It’s Business Events Industry Week in Washington, DC. I hope to reconnect with many of you there!
Kudos to all the partners involved for skillfully bringing this co-located series to life. This collaborative event from Destinations International, PCMA, Events Industry Council, International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), and the LGBT Meeting Professionals Association made me think about something I have focused on a great deal in my work – the alignment between business events and their sponsors.
As we gather this week to talk about the future of events and exchange insights, here’s what I’ve learned:
🔸 Balancing your event’s programming and the need to meaningfully recognize sponsors is never easy. Internal teams who work to fund, program and present their events are focused on how to balance and integrate sponsor recognition with content, while attendees care about the “why” of attending and the content’s relevance. I’ve had to work through this many times in my career developing strong partnerships. Sometimes I got it right, sometimes I missed the mark. The successes came from collaboration, collaboration, collaboration, both with internal teams and event sponsors.
🔸 In her thoughtful and provocative book The Art of Gathering, author Priya Parker talks about the fundamental shift when the host of the event is no longer funding the event. The event now has two leads, the host and the sponsor. Parker goes on to share that any misalignment between host and sponsor is felt most in event openings and closings and can frame up an entire meeting through a lens that might not be ideal. She writes, “a host must be aware of the fact that handing over precious real estate to sponsors is never costless or neutral.”
🔸 This reality makes your execution complicated. While we all acknowledge the critical role that sponsors and partners play in building our meetings and events, I encourage all of you to collaborate and get beyond the, “Yes, we have a slide with logos” mentality, or “Yes, they get to say a few words” mantra.
🔸 Work together to create strategies that integrate your allies creatively and align them within your programs meaningfully. It’s more work, but it’s worth it.
While visibility clearly matters to your funders, in the end it’s the relationships they are able to build that will matter the most. Think about how to make that authentically happen at your event, and you are on your way to an increased level of success with your event sponsors and partners.