T1 Consulting was asked to speak at the first-ever The EVENT. The conference was a collaboration between the Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa chapters of Meeting Planners International who had the lofty goal of elevating the meeting planning industry.
As speakers, we were excited. Every time we heard about The EVENT from the planning team it sounded like a conference that was right up our alley. Immersive experiences were designed to drive engagement – and as speakers we were challenged to do the same.
Our session was full of event planners, marketers, sponsorship managers and brands. Elisa Beselt, Director of Consulting, and I created a ‘choose your own adventure’ workshop and we let the room decide which topics we would cover in our session, which was all about finding solutions to sponsorship pitfalls and leveraging sponsorship to make the most out of an event.
We were able to pull custom data from the audience by asking them to contribute to the Canadian Sponsorship Landscape Study. I could write another blog entirely about the great conversations we had as part of our workshop.
But, when I think back on the experience, I can remember myself saying repeatedly – “Let’s use this conference as an example…”. Without a doubt, sponsorship at The EVENT was done very well.
The following are just three of the sponsorship lessons clearly on display throughout The EVENT.
1. Know what makes you different.
Sponsors are constantly bombarded with requests. When you’re asking for sponsorship, you aren’t only competing with the other events and initiatives in your industry, but also with everyone across industries looking for their piece of the pie. Standing out from the crowd is a critical part of securing sponsorship funding – and doing so in a way that illustrates that what makes you different and also helps you accomplish your sponsor’s objective is a bit of an art.
It was clear from the moment we started talking to the EVENT organizers that they knew what made them different. From the preparatory information we got about executing our session, to the custom nature of the schedule, this conference knew its audience. Each piece of the conference was intentionally driving home the fact that MPI serves the meeting planner industry, and that this event targeted the decision makers of conferences and events across the three major markets.
While suppliers, brands, venues, and tourism destinations were a critical part of the conference and a big part of the audience, the value proposition for those secondary target attendees was business to business time with people who plan events.
Seeing it in action: 1:1 Initiative
The 1:1 initiative was a sponsored hosted buyer session at the conference to ensure that meeting planners didn’t have any barriers to participation – including registration fees. Sponsors could pay for a planner’s registration fee as part of the 1:1 Initiative for their chance to attend an exclusive social with all of the planners who attended for free. I spoke to many planners at the event who praised the initiative, mentioning that it helped them sell their participation to their superiors, and was a critical piece of their involvement. Suppliers and tourism bodies who wanted to drive business were given a unique engagement opportunity with key decision makers. Clearly 1:1 was win-win.
It's our FAV day of the Week – 1:1 WED! Please clap for our latest INITIATIVE 1:1 winners, @LolaGerl @RTACaileigh @Ottawasherri & Jessica Poon who have their registration covered for @theEVENT pic.twitter.com/hpFbqrzpHW
— theEVENT (@theEVENTmpi) February 21, 2018
2. Let the sponsors tell their story.
Often, properties expect sponsors to buy into the story that they want to tell with their event. While sponsors often partner with events they believe in and with properties they align with, they also want to be sure that their brand is represented in a way that they know best. Giving your sponsor the ability to be creative and authentic in their activations makes your event more valuable.
At The EVENT, tourism destinations and suppliers were looking to showcase how they can support events and why events should host in their communities.
Seeing it in action:
The EVENT delivered sponsor stories in a way that gave the sponsors freedom of expression, without hampering the cohesive nature of the conference. The plenary rooms, the workshop rooms, and one-on-one meeting spaces were all customizable, sponsored spaces that let the sponsor tell their own story.
Banff & Lake Louise Tourism and FMAV Canada partnered on one of the more creative plenary rooms I’ve ever seen at a conference. Immediately when you walked into the room (through the pine trees on either side of the door) you felt like you were in the mountains. The AV was awe-inspiring. FMAV was able to effectively illustrate just what they can do as an event partner and, incredibly, Banff & Lake Louise Tourism was able to capture the power and majestic nature of the Rockies. This was an exceptionally executed activation by both sponsors. Since words can’t do it justice, check out these pictures.
Words can't describe it and pictures don't do it justice. The transformation of our Newbridge ballroom is absolutely incredible! Kudos to @theEVENTmpi and @FMAVCanada! #theEVENTmpi #Ottawa pic.twitter.com/E83NesiZQ2
— Brookstreet Hotel (@BrookstreetOtt) April 13, 2018
The other workshop rooms were just as unique.
— Brookstreet Hotel (@BrookstreetOtt) April 13, 2018
We were honoured to be in the Hotels Red Deer room where their subtle hockey theme included interactive games for prizes, air hockey, candy and touches of orange décor. While not as exaggerated as some of the other activations, there was something special about the story that Hotels Red Deer told. For example, they very intentionally selected mixed-use furniture and staging made a very interesting space. Through their activation the sponsor illustrated, to a room full of event planners, that they were listening. Mixed-function spaces like the one in Hotels Red Deer’s room is a very trendy aspect of meeting planning and one that sparked the attention of a number of conference decision-makers who joined us in our sessions. The sponsor told a story about how they work with planners in a very authentic way and appealed to planners who want a tourism organization to be innovative and understanding when they are helping the planner bring their conference to their city.
Across all of the rooms, all of the sponsors told their story in their own unique way – all with very different objectives.
3. Use your sponsors to add value.
Sponsorship doesn’t only add cash value. Full stop.
I say this more than I say almost anything else when I’m working with properties as a Consultant on revenue generation. Brands have the ability to add value to events in a way that offsets costs, adds something unique to the event, or attracts attendees. Whether it’s allowing a sponsor to add an element to the schedule which they pay for (as long as it adds value to your event experience), or using their marketing team (and budget) to help advertise your events – sponsors are not money trees.
Seeing it in action:
The EVENT was very creative with their programming. There were ongoing workshops, workouts, snacks, and one-on-one spaces for business to business meetings, all of which offered attendees a plethora of options and paths to take throughout the day.
Calgary Tourism hosted a create-your-own floral centerpiece workshop. These sessions were hot commodities in a room full of event planners who love centerpieces and love to reduce budget costs by making things themselves. The flower workshops were value-add experiences for the attendees and allowed the sponsor to spend time interacting directly with their audience.
— Laurence Lavallee (@laurencelava) April 13, 2018
If you’re interested in having T1 Consulting send sponsorship experts to your event to speak with your delegates – don’t hesitate to contact our team.
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This post was written by Krissy Murphy, Consultant