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COVID19

3 Easy Ways To Monetize Your Virtual Happy Hours

By Association Non-Dues Revenue, Sponsorship Sales No Comments

Chances are you’ve attended at least one virtual “happy hour” over the last six months. Perhaps it was a “virtual lunch” or “virtual breakfast” instead.

As with everything in our lives, COVID-19 has (temporarily) put an end to traditional networking, instead leaving us to connect with colleagues and clients via apps like Zoom and Run the World. Not only should your organization be taking advantage of these virtual networking opportunities, but they should also be making every attempt possible to monetize them.

Here are our suggestions for making the most out of your next virtual Happy Hour:

 

  • Have an ongoing series of “lunch and learns” showcasing your members. Simple enough, right? The benefits to this are two-fold: Your members can introduce a new program/service/product to other interested parties within your industry, and by charging a small fee you can make some money off the event. We suggest holding the sessions on a regular basis so that as many of your member groups can partake as possible. (You can also hold them in a “demo day” format, as we did with ASAE this past summer).

 

  • Send out sponsored swag bags (virtual or physical). Who doesn’t love a good swag bag? If you have the RSVP list for an upcoming event locked down far enough in advance, you may want to consider some type of swag bag to attendees to make them feel like they are truly part of the action. Virtual swag bags are great for sponsors who don’t mind sharing electronic content (i.e. videos, PDFs, image files). Physical swag bags, on the other hand, are a bit more costly because they need to be shipped to the attendees — but they can be filled with traditional swag options like koozies and fidget spinners. This is a great option for an event with multiple sponsors; you can have each sponsor pitch in for an item (or two) so they get promotional value long after the event is over.

 

  • Mix up your next networking event through sponsored door prizes and other fun & games. Virtual happy hours may not be the same as in-person ones, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them a fun experience for all by adding structure, format, and fun! We recently sponsored a “Virtual Wine & Tasting Happy Hour”, in which participants received bottles of wine paired with specialty nuts, spreads, and crackers to enjoy during the event. You can also get a sponsor to pay for a hosted conversational game like “The Very Interesting Game” to make the event interactive and get players or views laughing? It can be shaped into a lightly competitive format, and even divided into teams depending on the number of participants in your event. If activities aren’t your thing, try having sponsors provide door prizes and/or discounted services that can be raffled off to attendees. Not only will people be more likely to attend — and participate in the event — but the likelihood that they’ll come to future happy hours (and bring a friend or two along) will increase as well!

 

Want to learn more about how your association or non-profit can benefit from sponsored happy hours, webinars, and other virtual events?  We’d be happy to have a conversation to share what we have seen work for other events and markets.  Email us today to set up a free consultation.

PAI Case Study: Emerging Stronger by Navigating Whitewater in an Uncertain Time

By Association Non-Dues Revenue, Expo Sales, Sponsorship Sales No Comments

In business, and in life, there is a saying people use “when things get back to normal, back to the way things were…” and the image of calm waters and clear sailing come to mind. Bringing forward the vision of a rowing crew all in line, all rowing in unison. At the same time, what if we are living in the new normal? More whitewater rapids, challenging us as teams and individuals to maneuver differently, quickly responding to the rocks and fast water swirling around us?

It has been over four months since we started operating in this brave new world. For the PAI sales team, this journey has taken us through quite a few rapids and challenging twists – especially during March and April. In the earliest phases, there was a prevailing feeling of emergency, as if taking on whitewater, and operating in a reactive/crisis management mode. We kept moving forward and making headway, taking it one day at a time.

 

In the early phase, we were guided by our instincts and principles which said to double-down on the people – to focus on the relationships and to listen intently to all stakeholders.

 

It was a deeply personal phase. Instead of focusing on specific outcomes and results, we found our mission was stewardship. Care and empathy heightened in all encounters, having a positive human interaction was the payoff – on a one-by-one and daily basis.

We’re not sure exactly when, but one week in late April we rounded our latest bend only to find that we were stronger, wiser, and filled with a vision that was fast taking shape. It did not occur all at once, but our collective experience with fellow industry members, clients, and their constituents became the very fuel that provided clarity in how best to embrace the new reality.

 

We emerged with a clearer purpose, leadership in thinking, and a proactive approach to delivering for our clients. By being “on the water,” we gained conviction along with a proof of concept.

 

Several members of our sales team were actually out in Las Vegas attending North America’s largest trade show the week that the World Health Organization declared the novel Coronavirus to be a pandemic. Meanwhile, another client was scheduled for two of their own in-person tradeshows five weeks later, to be held in Dallas. PAI had all but completed their selling cycles, with more than $1 million in revenue sold and in the bank. Immediately we were in emergency calls with the client’s executive team and planning committee. The events were initially postponed before ultimately being cancelled.

