I attended a conference in late January. It had terrific speakers, great content, and for the most part, the audience loved the event—but the sponsors hated it! I did not speak to a single sponsor who felt they got their money’s worth. The audience liked the speakers and felt they got good value for their registration fee—and that is important. A happy audience is a good thing for sponsors.
But if the sponsors don’t get what they were promised, the equation is not complete. Without sponsor revenue, this digital marketing conference cannot continue. Those added dollars, plus activations (that were muted), add part of the value. The registration fee for delegates cannot deliver the necessary revenue to make the event the showcase that the organizer wants it to be.
Here is a quick recap of issues that we provided to the organizer when we were engaged to “audit” the outcomes and what we observed.
- Sponsors were promised certain assets such as ads in the program, opportunities to sample, etc. and those were not all delivered.
- From the start, the event came off as disorganized with line-ups at the registration desk, late starting, and no coffee. It looked as though the organizer (which reflected on the sponsors) was trying to cut costs!
- The attendee numbers were lower than anticipated.
- The conference format changed from keynotes and breakout sessions to just keynotes (again lower than expected numbers and cost cutting for the extra rooms).
- One speaker dissed another speaker who was a conference sponsor and is a national brand!
- There was an app set up that allowed for posting and interaction, but it had no access to outside social media platforms so all the “chatter” was enclosed in a silo in the app and there was no conversation, postings, or otherwise on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TicTok, etc. even though it was a digital conference.
- There was a promotional “enter to win” contest that, again, was only within the app and the tracking system for earning points faltered, so neither the prize nor the sponsor got promoted, nor was recognition gained. And even three weeks later, the organizer still had not provided the supplier of the prize with the name or contact information of the winner!
Understand that sponsors are as important as the audience. Some would say not, but if you are going to have sponsors, they are as important as the delegates. Failure to keep them happy can result in financial troubles along the way. I know the organizer has even bigger plans for 2021, but I am pretty sure none of the sponsors from 2020 will be returning, so they will need to look elsewhere for those rights fee and activation dollars.
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