Never sponsor a conference again.

AuthorGreenzweig, Ben
PositionConference news

Chances are, you have either been pitched to sponsor a conference, tradeshow or meeting, or you have made the call yourself and asked someone to sponsor your conference, tradeshow or meeting.

I've been working in the events industry a long time, and I can't begin to list the number of changes this industry has experienced since the first day I picked up the phone and called my very first prospect on Feb. 14, 2000. (I know, how romantic.)

Not too long ago, the hurdles required to sign off on a sponsorship contract were about as high as the hurdles required to buy a house with no money down or refinance your property at 125 percent of its value. Many things have changed since the "Great Recession," and the events business is no different.

Sponsorship or Investment?

When you hear the word "sponsorship," does your mind immediately conjure images of your logo plastered on brochures and signs, the shipping and construction of an elaborate table-top display or tradeshow booth, and the ordering of branded pens, hand sanitizers and squishy balls? If the answer is "yes," you're not alone. But in this day and age, the term "sponsorship" must be recalibrated in order to ensure business development and marketing professionals can justify their time and return from the financial investment.

Now, don't get me wrong--I am a firm believer in the value of live events from an educational, networking and business development perspective. I've lost count of the number of times someone has proclaimed that webinars and "virtual tradeshows" would spell the death of the events business. Just because I can watch a ballgame on television, doesn't mean that it provides me with the same experience, joy and satisfaction of actually going to the stadium. The "human touch," especially in an increasingly digital world, has become even more precious, valuable and rare.

If I want to sell or buy a service, or gain hands-on, practical knowledge about how to be a better professional, nothing will replace the value of shaking someone's hand, reading their body language as they speak, gauging the audience's reactions to their comments or seeing how well our personalities align. A telephone or Skype window can do many things, but creating a meaningful connection just isn't one of them.

To many, the term "sponsorship" represents a transactional activity that all but eliminates value from the relationship between a sponsor and an organizer. It is cold, limiting and has a stunted...

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