A conference should be treated like any other live event when it comes to sponsorship. Brands should seek to create activations rather then just slapping their logo on a session. Brand engagement is best generated when a company focuses on forming a strong bond with an attendee through an immersive or interactive activity that evokes an emotion. These emotions turn into memories that make the person not forgot the brand but also share their positive experience with others. In person activations are great for not only attendees but also for brands who capitalize fully on the opportinong. This can be done by capturing content that can be shared online long after the conference.
Going Beyond the Logo
Rather than just attaching a logo to a session or workshop, a brand should find ways to integrate themselves into the conference. This can be as grand as a full out activation or as simple as having key employees of the brand speaking or hosting the Q&A portion of the session. While it’s great to have a celebrity speak, the more interactions between employees and attendees the better. SXSW is one of the biggest conferences in the United States and also known for having some of the most notable brand activations.
LinkedIn this year kept things professional yet interactive in their LinkedIn Studio activation at the event this past year. They created a lounge that was not only the optimal place for networking but also featured activities that were in line with their brand and useful to those who took advantage. They offered profile consultations and gave a chance for guests to take new headshots. In addition, they hosted fireside chats with celebrities and panels with influencers. Not only was everything branded, it was integrated into sessions and workshops that were memorable and generated positive brand equity.
While this is an example of hosting a full out space at a conference, sponsorship can come in many forms. No matter the size of your footprint at the conference, it is important to focus on building a relationship with the attendees. This can be done through a simple session by keeping it as interactive as possible. When hosting a speaker it’s important to involve the audience. This can be done by asking thought provoking questions or making it more of a fireside chat then typical speech. The more audience involvement and the more personal the better. Providing more hospitality like coffee and donuts, a happy hour, or a full meal in conjunction with your session can also be a way to woo guests.
Get Creative With Event Technology
While virtual reality and augmented reality are nothing new, now they are becoming more affordable. At lower price points, this type of technology is now more accessible for companies to set up experiences at conferences. VR/AR can help create a more immersive activations that give attendees a closer bond with the brand. Experts estimate that VR will grow into a $30 billion industry by 2020.
One example of this is at SXSW where McDonalds used VR technology to transport attendees to the inside of a Happy Meal. Once inside they could decorate the walls using paint brushes, balloons, or lasers. They could then share their creations on social media. McDonald’s leveraged technology to not only create a dynamic in person experience but also gave everyone a unique momento that could be shared online with others.
Quality Over Quantity
If you are going to bring branded swag then opt for high quality items that attendees are actually going to want to wear. Work with a designer to come up with an eye catching print to put on t-shirts or bags rather than just your simple logo. The more you can make it look like an article someone would buy in a store, the more people are going to want it. By choosing high quality materials and items, you also ensure that someone will wear it long after the conference is over. This provides marketing for months to come. For example, going past the simple thin plastic water bottles and opting for nice aluminum ones can mean that someone could bring your brand to the gym, work, and wherever else they need hydration.
Capture and Distribute
Whatever form of presence you have at a conference, if you are a sponsor then you have to have someone on sight capturing the event. If you are not collecting content that can be used online for marketing then you are not making the most of your conference sponsorship. Even if all you are hosting a simple speech, the content of your brand interacting with people in person is engaging because it shows the company in a different light. Utilizing this on social channels expands the reach of your sponsorship and therefore maximizes the value of those dollars spent. Knowing that it will also be used for this may also push the team on site to enhance the experience more.
Whether you are hosting a full out lounge or simply just a session at a conference, there are a few key things to focus on to ensure that you are making the most of the event. The more engaging and interactive you can make your imprint the better. The most important thing is to leave as much of an impression as possible. This can be done through the use of technology or simply as providing a tasty snack for guests. Going the extra mile to create a relationship with attendees is what makes a brand memorable. In addition, capturing the brands involvement at the event and sharing it on social channels will expand the reach of the activation beyond just the conference.