August 18, 2017
Laura runs the developer community at Couchbase. She is an Open Source advocate and regular conference speaker who is passionate about getting people – everyone from primary school students to technology professionals – involved in Open Source communities both on IRC and in face-to-face discussions.
Like many people working in developer relations, event organisers approach me to ask for sponsorship. They fall into two camps: those events where my company will get a lot of benefit and those where the sponsorship is more about us supporting something that’s good for the community.
Getting sponsors can be challenging. Sometimes, event organisers make it harder on themselves than they need to. A lot of the time key information is missing from their website, emails or even sponsor brochures.
So, here are some easy fixes to things that event organisers sometimes overlook. Some of it might seem obvious but you wouldn’t believe how often this stuff gets missed out.
Location: Country, state and city. Be very clear about where your event is located. Not everyone is in the same country as you, so I may never have heard of that city that you think is really well known.
Website: If you’re emailing me, put the event URL in the email and brochure; don’t make me Google it.
Dates: Please, please give me the full date, not just the month! Sponsoring an event means we need to coordinate an international team. Our calendars are booked well in advance. If you contact sponsors before you’ve set the date, it makes you look disorganised.
If I can see all of the above on first glance then I’ll start to look further. If not, you’re reducing the chance that I’ll investigate to fill-in the gaps you’ve left.
Once we’ve got the basics, I need a reason to take part.
Again, you’d think this was obvious but a lot of the time event organisers don’t give compelling reasons for sponsors to take part. Sometimes it’s not even about doing a sales job but just providing basic information.
If it’s about a particular industry, language or area of technology then tell me why I should sponsor your event and not another that covers the same themes.
Tell me why I should take part: what will I get for my money? This isn’t just about the benefits in the packages but what will my return on investment be?
Next, why do your attendees come to the event? Is it the speakers, the workshops, the exhibition or what?
What are they looking to achieve? Once I know that, I can decide if it aligns with my goals.
Are any companies similar to mine sponsoring? Sometimes that can be a good reason for me to sponsor. Other times we’ll need to discuss how to avoid clashes.
How many people are planning to attend? If this is your first event, then a ballpark figure is fin. If it’s a recurring event, you can tell me the previous numbers and if you plan to excede that this year.
Numbers of attendees can be the deciding factor for some organisations as to whether they sponsor your event. Don’t be upset if that rules you out. There have to be some limitations as there are just so many events that sponsors need a framework for deciding.
If you’ve provided all of this information then, happy days, we can now move onto the nitty gritty of looking at the sponsorship options.
To make it easy to view, I would suggest a grid system. Some event organisers go in for very fancy sponsor brochures but all that does is increase my work. A simple table makes it easy to see what you’re offering and how much it costs.
And, of course, make it easy to find all the basic event information in the sponsor brochure: the first page should tell me where, when, what.
Depending on the size of the sponsoring company, signing the agreement can take different amounts of time. A sponsorship is a business contract where the sponsor pays a significant sum of money in exchange for services. The larger the company, usually the more process to get through. If your terms and conditions are fair, then there won’t be a problem most of the time.
If you, as the event organiser, can provide an editable version of your agreement then that lets the sponsor’s legal team make amendments if necessary.
Recently, some events have started using their own online portals for handling sponsorship agreements. This makes it far harder for some sponsors to work with your event. Some sponsors’ legal teams will work only with an editable document and others are happy with PDFs but not many will work through your special online system. By using your own portal to handle contracts then you’re making life harder for some of your sponsors – i.e. the people who want to help fund your event – so it’s worth it for you to be flexible where needed.
I hope these tips help. I appreciate all the work it takes to organise a conference and looking for a sponsor is no easy task! Let’s make it easier for people to take part in your event.