April 17, 2013 by Mike Hillwig
I’m not sure if we got lucky or that our sponsors just assumed that Adam Machanic was running our event. For some reason, as soon as we announced our event, the sponsors started coming in. We had a good number of sponsors, and I didn’t have to shake any of them down for money. I jokingly say that I blame this on Adam. But the fact of the matter is that Boston has a pretty decent sized user community. And we have tons of people within a two hour drive of our event. That meant I could give my sponsors some good leads.
From the word GO, I had other event organizers telling me that dealing with sponsors would become a full time job. They weren’t too far off. From the very beginning, I established that I had two responsibilities to our sponsors. First, my responsibility to our sponsors was to give them the best exposure possible to my user community. Second, I had an obligation to spend our sponsors’ money in the most responsible way to give my user community the best event possible. Not that they would, but if my sponsors wanted to know how we spent their money, I could give them an accounting down to the penny.
Here are a few things I learned in this event.
Each sponsor cares about something different. Some sponsors want a good table location, while other sponsors want to get their printed material in people’s hands. And some sponsors wanted to get their technical people in front of an audience. And some sponsors just wanted to give away their goodies.
Some sponsors are easier to work with than others. The folks at Melissa Data were amazing to work with before the event. And the day of the event, nobody is better than Confio. And locally here in Boston, The folks at Quest/Dell are fantastic. Prior to our event, I never talked to the people at Pragmatic Works. The day of our event, they showed up, were professional, and knew what they were doing. THOSE are the sponsors you want to work with.
We also had a sponsor who came in at the last minute. Because we were tight on space, I comped a sponsorship for someone who paid for our speaker dinner. They got the short end of that stick and I promised myself that I will take care of them next year.
Some sponsors are organized to a fault. Others will just show up the day of your event and assume they own you. But all in, I worked with a pretty amazing group of sponsors.
Some sponsors communicate well within their own teams. Others do this very poorly.
If there is any one key lesson I learned, it’s that you have to know who will be participating in your raffle and to make sure you get the SpeedPASSes right. I had one sponsor that didn’t get raffle tickets printed on the SpeedPASS, meaning they had to have people fill out little forms. And I had people looking for the raffle box for a sponsor that wasn’t doing a raffle item.
With sponsors, there is no such thing as over-communicating. Next year, I plan on having a “News for our Sponsors” method of communicating news to them.