Selling sponsorship slots at your conference should no longer be taboo

I remember a quizzical look from one client when I suggested they sell sponsorship slots on their conference programme to companies that would pay for them. “Never”, they said. Well, I never take “never” as an answer. Later that year we ran two events completely funded by sponsored sessions. 200 of their members had a great programme driven event that they attended for free. “Never”, actually wasn’t that long.

It is understandable that this is resistance to the idea of selling the family silver to companies; and we should be slightly skeptical because we’ve all sat through one of those sessions, the one that starts “OK, I’d just like to tell you about us………” and then 15mins later they move onto some content.

But I would like to encourage conference programmers / producers to consider this as a very viable option for your programme. And you’ll probably be surprised (I have to be honest, I was) to see that I’ve easily come up with 15 good reasons to consider it:

Selling sponsorship slots at your conference

1. Sometimes the highest rated session can be from a session paid for by a sponsor (I’ve got scores of examples)

2. If this is what your sponsor wants as part of the package you have to consider it

3. Ensuring a mix of income is the foundation of a successful events business; never say never

4. You can exercise more control over this session than other sessions, and this allows you to ensure the content is perfect

5. You tend to get a very senior / good presenter

6. Most savvy organisations have realized that the worst way to sell is to stand up and ‘sell’ their wares; they now tend to – or certainly they can be encouraged to – demonstrate their knowledge

7. It is easier to deal with a proactive speaker than to search for less willing participants

8. Speaking on the programme allows your sponsor to have a focus for their conversations with your delegates; a conversation you should be encouraging

9. Offering a slot is an excellent ‘up-sale’ on sponsorship packages

10. You can run entire events funded by sponsoring, speaking slots and delegates can attend for free

11. Allowing a sponsor to demonstrate their support to the industry and to inform on the programme offers real value to your sponsor (does placing a logo everywhere really offer the same?)

12. If they have paid for a slot they are more likely to spend time putting it together

13. Their sessions have a clear objective and they will be much more willing to listen to your advice

14. Sometimes people are quite happy to be ‘sold’ to; it’s true. What is a product demonstration if it’s not part of the sales process? You might have much less resistance than you think

15. Suggest to the sponsor that they conduct some research before the event and then deliver that on the programme. Use this opportunity to create something unique for your event and add more value for your sponsor and great content in the programme.