literally) make plans to keep the lights on and make a good showing. But what about event content?
Delivering content at an event can be nerve wracking. After all, a failed microphone or a keynote presentation that has stalled out while loading can effectively silence your brand’s voice in a critical moment. However, strategic planning, technical audits and redundant backups can mitigate most content delivery issues before they get a chance to actually manifest.
Getting to 80 percent stability prior to an event is more or less the entry point: It’s a good place to start, but more can be done. Though no event will ever be 100 percent redundant, the remaining 19.99 percent can be the difference between success and costly failure.
Here are a few best practices to implement to avoid technical issues onsite:
Build a force field around your stage or booth: For flawless execution during keynotes or demos, be sure to install dedicated wireless access points and only allow selected devices to leverage that network. In addition, dedicate a wireless band specifically for those access points to further ensure stability and block out all of the other “noise” around you.
Minimize radio frequency and electromagnetic interference: When having multiple concurrent sessions with multiple mics operating within a contained space, we recommend bringing in a dedicated frequency technician to monitor and plan the wireless distribution of all wireless signals, including but not limited to: wireless communications, microphones and push2talk walkies. This will ensure signals are clean and no one “stepping” on each other.
Standard power need not apply: Ensure your production company is using power conditioners to maintain steady voltage as well as leveraging UPSs (uninterrupted power supplies) for its equipment – essentially battery backup in case you lose power. A proper power distribution plan built by seasoned professionals is critical.
Ultimately, it’s this critical combination of setting up the infrastructure to mitigate the potential for disruption, combined with the brand-focused approach to acting quickly in the event something does happen that will ensure that your next conference is truly unforgettable – regardless of if everything goes exactly as planned.
Live events are exciting not because they are predictable, but rather because something big could happen at any moment.
Almost 9 in 10 event professionals in the US and Canada believe it will be a challenge this year to secure sponsors for their events, according to a survey from Eventbrite. The results show that many challenges are heightened this year, though budget concerns appear to be dropping.
Indeed, more than 9 in 10 said that insufficient budgets were among their biggest challenges in 2017, making budgets their largest difficulty overall. Yet this year fewer event professionals expect budgets to be a problem (73% vs. 91% in 2017), putting budgets near the bottom of the list of concerns.
Instead, more respondents see issues ahead in securing sponsors (89%, up from 83% in 2017) and securing talent and speakers (89%, up from 75%). Marketing and promotion challenges abound, as many also believe it will be challenging this year to reach new (89%) and past (87%) attendees as well as engage in successful branding (80%). Event professionals will be dedicating a large share of their budgets to marketing and promotions in an effort to confront those challenges.
For companies recently having raised a significant C or D round of funding, every move they make must be carefully calibrated to help them ascend, fully leverage the resources at their disposal and grow their brand footprint – all while remaining at the peak of their field.
So the question is: How do they take their current budget and spend it smart, while still hosting a corporate event that will act as that critical nudge to get to the next level?
To accomplish this, the “unicorn” companies need to communicate to their customers that they’re an industry leader, using their resources to host bleeding-edge, engaging events that are more than just a lackluster product demo or keynote. They need a sophisticated event partner with an eye for innovation and imagination, yet one adept at also keeping budgets in check.
To truly create a next-level event, consider the following ways to project commercial power and influence:
Scale up Your Venue
Part of embracing and fostering growth is being able to showcase growth. One of the most immediate and indisputable ways to convey a company is on the rise is to scale up the physical venue for your event.
This, for most high-growth companies, involves making the move from a hotel to a convention center for your next conference. This transition is a classic and bold signal that a company has “arrived,” and should not go unremarked upon: Okta Chief Marketing Officer Ryan Carlson made note of how “this room is twice the size of any in the past” when he introduced the 2017 Oktane conference keynote in Las Vegas.
The optics of this jump from smaller rooms to the big stage has a distinct “wow” factor for attendees, giving exponential growth a tangible dimension. For Okta, this translated to attendees marveling at the way the company had transformed itself.
“It’s just really energetic and really fascinating to see in just over 4 years how Okta has grown from where it was to where it is now,” said Neeraj Malhotra, IT manager at Broadcom Limited. “I’m going to come back to Oktane, this is my second year and definitely would like to be here next year.”
Similarly, hosting multiple conventions in different locations can leverage growth as well: Marketing platform provider Drift recently expanded its successful Hypergrowth conference, adding a West Coast version of the conference in addition to the traditional Boston event.
