How to Sell Virtual Events to Sponsors and Exhibitors


how to sell virtual events to sponsors and exhibitors

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Virtual events are here to stay. Even when consumer confidence comes back, vaccines are rolled out and people start travelling around again, having a virtual element to a live in-person event will become the norm. And the good news for sponsors and exhibitors? The number of people they can reach out to will no longer be restricted by the size of a physical venue.

But for some organisations, the idea of spending money to be a virtual sponsor or exhibitor is something completely new. And many are unsure on what kind of return they should expect from these events.

So how can event organisers help their sponsors and exhibitors see the enormous potential of investing in a virtual space?  Before we go into specifics – let’s take a look at some key steps you need to take into account:

What’s Your Mindset?

One of the fundamental keys to any sales success starts with belief in the product or service. If the person selling doesn’t believe in what they are offering, it will become obvious to the person being pitched to. And that is unlikely to lead to sales.

Therefore, if you are being asked to sell virtual events to sponsors and exhibitors, you will need to be clear in your own mind as to how you see these events and their value.

Perhaps you need to take time and do some research on the virtual event success stories. That way you can have a much deeper conversation with potential prospects. This would be better than just providing details of the packages you are offering. The more virtual value you can show, the better.

NEW eBook: Virtual Events  – 10 Ways to Keep Attendees Engaged!

Visualising the Virtual

Don’t imagine people understand what you mean by virtual. Everyone has a different view on what it means and what it could mean for their organisation.

But this is where you have the opportunity to help paint the picture of what virtual could look like for them.  As an approach to help them visualise the opportunity, you could talk about an in-person event and go through what happens for sponsors and exhibitors. You can then transition those ‘engagement touchpoints’ to virtual. For example, at an in-person conference a delegate can join a plenary session and it’s likely there will be some sponsor branding on display. Take that same example and talk through having sponsor branding in front of the virtual attendees. They can engage with targeted people through speaking slots, moderating sessions, running polls and so on. Help them see the benefits.

Exploring and Listening  

You could explore what works for your exhibitors and sponsors when it comes to in-person events.  What do they get from them? A conversation on familiar ground can put people at ease before getting to the virtual issue. Ask what they spend, how they decide that and what measures they use to analyse their ROI.

Then talk about the virtual event. Ask them what they would like and what analytics they would need to see. At this stage it’s about you listening and exploring with them.

The more actively you listen the better.

Getting Technical   

Having taken the time to work out what your sponsors and exhibitors are looking for, you now are faced with the question of which tech platform to choose. If you get this decision wrong, you will end up with unhappy clients.

On-Demand Webinar: Choosing a Virtual Event Platform – Getting it Right!

What are the key things to look for in your virtual event tech platform?  What kind of features help provide value for your sponsors and exhibitors?  If you’re offering targeted banner ads – can the platform support you with the flexibility you need for your campaigns?  If you’re offering opportunities to sponsor sessions or brand your event’s content hub – is this something you’ll be able to do?

Whilst requirements for sponsors and exhibitors will be different from one event to another, there are some essential platform features that are worth mentioning.

Here we highlight three that will be of interest to your potential sponsors and exhibitors:

1) Targeted Matchmaking   

As well as offering virtual exhibitor booths, one of the key value areas around virtual events is the precision matchmaking. It’s a key difference to mingling at in-person networking events in the hope of meeting a useful connection. Even though certain aspects of networking can never be truly replicated in an online environment, the virtual world can take it to a whole different level.

For example, some virtual event platforms like Eventsforce VCD (Virtual Content Delivery) connects sponsors and exhibitors with relevant attendees using a smart tagging tool. Attendees can receive recommendations and search through companies that best match their interests and preferences. Meanwhile, your sponsors and exhibitors can focus on connections that matter. They can use the tagging tool to create lists of the most relevant attendees, send them messages and request meetings at convenient times. Attendees, sponsors and exhibitors can arrange live video calls (group and 1-1) within the platform for meetings, enquiries and product demos. And there are no limits on the number or duration of calls.

This ability to tag and connect with people that want to meet sponsors and exhibitors with specific offerings opens up enormous opportunities for business development. No longer will an exhibitor need to speak to someone who really isn’t interested in what they do. This is different to the experience at in-person exhibitions. Some attendees can be tempted in by the offer of food, drink or goodies, but deep down they have no real interest in what the exhibitor has to offer.

2) Brand Building              

Whilst targeted matchmaking is useful for sponsors and exhibitors, you may have companies that are just as interested in getting their brand and name in front of people. Your event is a good one for them to be associated with and they don’t need any more than that as a return. The good news is that your tech platform provider should have the functionality to make that happen for you.

You can help your sponsors build brand visibility with different advertising opportunities across the platform, including rotating banner ads, pop ups, footers, side banners and more.  These ads can be displayed during specific sessions or you can offer them to take over all ad spaces exclusively for a set period of time.

Again, some virtual event platforms like Eventsforce have the ability to show different ads to different people on the same page within the platform.  These ads are targeted for specific attendees which means your sponsors get a better return.  It also means you can increase sponsorship revenue by selling the same ad space multiple times.

3) Awesome Analytics       

If the tech platform you choose doesn’t provide any engagement analytics, you will struggle with assessing how well things worked out for your sponsors and exhibitors. Again – a benefit in the virtual world is the speed and ease in which all sorts of analytics can be provided. In fact, it’s even better than analysing data from in-person events.

Real time data on ad engagement will help you assess important performance metrics such as impressions and click-through rates. You can monitor real time engagement data like the number of leads, meetings, page views per exhibitor and more.

Once you have the analytics you need, you will be able to demonstrate how well your virtual event performed against expectations. Without this data, you will struggle to get the sponsor to sign up for your next event – even if things went well. When data is critical to business knowledge and insights, it’s essential that you show sponsors and exhibitors you can help them with the information they need.

Related: How to manage sponsor and exhibitor expectations around virtual events

Conclusion – Value Makes All the Difference

Selling anything is easier if there is a clear path for the buyer to see the value. And that is your job to demonstrate the value to sponsors and exhibitors. With the virtual world being a mystery to some, it’s important that you help your potential buyers as much as possible. They may not be clear on what they need and that is where you can help.

A recent poll from Eventsforce found that 75% of event planners felt their sponsors and exhibitors were happy with the value they got from virtual events. That is a great result and shows that the virtual opportunity is delivering.

Understanding sales in the virtual world has never been more important. But equipped with the right mindset, the right approach and the right tech platform you can make all the difference for your sponsors and exhibitors.

Running virtual events?  Eventsforce VCD is a fully integrated virtual event platform that can support you with registration, live streaming, audience engagement tools, remote speaker management, networking and virtual sponsors and exhibitors. Book a demo or get in touch with the team to see how we can help!