Are sponsorship-only speaking opportunities limiting your ability to attract and engage the best possible audience to your events? While economics can dictate a sponsor’s level of exposure, this might not be in the best interest of your attendees – sponsors included – or your organization.
Sponsorship-only speakers can limit your audience’s exposure to innovative speakers from organizations of all sizes and reflect poorly on you. If your events are perceived as too insular, registrations will wane.
Conferences are meant to engage, educate and foster meaningful networking among attendees, so you should strike a balance between choosing speakers from sponsors and non-sponsors alike. Here’s how to do it without compromising any relationships.
First, engage your target audience throughout the speaker-selection process. Reach out to them through email and social media, encouraging them to suggest topics and nominate speakers that are not from their organizations.
Once you have a healthy list of potential speakers, narrow the selection process through a survey. Again, make sure that survey participants don’t vote on speakers from their own organizations.
To make sure the survey yields both qualitative and quantitative results, here are five recommendations to consider as you create it:
- Write questions that are simple and to the point. Make them short, use everyday language and avoid acronyms.
- Limit the number of ranking options to fewer than seven. Five is ideal.
- If you include multiple-choice questions, cover all options without overlapping. For example, if you ask respondents to tell you how many sessions they typically attend at each conference, your three choices should not be 1-3, 3-5 or 5-7, as this will skew the results.
- Avoid asking two questions in one, such as, “Would you attend a keynote and a session on the topic of …” Instead, break them into separate questions.
- Ask no more than seven questions.
Be transparent throughout this process. Let attendees know the criteria goes beyond the survey results and includes the originality of the topic, speaking experience and the speaker’s ability to engage followers on social media. Remember, the more that attendees feel part of the process, the more engaged they’ll be leading to and throughout your event.
When it comes to promoting event sponsors, you can increase their exposure in several ways.
Feature sponsors in your event update emails by:
- Inserting their logo at the top or sidebar of the newsletter.
- Interviewing executives from their organization as part of a Q&A or speaker profile.
- Offering them an opportunity to contribute a byline.
- Highlighting their presence at the event including their speaker sessions.
Additionally, you can:
- Publicly thank them in keynotes.
- Increase the amount of signage featuring their brand.
- Introduce them to high-level industry influencers or other relevant connections you’ve made through your experiences as a conference organizer.
- Amplify your email content through social media and include the sponsor’s hashtag along with your event hashtag.
As you know, the most effective way to engage your audience, boost registration and inspire attendees to share your content is by providing information that is fresh and insightful. Therefore, every email and social media post should feature helpful and relevant content as opposed to purely overt promotions.
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