Sponsorships can feel like a daunting task when it comes to raising funds for your event, both corporate and nonprofit alike. Having sponsors is the lifeblood to many events and important to understand why to have these partnerships.
When starting out in developing a good sponsorship ratio, our philosophy is that your sponsorship dollars cover the expenses of your event. Your income from ticket sales or fundraising activities and any “other” income generating areas are applied to your net revenue.
It is bad practice to wait until your event day, in hopes that you made enough to pay your catering bill.
Assuming you currently have an event that has sponsors, let's look at ways to increase or maximize your current sponsorship line up. Here are 3 things you can do to maximize your sponsorship dollars with existing sponsors.
Make sure you are going after marketing dollars.
This is especially common in the nonprofit arena who is typically looking for donations or foundation funds. As an organization you are providing marketing to a specific demographic that companies want to market to, not donate to. Whether you are a corporation or nonprofit, know your demographic. Make sure you are collecting information from your attendees so you know who they are. The more you know about them, the more you can increase your packages to attract the right sponsors to market to the right the people.
You are never out of sponsorship opportunities.
Don't base your sponsorship opportunities off a checklist of ideas. Talk with your sponsors and understand what is important to them and then find a way to bring them in that meets their goals. Use your list of opportunities as a resource, not a final checklist and once they’re all gone they’re gone
For example, I had a client tell me once they turned a company down interested in sponsoring their event because they were out of sponsorships at the level they were interested. Instead of coming up with a creative way to incorporate them at their desired level, they chose to offer them a lower level sponsorship and lost out on raising more dollars. Never say NO to Money!!
There is always a way to give a sponsor something outside of the box. If you are having a hard time coming up with ideas, use your team to brainstorm creative opportunities that don't live on the list.
I had a client mention during an event planning meeting that they had a sponsor request a specific area to sponsor and a set dollar amount they were willing to give. The dilemma was another sponsor had already spoken for this area. The response was to offer the sponsor a lower dollar table sponsorship instead. I suggested instead of giving up the higher dollar offering and compromising on a lower one, why not create a new item to sponsor that would appeal to the sponsor? Instead of a photo booth, they were given an elevator sponsorship. This included a branded backdrop, elevator hosts taking selfies as guests traveled upstairs and social media posts linked to a feed on big screens in the main ballroom. The sponsor was thrilled and as already reserved this for next year!
Next time you’re having a conversation with your existing or new sponsor, be sure to stay creative, ask questions and most of all don't say NO to money!
Danielle Snelson | CEO | Sona Events | firstname.lastname@example.org
A common new client that we encounter in our industry, is one that has been running their event the same way for years with great success and then boom, the recipe no longer seems to be working and they have no idea why. Without going into a full diagnostic overhaul, my initial hunch is they probably are no longer engaging the current demographic. By demographic I am not only referring to your attendees, but your sponsors as well.
Whether you personally care to embrace it or not, we live in an age of technology and instant gratification. People want information right at their fingertips, and by fingertips I don’t mean via their email (that’s totally yesterday, duh!). Queue the continually popular solution: There’s an App for that!
Event Apps are changing the way conferences, trade shows, fundraisers and other special events are communicating with their attendees. Not only is this new technology pleasing to the attendee, but provides great benefit to the event organizers and your potential sponsors; as well.
Before your Event
As soon as a guest registers for you event, send them a link to download your event app. This gives instant access to the demographic of guests you have just attracted. With this information you can predict what will engage them on the event day, provide a means for marketing directly to your audience and provide insightful information on what to expect on the day of your event.
During your Event
Easily communicate the event program, location of breakout sessions (and facilitating signups for these if required) and interactive directional maps. Send push notifications to alert of changes in the program, location change of a speaker, or an emergency. During your event keep attendees engaged with Q&A or polling questions (you can even display their responses in real time on a screen). Another fun function is the ability to allow attendees to networking more effectively with each other. They can connect with individuals with similar interests or within similar markets, organize meetups, share contact information, etc.
After your Event
After your event physically ends, the communication can carry on. Attendees can reference the app to find contact information for a fellow attendee they met, a vendor they noticed at a tradeshow or a sponsor can reach out to their interested audience. Just like LinkedIn is used to create a sense of community that is easily accessible. Above and beyond, probably the most beneficial tool you can use for the after, is feedback! Find out what people liked and did not like in a simple survey. That in and of itself is so valuable to the success of your future events!
