2020 will be the year known for bringing about digital disruption to the world. This disruption could be viewed as something the events industry needed, although not wanted, and virtual events has raised additional challenges for sponsorship and exhibition success.
eTechSuite conducted a survey in June 2020 among prospective and existing sponsors and exhibitors that identified 80% were concerned about the limited opportunities to network and engage with delegates in the virtual event space with 78% indicating their main objective was to strengthen relationships with existing and prospective clients.
Recent global research from INCON highlights that 70% of attendees miss spontaneous chats, 68% miss the personal encounters at live events and 66% miss the opportunity to hold a product in real life (MCI Deutschland GmbH and insidery GmbH, June 2020).
Organisations sponsor and exhibit at events to create brand awareness, connect with existing customers and generate leads and connections. The challenge for event organisers is to provide opportunities to achieve these objectives in an online environment.
Let us embrace the fact that virtual and or digital technology for events is here to stay and that this is a good thing.
1. The one-size fits all approach is no longer the norm, so being flexible and working together is key. We must create opportunities that maximise delegate reach and engagement e.g. include ongoing sponsorship access to the attendee list on the virtual events platform. This is supported by 85% of survey responses which identified that ‘access to the delegate list’ is the most appealing inclusion in a sponsorship package. Other engagement opportunities include development of gamification and leader boards, networking lounges with matchmaking, interactive group discussions and incorporating social activities into the virtual program.
2. Select the right virtual platform for your event with consideration of all key stakeholders and their objectives. Consider platforms for engagement and interaction, instant chat functionality, ability for spontaneous video calls, video inclusions, variety of virtual branding opportunities and real time data reporting so sponsors and exhibitors see who has clicked on their booth.
3. Consider financial model changes for sponsorship and virtual exhibitions. Survey results indicated that 56% of sponsorship and exhibition budgets at events has been impacted by COVID-19 with 46% of these noting major reductions. However, some industry sectors have increased marketing budgets to align with technological advancements and connectivity.
4. Match the right sponsor with the right opportunity. This will require “above and beyond” magic. Sponsors and organisers will need to work closely together to create a memorable experience for attendees. Whilst a traditional coffee cart sponsorship may no longer be an option, a home delivered ‘Barista Coffee’ is innovative and personal and will provide a lasting impression of the sponsor.
As an industry, we are still adjusting to the new normal for events. It is exciting to be part of the transformation of the events industry and explore how technology and digital disruption are opening doors to a variety of opportunities for sponsorship and exhibitions. The way things are done may have changed, however the objectives for sponsors and exhibitors remain the same – engagement! Engagement is possible virtually with the right management, strategic approach and partnerships.