Sponsorship for Virtual Events, Conferences and Meetings
A travel snag causes you to miss your flight, leaving you stranded when you’re supposed to host a physical event. An indispensable portion of your event staff all falls ill at the same time. A major crisis or emergency sidelines your plans to hold your event. Whenever planning a physical event, these are just some of the many pitfalls that can set you back.
While sure, you could always cancel, maybe you don’t want to. Before you decide whether or not to cancel, postpone or move forward, check out this blog post. What about going virtual instead? How would you even get sponsorship for a virtual event?
While your sponsorship tactics wouldn’t differ all that much compared to hosting a physical event, you do need to take special considerations for virtual events. For one, make sure your sponsor is still onboard as you make the switch. Also, be upfront in how much financial backing you need. It may be more money than usual or even less, and your sponsor absolutely needs to know this.
In today’s post, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about hosting a virtual event. While this may not be the way you intended to do it, a virtual event can still be wildly successful. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know how to acquire sponsorship and where to host your virtual event.
Let’s get started.
What Is a Virtual Event?
Virtual events, which are sometimes also referred to as online events, are any event you can host from a computer or mobile device. There may be components like chat functionality and video communication so attendees can interact with you and amongst themselves.
A great example of a virtual event that’s familiar to most people is a webinar. During a webinar, you’d register, pay a fee (if it’s not a free webinar), and then log in at a certain date and time. The webinar host would talk live, and so they might take questions at the end of the session from the audience.
Virtual events can be hugely valuable in a variety of ways. If your event includes multiple sessions, after the festivities wrap up, you can gauge success via metrics generated from each session. This gives you great insight into which topics your audience most appreciates. During your next virtual (or physical) event, you can then use that information to tailor the content even better.
Also, you open your event up to a much wider audience compared to a physical one. If you were to host a physical event in a major part of the country like New York City, some people would still have to travel. If the trip is deemed too long or expensive, many attendees can miss out. The same is true if they can’t get time off work.
A virtual event is much easier to attend. There’s no airline, no hotels, and far less money spent for the attendees. That may make them more willing to check out your event.
How to Get Sponsorship for a Virtual Event
Another perk of virtual events is they’re typically far less costly than a physical event. Your event staff is severely abbreviated, you don’t have to rent a space, and you don’t need as many materials for exhibits.
That said, it’s not free to host a virtual event. Even if you don’t need a lot of help with money, if having a sponsor tied to your event would give it more clout, then you’re still going to seek sponsorship.
Here’s how to go about that in two likely scenarios you may face as you switch from a physical to a virtual event.
What If You Already Had Sponsorship for a Physical Event?
The first scenario is probably a familiar one to marketing firms and event planners, as it’s something you’ll surely face at some point. You had an event on the calendar, but because of some snag or event out of your control, you’ve had to cancel the physical portion of the event.
You already had a sponsorship lined up, too. Now that you’re thinking of making your event virtual, what do you tell the sponsor?
You’ll want to clue them in as soon as you make the decision. If you can, schedule a call. If the sponsor is too busy, send them an email that same day. Tell them first and foremost that you’d like to keep the event going as scheduled, but in a digital format.
Your sponsorship needs may have changed during the switch. If no money has yet to change hands from your sponsor to you, then you may mention the need for a new proposal and budget that you’d draw up in a timely manner. This would replace your current budget.
What if the sponsor already paid for your physical event? Here’s a great post on our blog about the cancelation of events due to coronavirus. In that post, it’s recommended you either refund or offer the sponsor a credit for the money they put forth.
Keeping the money but failing to host the physical event as planned could lead to the sponsor hiring lawyers to sue you. Also, you’ll irreparably harm your professional relationship with the sponsor. Not only that, but if the case goes to court and becomes high-profile, other sponsors might hear about it and steer clear of you, too. Do the right thing here.
In this dicey situation, be sure to give your sponsor an out. They may not want to be part of an online event for any reason, or perhaps they’re withholding sponsorships for the time being. If so, don’t press them on it. Make sure any funding they provided is properly returned or allocated and then keep the line open so you two could collaborate in the future.
If You’re Scheduling a Virtual Event with No Sponsors
What if you have no sponsors yet for your virtual event? Like we said in the intro, the way you go about searching for a sponsor is not all that different than with physical events.
First, you want to do your research, seeking out sponsors that have a similar target audience to yours. If you have alignment with this sponsor in other ways, such as causes or goals, that’s ideal too, but not necessary. The same is true if you happen to know someone at the sponsorship company. It’s nice, but you can get by without.
Then you want to get that first meeting with them. This won’t be in person for obvious reasons, but rather, through the phone or email. We have 37 awesome sponsorship discovery questions you can ask to determine if the sponsor is a good fit and vice-versa.
If you’re stumped on what to write in that cold email, here’s another post of ours with several sponsorship letter templates. Even if you don’t know anyone at the sponsorship company, you can write an email the sponsor will not only read, but respond to.
Don’t forget your audience data as well. This shows the sponsor detailed metrics into who comprises your audience, why those people are associated with your business/organization, and what they like to buy.
When that discovery meeting goes well, during your next email/phone meeting with the sponsor, then you can present your sponsorship proposal with your sponsor packages.
Considerations When Hosting a Virtual Event
You have to keep the following in mind as you proceed with the planning, organization, and hosting of your virtual event.
Differing Needs for Financial Backing
Like we mentioned, while virtual events don’t cost nearly as much as physical ones, they do still require funding. As you shift from physical to virtual events, you need to crunch some numbers right away and arrive at a figure you can show a potential sponsor.
If you need more funding from a sponsor, your search for the right one could be tough in some instances. conditions. Should you find yourself on the opposite side of the coin, where you need less money because you’ve gone virtual, then maybe you find a sponsor faster, but not necessarily.
More Sponsors May Turn You Away
It’s easy to get so focused on your own financial needs that you forget your sponsor could be low on cashflow as well. For instance, look what happened during the COVID-19 or coronavirus outbreak, when businesses across the country had to shut down. While maybe the sponsor could have helped you before, you may get turned down now.
Anticipate that you may get more nos than yesses in some cases, but be prepared to be persistent. Have a long list of target sponsors you can reach out to rather than putting all your eggs in one or two baskets.
All Your Sponsors May Not Be in Business
This was another issue that cropped up around the coronavirus outbreak that can still apply in emergencies or major crises. If you send out an email to a sponsor about an initial meeting, you could not hear back for a few reasons. For one, the sponsor might not be interested, something that can happen if you bombard them with your proposal right away (which we don’t recommend).
The sponsor also may not be taking on new partnerships. Most importantly, they might not even be in business right now. In these situations, silence is a no. Don’t necessarily wait for a rejection before moving onto the next sponsor on the list, as it may not come.
Unexpected Turnout Numbers and Revenue
If you get to the point where your virtual event goes on, two areas may be impacted: turnout and revenue. These happen to go hand-in-hand.
Should you expect a higher turnout and more revenue or lower attendance and less cashflow? It’s hard to say. If your audience comprises of people who work from home or are stay-at-home parents, for example, they likely have the time in their schedule to check out your virtual event. Thus, you could get a higher turnout than even you anticipated.
Even if you’re targeting busy businesspeople as your audience, by scheduling an virtual event on an evening or a weekend, you could drive up attendance that way.
Then it again, turnout will depend on how much you’re charging for the event. By making your event pricy in this current climate, you could chop down your attendance list. That said, you don’t want to price it so low that you undercut your own earnings, so this is a dicey area you’ll have to carefully decide on.
Where Should You Host Your Virtual Event?
You’ve won your virtual event sponsorship; maybe you even have the backing of several sponsors. Now comes the question of which platform you’ll use for your event hosting.
There are plenty of options for your consideration, so let’s cover five of them now.
Our first recommended platform is Eventbrite, which allows users to host both physical and virtual events. Eventbrite has a page on their website for making a previously planned physical event into a virtual one as well as information about postponing or canceling.
If you’re using Eventbrite for the first time, you’d register an account on their site and then create your event. Eventbrite promises secure processing of all virtual payments. They also offer an embedded two-click checkout.
Should you offer free tickets to a virtual event, you never pay a charge on tickets. For paid tickets, Eventbrite takes out a charge of $1.79 plus 3.5 percent for each ticket sold. There’s no maximum fee.
You may use Vimeo for posting and watching videos, but the site also offers live streaming for digital events. If you’re hosting a webinar or a similar event, Vimeo makes for a great solution.
As viewers join the stream, they get video streaming in great quality on all their devices, even if these don’t have high bandwidth. Once the event wraps up, attendees who missed the video stream can catch up in stunning 4K quality.
Vimeo lets you cast your stream to Twitch, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Facebook Live to maximize your audience. You only need the Vimeo mobile app to do it.
If you use Vimeo for your virtual event, you have four plans to choose from. The Plus plan lets you stream five gigabytes a week and 250 gigabytes annually. It’s meant for one user and costs $7 a month.
The Pro plan upgrades you to 20 gigs a week and one terabyte per year. Intended for teams of up to three, this plan costs $20 a month.
The Business plan has no limits on weekly streams. You get five terabytes of storage to be shared amongst 10 people. This plan is $50 a month.
Finally, the Premium plan offers unlimited streaming and seven terabytes of storage. You’re also not capped on how many viewers can join. This plan is priced at $75 a month.
In the same vein of Vimeo is Brandlive, which is a video platform service you can use for both meetings and virtual events. Preferred by brands like REI, KinderCare Education, The North Face, GoPro, and Adidas, Brandlive could be what your business or organization needs, too.
When you choose Brandlive for your virtual event, you get secure registration, audience management, and custom branding ahead of the event. As you go live, features like social media syndication, mobile and web integration, and HD-quality video will attract viewers.
Post-event, access to library page collections, a recordings archive, and an analytics dashboard all make it easy to derive the most pertinent metrics out of your event.
Using Brandlive does come at a steep price about $2,000 a month to host unlimited digital events. You can also get a quote for just one event.
For virtual events or even hybrid events, Cramer is another platform to consider. If you’ve ever attended the Consumer Electronics Show or CES, Cramer worked with the event hosts one year for livestreaming at the 4th C Space Studio. For three days, Cramer provided CES with livestreams of more than 50 major interviews.
Last but certainly not least, you might try Jack Morton, which calls themselves a global brand experience agency. They too specialize in hybrid and virtual events, among them videos, podcasts, chatrooms, web conferences, streaming, and virtual roundtables.
Should You Do a Virtual Event or Wait?
We’ve armed you with all the information and resources you need to get started with your own virtual event, but here’s the big question. Should you go ahead with your event in a digital format or wait until you can host it physically?
This is a hard question to answer, so you have to weigh the pros and cons carefully as you proceed.
For instance, to some sponsors, a virtual event might not outright replace the physical one they had signed on for. If you can’t promise the same outcomes in terms of revenue, attendance, and growth, the sponsor might want to drop out.
Like we said earlier, the second you decide you want to go digital, you need to let the sponsor know. They may request a new activation strategy, valuation, or a fresh negotiation, all of which is within their right.
That’s why we recommend you speak with your legal counsel as well to get their professional guidance on going from a physical to a virtual event. If your event will incur severe impacts to revenue, it might be worth reconsidering.
Of course, if you wait, the question becomes how long will you have to put off your event? The answer to that varies. In the case of the coronavirus outbreak, when businesses had to shut down for months, virtual events were really the only choice. It was either that or cancel your event entirely.
If something less severe happens, like you missed a flight, you slipped and broke your leg, or your crew got sick, you could be waiting days to weeks, sometimes months for everything to blow over. Depending on how timely your event is, this may not be a possibility. Going virtual would be better than nothing, so it’s worth seriously thinking about.
Only you can decide to go forth with a virtual event or hold off. Just know that if you postpone or cancel outright, you might not be able to reschedule for quite a while.
While a virtual event may seem like a good idea, you have to think about it from all angles. You could have to renegotiate for a new sponsorship agreement if you already had a sponsor on the line. If not, then finding a sponsor that’s both still operating and has money to spare can be difficult.
That said, you have many resources for hosting your virtual event, from well-known ones like Eventbrite and Vimeo to smaller platforms like Jack Morton and Cramer. Revenue and attendance could be higher based on your target audience and when the event is; it can just as easily be lower if you overcharge.
Hosting your event now or postponing until later is a risky decision to make either way, but you’re now in a much better position to do it. Best of luck!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Baylis is the President and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective and a self-confessed sponsorship geek.
After several years as a sponsor (that’s right, the one investing the money!) Chris decided to cross over to the sponsorship sales side where he has personally closed tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship deals. Chris has been on the front lines of multi-million dollar sponsorship agreements and has built and coached teams to do the same.
Chris now spends his time working with clients to value their assets and build strategies that drive sales. An accomplished speaker and international consultant, Chris has helped his clients raise millions in sponsorship dollars.