There are a wide variety of event apps out there to choose from, so explore the offerings and find the one that fits well with your needs. Ask for testimonials or feedback from other users to get the real scoop, instead of the glorified sales pitch of why one app is better than another. Better yet, use my tried and true method of research: Google It. I bet there are people who have already done the research and have blogged about it for you!
Honestly . . . this is a hard topic for me to write about. Why? Because, I’m a perfectionist. Yup, it’s now out there for the world to know. I like all my ducks neatly in a row and it drives me crazy when those ducks decide to have a mind of their own. If you know me at all, then you may be thinking “then how the heck are you so calm, amidst all the chaos?” My answer is actually pretty simple: I Plan.
I plan for the unexpected, just as much, if not more than I plan for the actual event. I figure if I consider all the possible things that could go wrong and do my best to hedge the risk of them happening from the get go; I’m bound to have positive results.
One) I’ve probably lowered the risk of bad things happening
Two) I’ve got a Plan B, C and D in if plans need to be adjusted last minute
Lower the Risk
Part of my job is to take care of the event logistics. In doing so, I make it a point to have really good communication with all the vendors I have hired. They are always in the know (before the event day) of all the what’s, where’s and why’s. We share contact information for the day of the event and you better believe, if their arrival time comes and goes and they aren’t there yet I’ll be calling. I also feel it is super important for the event planner/organizer to arrive at the venue well ahead of time. I usually arrive 30-60 minutes before anyone else does. This gives me time to review room diagrams, discuss details with food/beverage, and correct any concerns or issues before I get involved in overseeing other people. Lastly, I ensure when others do start arriving that they understand their tasks and are familiar with the space. If you are not ready for the arrival of your vendors ahead of time, you will get pulled in 100 different directions. When an unexpected issue does crop up, I’m ready and available to problem solve.
Absolutely always have a backup plan in place if your event is outside and there is any chance the weather could go South and let’s be real there is always a chance the weather can change. You should have a plan in place if you are concerned about a speaker or any other vendor you’ve had difficulty communicating with and think there is any possibility they might not show up. Include in your initial budgeting a line item for a contingency plan. If you know a tent would be the backup if weather is not cooperative, then know the cost ahead of time. If you don’t need it, then great! But if you do and you did not account for it, your profitable event could take a serious turn towards the red.
As much as I would love an event to be absolutely perfect, there are too many variables that are outside of my control no matter how much I plan. I have learned that accounting for the possibility that the unexpected could happen and accepting it, makes the process so much easier and in most cases, no one even knows there was an issue but me.
My final piece of advice, no matter how disastrous the situation, remain calm and courteous. You will have an easier time thinking outside of the box to quickly solve the issue and those around you will be more willing to help and contribute to the solution.
Keep Calm and Party On!
Event planning may seem like glitter and rainbows to the outsider, but I am here to tell you that just like any other job I have wins and losses. I’ve learned to celebrate my wins, whether big or small, and learn from the losses. Here is an inside peak at a few lessons I’ve learned along the way.
1. Blocking Your Time
This has been the biggest takeaway of them all for me. Planning events can be stressful. You are in contact with a lot of different people and have a constant flood of emails coming through every day. It’s hard for me to have an email come in and not respond to it immediately. I am a “box-checker” and have been my whole life. However, checking every email coming in can be a slippery slope to wasting half your day. This is where blocking out time on your schedule every day comes in handy. Keeping true to these deadlines will keep you focused and on track, slowing hacking at that to-do list. I now keep ongoing drafted emails of information as I receive them. Clients and vendors love getting an email with all the updates rather than several throughout the day. This not only keeps everything organized, but limits the emails, keeping me on track with my schedule.
2. Every Detail Counts
In the event planning industry, this couldn’t be truer. What I mean by this is every email you send or every phone call you make, you need to ensure your words are clear and concise. A BEO (Banquet Event Order) is a document that outlines every detail of your event with the venue staff. Also known as the “meat and potatoes” of your event. Take the time to read through the BEO carefully and have someone on your team look it over. In the end, whatever is on that sheet will be exactly what happens at your venue so make sure it’s correct.
3. Make Rehearsal Time
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but nobody reads anything. All those well-spent and beautifully crafted emails and timelines, clearly explaining everything that needs to be done and by what time, were merely glossed over. That is why I recommend providing rehearsal times. Whether it’s for your emcee, speakers, etc. Give them the rehearsal time to review, because it can’t be promised they read through their script the evening before.
