The typical answer is … maybe. But the good news is that changing that answer to a strong yes is a move that’s in your own hands.
The benefits of conference sponsorship are obvious, including that it can elevate your organization’s profile, share knowledge about what you offer, and create networking and lead-generation opportunities. The drawbacks are largely a failure of these expected benefits to materialize. To ensure that they do, upfront homework is essential. Based on that work, you can create grounded strategies to help ensure that you meet your goals during the conference and execute a solid follow-up effort once it’s over.
Here, we offer a few simple steps to help maximize the odds that your 2024 conference sponsorship results will exceed your expectations.
Step 1: Define Your Goals and Targets
Every aspect of conference sponsorship should be carefully considered in advance. An essential first step is to create a solid, creative plan that includes clearly defining four things: your goals for conference sponsorship, the audience you’re targeting, what you offer that audience, and your desired outcomes.
Whether your sponsorship goal is to showcase your innovations, increase your media exposure, connect with stakeholders, or a combination of these or other opportunities, defining this goal will help you decide everything from the size of the events you investigate to the presentation opportunities you pursue.
Next, clearly and specifically define your target audience. If your goal is to connect with agile software developers, you’ll be looking at vastly different conferences than if your audience is people who design custom integrated circuits for cryptocurrency mining.
With your audience defined, you can assess various conferences that serve it, focusing on the opportunities they offer that align with your defined goals. If your primary interest is media exposure, for example, a large conference is obviously a better fit than a smaller one, but smaller ones have many other benefits, including better visibility and better opportunities for emerging organizations with targeted networking goals.
Once you have a short list of conferences, examine the theme and focus for this year’s event. Next, study the agendas and proceedings from previous years, along with key sponsors and exhibitors, to get a sense of the conference’s history, audience, and reach. If your competitors are there, it’s a good sign that your audience will be there as well. It’s also important to read coverage of previous years and study reviews from past sponsors and attendees; this takes time but is crucial to helping you decide whether—and at what level—a conference’s sponsorship options can help you deliver on your goals.
Step 2: Ensure a Powerful Presence
Creating your presence begins long before the conference opens. Having defined your goals, it’s now time to distill your message and present it in a clear, compelling way to ensure that it stands out in the sea of messaging typical of many conferences.
Your message should include what your product or service offers that similar ones don’t. It is important to be specific in this regard. With technical audiences, a catchy slogan might draw people in, but compelling stats and technical details will pique and sustain their interest.
Once you’ve defined a clear message for the event, decide how best to clearly word it and to embed it in your presentations, your booth design, the swag you offer, and in how you train your team.
The internet is packed with information on how to deliver an effective presentation, but it typically boils down to a few key points. You’ve already clearly defined your goal, researched your audience and their interests, and distilled your specific message. Now the key is to merge all this into an engaging and informative presentation.
Whether your presenter is on a panel or giving a keynote, orienting what they say in a way that speaks directly to your audience’s motivation for attending the conference will help ensure that your message is received. Visual aids such as video or PowerPoint help to keep audiences engaged, but be sure your presenter checks out the technology and the room before hand if possible to help ward off unexpected challenges.
Also, remember that your presenter is the most important visual in the mix. Make sure they’ve practiced their presentation repeatedly and are prepared for how to handle it if the tech goes array. If they’re comfortable with it, opening the floor for audience questions can add a level of dynamism as well as surface information you might not get in other ways.
The exhibit hall is your other big opportunity to convey your message and connect with attendees. Your booth need not include a ball pit or a coffee bar—though if you can afford the latter, it’s almost guaranteed to create a line. One thing that is essential to ensure is that your booth includes clear graphics and, ideally, backlighting to make them stand out.
Having an interactive component or two can also attract visitors. These components work best when they’re related to your product or service and delivered in an interesting way, such as investing in an entertaining video about your offerings and why they matter. Booth location is also key, so make sure to reserve a spot on a high-traffic path. You can also raise your visibility with a larger booth, but even a standard booth’s visibility can be enhanced when you build upward with visual displays or banners.
The best booth swag has two qualities: immediate impact and long-term usability. If you can combine both, you’ve hit the sweet spot, and your offering is likely to work for you far beyond the conference itself. Whether it’s a novel item or something more predictable, quality is key. In the predictable category, a decent coffee mug with an attractive design or a clever saying can take up residence in an attendee’s company kitchen and serve as an ongoing ad for your product or services for years to come. Likewise, a sturdy tote bag made of quality cotton or burlap can serve attendees over the long haul. In the more-novel item category, striped socks in your organization’s colors are fast becoming a conference favorite, as are stick-on webcam covers.
Whether it’s an old standby (hello, water bottle) or rarer treasures (see: tiny Swiss army knives) the key to swag longevity is quality and design. A cool company logo with a funny or wise quote from an industry legend will have a far longer life than a cheap pen with your URL, so get creative and invest in something with staying power.
Finally, ensure that the people running your booth are literate and trained both in human interaction and the deeper details of your organization’s technologies or services and the value they bring to the world.
Exhibit floors are often literally crammed with booths. Having a dynamic crew that believes in what you offer and is motivated to talk about it and to connect with other people can be crucial to capitalizing on the all-important networking and lead-creation opportunities that conferences offer.
Step 3: Execute a Strong Follow-Up
Before the event, you should have a follow-up plan in place to capitalize on the connections your sponsorship made possible. This could be as simple as an email thanking people for stopping by the booth, or one that includes a thank you and a copy of/link to your conference presentation. Save the asks and the sales for later. The immediate follow up should focus on sustaining the good impression your team made based on all that pre-conference research.
A Place to Start Your Search
Each year, the IEEE Computer Society hosts numerous conferences with top-tier speakers, engaged audiences, and stellar sponsorship opportunities. The conferences range from smaller, specialized meetings to international events that draw people from across the globe who are eager to learn and connect.
All of the following include sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities: