A lot of conferences end up being a vendor-fest, with what seems like endless pitches to buy a product or service. And we get why. There are costs to cover, and sponsors are sometimes the only way to cover those costs. The problem is, said sponsors often want their 15 minutes of fame on the stage.
But is that the only way?
Of course, the easiest way to solve the problem is to find another way to fund your conference without being forced to fill your programme with speakers that might not add value. Charging participants to join, for example.
But if sponsors are the only (or most efficient) way to bring your conference to life, in our experience, what sponsors really want is not necessarily stage-time.
Firstly though, it should be said not all vendors are "evil". In a lot of industries they are at the cutting edge of important solutions that help propel their market forward. However, most of the time, the big budgets come from established players who are just looking for brand awareness and association.
And it's here that the solution lies.
Schedule a heart-to-heart with your sponsors to understand what their real objectives are. Does a speaking slot really deliver it? What other ways might the sponsor be able to achieve or even exceed their objectives?
What they often seek is referred to as “thought leadership” – and this can be achieved in many ways, that doesn’t necessarily involve presenting on stage or spruiking their wares.
In the event a sponsor is on that stage, at the very least make sure they are instructed on how to deliver something that adds value, and positions them in the right way. At the end of the day, delivering a sales pitch achieves the exact opposite of what most sponsors are looking for. So instead of being seen for their thought leadership, they end up as being perceived as ignorant.
It’s a tough issue, and one that will invariably lead to some hand-wringing. But tackled carefully you can still achieve your financial goals and deliver an amazing outcome for your participants, with vendors carefully woven into the event in ways that adds to, rather than detracts from the experience.
Let's inspire your community - Team UC