4. ALWAYS Make Time for a Dance Break
Here at Sona we believe in dance breaks. However, we aren’t always the best at taking our own advice when it comes to this. Event days are jam packed with running around making sure vendors are where they need to be, speakers are set-up and the drinks are flowing. It’s hard to take that 30 second break to relax. Months and months of hard work have finally come down to this day and you want everything to be perfect, but sometimes, a 30 second dance break is all you need to get your engine going again. Remember, kick butt, work hard and embrace that 30 second dance break. YOU DID IT!
To embracing the takeaways,
A millennial writing about social media….weird. But really, when it comes to events and the benefits social media can provide, don’t miss out! Almost every event planner will use social media to supercharge attendance rates and get their event heard, but when it comes to the day of their event they go MIA on social media. Missing out on the opportunity to have real-time engagement with their attendees. I’m here to give you a few ways to integrate social media during your events that will build a community and make those who didn’t attend bummed they missed out.
First things first, give them internet access. Make sure there is Wi-Fi available and give them the password. This may seem like a no-brainer, but this is something that is often mistakenly overlooked. Next, create a simple yet catchy #hashtag and promote the heck out of the two throughout your entire event. Whether that be displayed on signage throughout the room, programs and even on the program slides. Don’t give them the option to forget about your #hashtag.
When hosting an event, you want your attendees to be engaged and that includes online engagement. How do you do that? It’s simple, give them event props. This is a way to give them a WOW factor that they are dying to have their photo taken with and share with their friends. Universal Studios does a fantastic job of this. They often bring in props they have used in movies like the original batmobile car. This is an easy way to make your event picture-worthy and get the selfies flowing. Whether that includes props to hold while taking pictures, large stand-up letters of your event name, unique foods, a decorative backdrop or even stand-out art displayed throughout the room. Give them something.
Now you not only have an event to run but you need to remain present on social media. This is where having a point person is a great way to not only give real-time communication during your event with your building community but also gives you the chance to control what is being posted. In the end, you have a brand and image to uphold. Having someone on “social media duty” is a great way to manage it all.
We are a competitive breed. I might be opposed to doing something, but as soon as I know there’s a competition involved, I’m in. Take a wild west themed event for example. Include a bucking bronco and see who can last the longest. This is a great way to encourage attendees to engage in event activities as well as tweeting their experience with the hashtag and posting photos of friends riding the bronco. Promote those who have participated by live-streaming those images on your program sides and incentivize with some sort of gift package.
Last, but certainly not least. Involve your speakers and make them available! These people are the reason attendees are driving 200+ miles or taking time off work to see your event. Encourage your speakers to take the time to chat with attendees on the sidelines and take pictures. These are people they look up to and idolize. Nowadays selfies are the new autographs, so dangit give the people what they want! For those who didn’t attend, promote your speakers through Facebook Live. This is a great way to show them how available they are during your event, pushing them to lock in their spot for next year so they don’t miss out.
There are endless opportunities when it comes to incorporating social media during your event. Don’t let your event be the that did a great job getting butts in seats, but when it came to real-time engagement during your event you missed out on a huge community-building opportunity.
To keeping your audience engaged,
Top 3 areas to focus on before décor
The most heartbreaking thing I hear from event attendees is when they attend an event and say, “it was the most beautiful event I’ve ever attended but it was so unorganized, and the program dragged on forever!” Now don’t get me wrong, I love a beautiful event just as much as the next person, and my background started in making events look amazing. Over the course of 10 years I’ve found there are 3 top areas to cover before making décor a priority.
1. Relationships before décor
Bring the people in and get them committed to your event and/or cause first, then start adding in elements as time goes on. Just because you spend the money on making it look awesome, or think it’s going to make people think it is better than it is, it’s wrong the approach. Your goal is to build a good relationship with your attendees first.
2. Experience before décor
Consider how you will greet your guests by a human before you think about putting up a decorative entrance. They might think it’s cool for a minute, but when no one is there to greet them or tell them where to go and what they should be doing the cool entrance is only going to spiral downward fast. Think through how you can provide a high touch experience throughout your event then add in the décor to surround the personal touch. Our rule of thumb is to provide a surprise every hour on the hour😊
3. Programming before décor
Onstage programming and timing of your event is more important than décor. Spend time finding ways to entertain, or make your audience laugh. Think through transitions using video, voice of God announcements and entertainers. Keeping people engaged is more important than your centerpiece. Guests will remember how you made them feel, before they remember the table décor.