However, this jump in venue size isn’t without its challenges: A larger space requires more robust infrastructure, including production elements, physical layout, attendees check-in and security. Furthermore, moving from a hotel to a convention center can create logistical problems related to transportation and accommodations – after all, even if you’ve left the hotel behind, your guests need somewhere to stay while attending the conference. The key is to first determine the why of needing a bigger event, then enlist an agency who can accommodate the challenges and opportunities of scaling up.
Making the jump from a hotel to a convention center has it’s challenges as well as opportunities.
Consider Design and Culture in Events
Scaling up events isn’t just about bolstering the bottom-line: The broader goal is brand awareness awareness and ubiquity. This means looking beyond just what new products or innovations you showcase, and considering how you use event design to engage with users on a cultural level.
Many companies have already begun to embrace the use of high-tech art and cultural installations at their branded events. The key is to align these cultural features with your brand:
“As a digital brand, we were thinking about how to take a lot of the different topics that we cover, as well as the creative voices we elevate on our platform, in a physical space,” Refinery 29’s co-founder Piera Gelardi told CNN. “We like to have a portion of it feel really playful, because we think that opens people up, and it’s joyful.”
These kinds of cultural and creative activities have a vital secondary function: They create highly shareable content for the brand, partners, press, and the general public to post online which amplifies the digital footprint of the event and builds brand awareness well beyond the attendees of the event.
Even without the enormous infrastructure of a corporate giant, businesses on the ascent can selectively employ these kinds of interactive combinations of technology and design at conferences, effectively creating a dynamic, culturally-relevant event that has the ability to go viral.
Emphasize a Cause
Sustainability and global citizenship efforts have become a nearly universal driver of engagement and brand goodwill. Consumers, particularly younger ones, are attuned to corporate marketing efforts that are built on sustainability and giving back: According to Horizon Media’s 2017 Finger on the Pulse study, 81 percent of millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to be “good corporate citizens.”
“Now brands are taking these do-good values and baking it into their corporate identities,” Horizon Media’s Kirk Olson, VP of Trend Sights, told Forbes. “It’s important [for companies] to find the connection organically.”
When planning a major conference, take into account the kind of “giving back” programs that organically tie into your mission statement while making the world a better place. This can include:
Combining your corporate event with a charity fundraiser for a local cause.
“Going green” at a conference with sustainable, reusable products, such as by replacing disposable lanyards with digital beacon wristbands.
The goal is to show users that your events are more meaningful than just another product demo or industry showcase, offering a greater perspective and making the world better. This was something that David Cancel, CEO of Drift, spoke about in a recent interview about Hypergrowth 2018. Cancel framed it as a gathering of not just influencers, but people who act as a positive example for the entire industry.
“We’re not doing what everyone else does, which is to have the same group of speakers out there that you hear every single conference,” Cancel said. “Our bar for people who come on this show, as well as people who come and speak to you in person at Hypergrowth, is that those are people that we consider personal role models and/or mentors that we look towards, who are helping us grow either virtually or in-person, and share those mentors with the community.”
Think Global Via Live Streaming
As you escalate the scale and scope of corporate events, consider the virtual footprint as well as the physical one. While the jump from a hotel to a convention center can expand your guest list by thousands – bringing with it its own challenges – live streaming has the potential to deliver your content and ideas to a global audience.
With Go-Globe reporting that conferences and speakers make up 43 percent of most-watched live content, tied with concerts and festivals, you’d be hard-pressed to find a major company that doesn’t currently utilize live streaming in one form or another. Given the ubiquity of the live streaming platforms, it’s a relatively low-cost way to boost the profile of an event. Yet behind the scenes, there are critical considerations that go into organizing a conference that fully leverages the capabilities of live stream technology:
Are your keynotes, speakers and demos dynamic in a way that will come across via streaming video?
Are the audio-visual elements of your event – including lights, music, presentation screens and so on – optimized for the streaming audience?
Do you have multiple cameras positioned throughout the event to offer alternative perspectives?
Who will be in charge of what the live-streaming audience sees and doesn’t see?
In this regard, putting together a content strategy that builds off the concept of bringing a local event to a global audience is key to making sure that live streaming isn’t simply an afterthought.
Whether it’s a sustainability initiative, an interactive art installation or live streaming, high-growth companies must scale up events in ways that are more than just big and loud. The goal is to create a truly can’t-miss event that utilizes smart spending and bolsters your valuation, complete with innovative content, design and the widest possible reach – all of which requires an airtight event content strategy and an experienced planning partner that knows how to take things to the next level.
OVATION is an event production company that simplifies the increasingly complex event space for global brands.
From ‘wow-worthy’ event design and production to anywhere, any time, any device content design, development and distribution, we integrate your event content and strategy with your company’s overall strategic initiatives. Contact us if you’re interested in getting more out of your event investment and adding value to your brand.