Sponsorships are critical to the success of association events, especially within healthcare. But according to The State of Event Sponsorship in 2018, a majority of event planners are struggling to secure sponsors.
And unfortunately, for a small group, retention rate is decreasing.
But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom when it comes to new ideas for unlocking event revenue. If anything, these findings point to tons of opportunities for savvy organizers.
In our recent webinar, Dahlia El Gazzar, Tech Evangelist + Idea Igniteur, DAHLIA+ Agency, chatted with Penelope Freire, Meetings and Exhibits Manager, American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics; Steve Smyth, Vice President of Mobile Solutions, TriStar Publishing; Keith Johnston, Managing Partner, i3 Events; and Wayne Crawford, VP Sales, Core-apps on their thoughts about maximizing these opportunities.
Read the webinar recap below for 10 ideas to unlock sponsorship revenue through event technology.
1) Create Sponsored “Must-Visit” Areas
To say getting healthcare attendees on the show floor is a challenge is an understatement. “This is the perhaps the biggest challenge facing healthcare event organizers,” said Smyth.
Creating sponsored “must-visit” areas is one way to increase show floor traffic. Freire shared her experience using advocacy pavilions at the ACMG Annual Clinical Genetics Meeting to drive traffic to the show floor. “We approach exhibitors to underwrite the pavilions so patients and advocacy groups can attend. They really value interactions with patients.”
Freire added that sponsored Product Showcases and hands-on demo stations are also other strategies increasing show floor traffic. For example, one way is to create a special area on the show floor, with exhibitors paying an extra fee to showcase what’s new. Or in the case of conferences that are device-heavy, host a hands-on demo area where sponsors pay for the opportunity for attendees to try out the featured new equipment.
2) Create an Attract with Technology
Johnston shared another way to open up additional sponsors: add a sponsored tech help desk on the show floor. “A lot of people have questions or problems with technology in general, not just your event app. Designating an area where they can get help has been an extremely successful strategy for driving traffic to the show floor,” said Johnston.
Johnston points out this kind of attract doesn’t need to be limited to just technology. “Create a theater with presentations on healthy living or yoga sessions.” And with these broad topics, sponsorship isn’t just limited to technology companies. “It really can be any kind of company, which gives you more sponsorship potential,” said Johnston.
3) Create FOMO
FOMO, the fear of missing out, can become a prime sponsorship opportunity too. Smyth explained that event organizers spend a significant amount of time building the robust content-driven program, with the goal of making their conference a “must-attend.”
So why not apply the fear of missing out concept to the exhibit floor? For example, one idea is to create an exclusive area for show floor content, like a pop-up event or hosted meet-up that attendees can’t get anywhere else.
4) Enhance Attendees’ Experience in Sessions
Freire gave a peek inside her team’s latest addition to their annual meeting: using second screen technology during educational sessions, which allowed attendees to interact by sending in questions or comments. “Our attendees were very excited about this new capability. We had people tweeting about the fact that being shy was no longer a barrier to participation.”
But she warned healthcare associations need to be cautious about monetizing areas like this because of ACCME.
As a workaround, Smyth shared that he’s seen healthcare associations successfully use and monetize second screen or polling technology when they move it out of the session room and into a product theater environment. “It’s an opportunity to enhance what a sponsor is already paying for, or add it on as an opportunity to pay for a better attendee experience.”
5) Offer Targeted Audience Segmentation
Smyth explained that when it comes to selling support advertising like ads in the dailies, door drops, or an ad in the event app, most money is spent on attracting the audience at large. “But in reality, many sponsors are interested in reaching a specific audience subset. It’s a prime opportunity for healthcare associations to create new revenue streams by offering exclusive, targeted audience segmentation,” said Smyth.
One suggestion to increase revenue is by offering a sponsored event app alert/notification package that is designed to reach the larger audience, as well as a narrowly targeted segment. “We’ve found many sponsors are still interested in the broad reach opportunities, but value the ability to reach a focused group too.”
6) Monetize Alerts and Notifications
“Most healthcare associations are doing a good job monetizing their mobile app through obvious sponsorships like splash screens and banner ads,” said Crawford. But there are additional opportunities to monetize through sponsored alerts and notifications.
But in expanding the ways to monetize your event app, it’s critical to remain vigilant about not overselling alert or notification sponsorships within the app. Smyth says, “By restricting the number of sponsorships available, you’ll sell fewer, but they’ll command a higher price because there’s more value.”
7) Offer Digital Retargeting
Freire shared they’ve started doing digital retargeting as a way to drive attendance too. “We’ve leveraged the fact that we’ve built up a strong audience who has demonstrated interest in certain areas. And we’re able to sell sponsorships to offer access to that audience.”
It’s important to note Freire isn’t selling data to exhibitors or sponsors. “We’re simply showing retargeting ads to a qualified audience. And we can show our sponsors how many people are interested through all of the analytics, which makes the sponsorship even more valuable.”
8) Suggest High-Value Packages
“Back in the day, we would sell a single supporter for the app,” said Smyth. Now, we recommend migrating event app sponsorship from a single sponsor to a shared sponsor.
The way to do that is by creating a high-value package across multiple platforms, like adding event tech sponsorship to traditional custom videos or door drop opportunities. “This simple shift can generate significantly more revenue returns to the organizer,” said Smyth.
9) Promote Sponsorships Early
Smyth also said if you want to sell a lot more sponsorship opportunities, like upgraded exhibitor listings, promote them at the same time when exhibitors buy the booth. “They’ll never go back to the exhibitor listing. Give them a checklist of available sponsorships for immediate monetization.”
And don’t forget to help potential sponsors understand what these sponsorships mean. Smyth said, “The key way to help a sponsor understand what these opportunities represent is a demo. Walk them through the attendee experience and you’ll have greater success in unlocking additional revenue streams.”
10) Don’t Be Afraid to Try and Get Creative
While there are many ways to unlock new revenue, the panel cautioned about going from zero to 120 mph in no time flat. “Going overboard on event tech can be very expensive – and at the same time, lead to a bad user experience,” said Smyth.
However, it’s a balancing act. Johnston explained organizers can’t be afraid to try, otherwise, new revenue streams won’t open up. “Fear of failure is a big reason many associations don’t take advantage of monetization of event tech. It’s OK if you try something new and it fails. Just keep working on and building upon those technologies that are successful.”
No matter what new revenue streams are pursued, the panel agreed the greatest chance for success happens when associations and event technology providers align on goals and work together. “Get to know your exhibitors and focus on what they really want. Then design a package that really works for them,” said Freire.
Listen to the full webinar recording for more of the panel’s insights on working with event technology suppliers and other takeaways for unlocking sponsorship revenue.