When you consider these 3 areas first to create the best event possible, décor becomes the icing on the cake over time as you thoughtfully introduce it into your budget. Décor can keep the attention of your audience and create excitement, but if they leave not feeling taken care of or that the event was unorganized, this leaves a deeper impression on them and no amount of décor will keep them coming back.
You’ve finalized your guest count, you know how many tables you’ll need and have even picked out your linen color. You might think to yourself, “I’m done! Onto the next task.” Then they hit you with the million-dollar question, “what size linen do you need?” This is when your brain might go into overdrive, “Sizes? They have multiple sizes? I didn’t even know there were options.”
Luckily, there are two simple questions to ask yourself:
If you’re having a hard time determining how much you want to hang off the edges there are 3 options to go with: knee length, floor length or a pooling length.
Out of all the three lengths, the knee length gives the most casual, less-formal vibe. It shows the majority of the legs of the table. Although I’m all for flaunting a good pair of legs, when referring to tables, I suggest the exact opposite. What I mean by that is; most event tables have been bruised and battered. They’ve been through several long nights and don’t have a high rating when it comes to the looks department. Therefore, I always recommend floor length.
The floor length is the most common linen style you will find. It has a sleek and formal look to it. One of the main benefits, as mentioned above, is that it hides all the wear and tear you find when renting event tables.
For the pooling length, also known as the puddled style, find your full floor length and go one size up. This will give you that dramatic feel you’ve been looking for.
Picking out the linen size can seem like a simple but daunting task. People will have their own preferences and styles, but luckily there are so many amazing charts and pictures out there to help give you a better understanding on what it is you're looking for. There is nothing wrong with having an adult cheat sheet. In fact, below is a chart I use daily for easy reference.
To knowing your linen size,
Finding the perfect venue for your events is probably one of the most common and frustrating parts of planning. For me, the venue is all about the experience. If the space feels oversized it can leave the impression that no one showed up for your event; even if on the contrary tickets were sold out. As a direct reflection of a guests first impression, they may feel less engaged and in turn, spend less, cut out early or be intimidated to network with others.
Here are 4 easy room shrinking tricks, when your space is ridiculously oversized for your needs.
Creative, Nontraditional Seating
Most venues have more than one option in their inventory for table sizes. Considering stepping outside of the suggested table “box” (usually a 5ft or 6ft round) and line up banquet tables end to end, for a family style feel. Use smaller tables like a 4ft round or cocktail table, that require a larger quantity to fill your guest count. Or my favorite option, break your space up into different experiential areas. Maybe a pre-dinner networking lounge filled with furniture, cocktail tables and a bar in a portion of the room, located adjacent to your main dining area. This can double as an “after party” allowing guests to mingle and catering to buss dining tables.
Create a room within a room
Many of your hotel and conference center venues have those gawd awful air wall room dividers, that you can most certainly take advantage of if you wish. I on the other hand would prefer something a little less sterile. An alternative option is to use panels of fabric or a fun artistic backdrop to create a softer room divide. For a more romantic vibe, this same look can be achieved with the frame of a tent and twinkle lights.
A talking piece is never a bad idea. Using a dramatic decor element usually requires substantial space to be effective, so use that extra space to your advantage! Bring a vehicle indoors, suspend a grand focal point from the ceiling, erect a forest of trees . . . the opportunities are endless!
Considering some fun interactive pieces to keep guests entertained? These are a great route when you have room to spare. Photo booths, mechanical bulls, indoor climbing walls, wine tasting stations, elaborate dessert displays . . . there are a multitude of options that fill up space and help enhance the experience of your event.
Whether your options are limited, the venue is donated or free, or you’re just in love with the space . . . a location that is too big can easily be transformed into something more intimate with as little or as much effort (and additional $$$) as you care to spend. A professional event planner should easily be able to brainstorm ideas like these for you in a heartbeat.
Do you have a smartphone with a calendar? Do you check it each evening before bed, or each morning at breakfast, to determine what your day will look like? Now imagine the same calendar, but you share it with your co-workers and cross reference it with their schedules. It’s one calendar, but multiple people’s schedules are all in one place. It allows everyone to know exactly what is happening in the office at any given point, throughout any given day.
