With the easing of lockdown restrictions and reopening of borders worldwide, hybrid events are expected to return in a big way. In fact, a new research study revealed 58 per cent of organizers are running hybrid events in 2021, and another 17 per cent have already committed to do so in 2022.
That same study showed organizers are feeling confident about the return of in-person events, with 71 per cent saying their attendees expressed readiness in meeting face-to-face this year.
This is not only good news but it makes for a more interesting value proposition for event planners and potential sponsors, too.
But how do you sell hybrid events to sponsors?
To help demonstrate the value of hybrid events, here are four things every event planner should bear in mind.
Shout about New Opportunities
You could easily argue a sponsor will inherently understand that the benefits of a combination event outweigh those of an in-person or virtual-only event. Hybrid events allow sponsors to increase their reach — they can physically connect with in-person delegates as well as virtual attendees they can’t see. What’s more, many hybrid events attract more virtual than in-person attendees simply because people have far more choice today when it comes to how to attend events than they did pre-COVID. Then there’s the huge reach that webcasting provides, making it easier to attract more virtual attendees from across the globe.
Hybrid events also provide greater lead generation opportunities for these important stakeholders. While the physical on-site booth caters to in-person attendees on the trade show floor, a virtual booth can help engage a wider range of buyers. Sponsors could involve their international sales teams and make the virtual experience more personal by, for example, engaging virtual attendees in their language of choice.
However, as many sponsors are new to hybrid events, they are unfamiliar with their many advantages and true potential. Because of this, it is an event planner’s job to ensure sponsors know and don’t forget that the virtual audience is significant and including these people makes good business sense.
Customize your Offer
It is up to the event planner to determine sponsorship options. Many like sponsorship packages as they are relatively easy for event planners to sell. The hard work is usually creating the different packages. Once put together, the sponsor will decide which level of package suits them best. Regardless of the names of the packages (for example, platinum, gold, silver and bronze), they tend to promote the sponsor in accordance with monies spent.
For hybrid events, sponsors need more than packages. They need options. And this is the crucial difference.
In order to effectively offer more options, it’s best to understand what the sponsor is aiming to take away from the event. What would be a good outcome for them? And what are they prepared to spend money on?
With a hybrid event, there are many ways to provide sponsors with effective promotional opportunities. For example, a sponsor may prefer a small in-person exhibition stand over a big one and would like to host a virtual breakout session. It would be impossible to package every possible option that may be of interest to sponsors. Instead, customize your offer with options to gain more sponsor business.
And don’t forget that to maximize the time and energy put into sponsorship sales, you want to seek a relationship that goes beyond the event. The best way to achieve this is through active listening.
Know your Decision Makers
Hybrid events unlock opportunities but they also open up questions. The savvy event professional will need answers to satisfy their potential sponsors.
A sponsor understands they will cross paths with decision makers or influencers if they have a presence at an in-person event. With a hybrid event, which combines in-person and virtual components and attendees, it is no longer obvious where these same groups may most likely be found.
Let’s take the example of a medical conference that has 70 in-person delegates and more than 300 virtual attendees. In this scenario, it would be difficult for a sponsor to decide where to put their promotional activities. This is where you come in. As the event planner, you know your attendees better than anyone, including the key people or groups and whether they are likely to attend in-person or virtually. This information is of huge value to a sponsor and will help them make informed decisions about where and how to direct their spend.
Provide Detail on the Data
Organizations today are certainly looking more closely at the benefits of hybrid event sponsorship. This is set to grow as buyers more clearly understand the strong return on investment or ROI from these events. The data you collect, curate and distribute to them will help them along.
Be clear about the data you will present that relates to in-person delegates and virtual attendees and how. While the hybrid event is ‘the event,’ there will be differences in the data you source. For example, a question on learning outcomes from speakers is common to both sets of attendees; however, a question about the venue will only be applicable to the in-person delegates.
It’s not only the questions that you need to consider but also the different technology required to gather the data. Depending on the event platform used, you may not be able to provide sponsors with certain information. For this reason, it’s important to be clear on what will be given and in what format before any sponsor agreements are signed.
It is Holistic ROI that Matters
The most significant item a sponsor will want to know is the ROI of the hybrid event. While it may be easier to collect data on what virtual attendees did during the event, it is crucial not to omit in-person data. Both are needed for an overall assessment. This information can be provided shortly after the event; however, it’s advisable to review it again in a few months’ time and update your sponsors.
Because on-demand content that is captured at the event and provided afterwards can easily be forgotten. People will binge-watch on-demand content just like they will television shows, and they’ll do it at a time that suits them, which is often long after the hybrid event has ended.
Ian Webb is head of business development at Eventsforce. The company’s customizable web-based software provides a complete end-to-end management solution for virtual, hybrid and in-person events, from event planning, marketing and registration to on-site check-in, virtual content delivery, mobile apps, abstracts and awards management, reporting and data management.