In simple terms, in the event world, this is basically the same as a run of show. A detailed timeline of the entire event, outlining all the key elements of the key players. A run of show is something you would share with your vendors, venue, speakers, and event staff to ensure they are all on the same page. It gives them a snapshot into the entire event, so they can anticipate the next important action item before it happens. Rule of thumb: anyone that has anything to do with the success of running your event should have a copy of the run of show. It’s kind of like a program, but with more information than when to anticipate the next intermission.
A production schedule is basically the equivalent of a script. It is every single detail broken down to the minute, from the moment your Emcee takes the stage until the closing remarks. It includes every audio-visual queue (lighting, sound, video, PowerPoint slides), the exact verbiage that will come out of each presenters’ mouth, stage entry & exit instructions, when to cue the confetti cannon; you name it! If something, anything, needs to happen during this timeframe you put it in the production schedule. If it is not written here, it basically does not exist. It can take many hours and sometimes days to create a complete production schedule. The biggest mistake many first-time events make is trying to create one of these beasts on their own without the help of a professional planner. It is highly unlikely you will be able to effectively anticipate all the needs of your event, especially from a production standpoint. A professional planner will be knowledgeable in how to communicate to multiple different people all in their own industry based language simultaneously. They can visualize the event unfolding in their head as they write, much like a movie unfolding, and can anticipate and troubleshoot timing and logistical issues ahead of time; so that you do not encounter them on your event day.
The take away here is, the more organized the communication on the expectation of how your event should flow, the better you set yourself up for success. Determine all your key players, how much information they need to execute their tasks, and provide them with the proper tools to get the job done! Most importantly, know your limits and seek out professional help when the program gets too complicated.
Is there something you’ve always dreamed about since you were a little boy or girl? For some it was to be a professional athlete or maybe as astronaut. For me, it was all about Britney Spears and her headset. I remember having every album she ever put out as a little girl (including backups just in case they got scratched). I would dance and sing all around the house with my very own headset and I felt like a complete and utter superstar. Although I missed out on the red leather jumpsuit, I really felt like a miniature Britney (I’m sure mom and dad were thrilled).
However, as time went on I outgrew Britney, especially during her meltdown phase, but never the headset. I remember being a teenager watching The Hills in junior high, yes I am unfortunately guilty of reality TV, and Lauren Conrad had just landed an insane internship for an event planning company in Hollywood. She had a huge event that evening with some very important guests attending. The event was total chaos with so many different parts; it was amazing! However, as insane as it was, she always kept her cool. She had her headset and handled herself like a pro. I embraced the chaos I saw on the television screen of planning an event and seeing everyone together in one place enjoying one another, great food, better cocktails with an amazing atmosphere. There was just nothing better in my eyes. It was destiny.
Throughout the next 8 years or so I always made it a priority to be involved somehow, someway with events. Whether that was cleaning tables, setting up decor or just plain running errands I wanted to be involved wherever I could. But there was one thing I could never shake... I still didn’t have my own headset. I remember sitting at the dinner table one evening and telling my mom that one day I was going to wear a headset and channel my inner Britney & Lauren Conrad. So, from then on it became a goal of mine. I was going to have my own headset one day and it was going to be magical.
Now several years later, I can happily say I have been inducted into the headset crew! Several months ago we had an amazing event we had been planning and I remember it so clearly. The cocktail hour had begun and we were reviewing the production schedule to ensure everyone was on the same page. As we were reviewing, our FABULOUS AV guys handed me a headset. For a second I thought, “this must be a mistake, maybe they forgot to give one to Danielle and Melissa.” Then I heard something I will never forget, “Kendall this headset is for you.” (QUE THE BRITNEY SPEARS MUSIC, YOUR GIRL HAD FINALLY MADE IT!!!) To some it may seem silly, it’s just a headset. To me, it was years of hardwork and dedication. It was a dream I had set (get it) and one I refused to give up on.
So if there is anything you take away from this ridiculous blog post, it’s that my passion for wearing that headset has never died. I embrace every single time I get to wear it, as well as every event I get to be a part of. Although, I did not have a Britney Spears red leather onesie nearby that evening, I realized it probably wasn’t appropriate for the classy event we were putting on so my black slacks had to do. But you bet that at the end of my 16 hour day I called my mom to tell her all about my shining moment, and I absolutely cranked Britney Spears in my truck the whole ride home. So remember, earn your headset and celebrate it!
To owning your headset,
Multi Day Conferences, Special Events and Fundraisers