Our client looked to us for guidance as to how to handle payments from both attendees and exhibitors/sponsors — including whether or not to issue refunds or credits. Instead, we suggested a different take.

 

“Pay It Forward” Vs “Refund”

Our solution was to adopt a “pay it forward” approach, allowing sponsors and exhibitors to use the money they were planning on spending at the April conferences towards the association’s events either in the fall or 2021. We crafted a position statement that allowed us to both to be in lock-step alignment with our client but to also be able to use a credit policy and position in all communication. It included an “appeal to spirit” to support the association during an unprecedented time.

For the canceled events, we had already executed a 15-month sales program. We swung into action and immersed in a new campaign, calling each and every sponsor and exhibitor. We tracked every single engagement, “selling the association” and its shows all over again, starting with the largest supporters. We implemented new processes for the new cycle.

Weekly updates were shared, trends were ascertained. We encountered companies that insisted that they must have a refund, yet we dealt with all with grace and latitude, becoming optimistic that a majority of companies would accept a credit option.

 

Retained 70% of Events Support Revenue

Ultimately, we were able to help our client retain approximately 70% of their support revenue. By serving as goodwill ambassadors for our client association, we also strengthened our trust and relationships with the more than 200 companies involved in the shows. Moreover, as a service provider, we gained invaluable insight and expertise about ways to take control on the water and navigate the currents successfully.

 

Keep Your Head Above Water

As a result of this experience, we learned the following:

  • Don’t panic, keep paddling – when your organization hits rough water and challenges its always best to keep moving forward and it the right direction.
  • Have a team that can be trusted and fully on-board before you hit the water – by working with key support people and teams before hitting whitewater you increase your likely hood of making it through and onward no matter the challenge. Having them on your team before the challenging times helps you respond quickly.
  • Navigate based on a direction – Sometimes the first response might not be the best one. Take a moment to know the direction and the plan you are hoping to follow. Pulling over to the side for a moment to plan out the next few miles in a challenging time can allow you to not waste effort or time. Refunds seem like the right response when you are in the middle of the being bombarded by calls, but with a little planning and working with a trusted advisor you can come up with a better way to support the mission and not drain the needed financial resources.

Our experiences from early in the pandemic continue to guide us proactively as we shape and deliver solutions during these “new normal” times.

The ‘New Normal’: 3 Tips for Resuming In-Person Events in a Post-COVID19 World

By Association Non-Dues Revenue, Expo Sales, Sponsorship Sales No Comments

It’s no secret that the novel Coronavirus has changed the face of the event marketing industry both in 2020 and, potentially, for years to come.

But as with many other facets of our daily life, the industry’s future success hinges on how well it adapts to the “new normal” created by the pandemic. The appetite still exists for in-person events; a recent study by TradeShowLogic found that just 14% of respondents do not see themselves attending and/or exhibiting at one or more in-person trade shows or conferences over the next year.

So with that in mind, how can your association best plan for its remaining 2020 (and upcoming 2021) in-person conferences so they both create revenue and protect the health and safety of all those involved? Below are some suggestions we’re using with our clients to help them prepare for their upcoming in-person events.

 

Bigger is Better

Given the CDC’s recommendation for six-foot spacing, one of the easiest ways to adapt is by increasing the amount of open space throughout your conference. In exhibit halls, this can be as simple as widening the aisles between booths, as well as setting up a one-way traffic flow to keep people as distanced as possible. Some clients are even limiting the number of people allowed in each room by reducing the number of entrances/exits and using tally counters.

Should you find yourself needing to redesign your exhibit hall’s floorplan to accommodate for better social distancing measures, there are several tools you can use (including this one from Allseated) that account for local and state guidelines.

 

Additional Sponsorship Opportunities

While the removal of exhibit booths to comply with social distancing measures may impact your overall profit margins, opportunities exist for you to make up a sizeable amount of that revenue through one-off sponsorship opportunities related to the pandemic.

Why not let sponsors pay for cloth facemasks that can be distributed at the start of the conference to all attendees? You can have either a single sponsor foot the bill for the masks, or have multiple vendors chip in, with the size of their logos on the mask determined by that company’s contribution amount. Sponsors can also pay for travel-sized bottles of hand sanitizer or facial tissues to be distributed on-site, as well as stand-alone hand sanitizer and water stations.

You can also have sponsors pay for the additional signage needed to enforce the additional safety measures, provided their logo appears prominently on the signs.

 

Increased Digital Presence

These days, most major conferences use an online platform like eShow or Cvent to help manage the logistics of their event. Many of these programs already offer solutions that can help minimize the need for contact at conferences and trade shows, including but not limited to:

  • QR codes on conference badges: By printing a QR code that links to the attendee’s profile from your event’s main database on every conference badge, exhibitors and attendees alike can easily trade information with one another without making contact with one another. As an added bonus, exhibitors can use the QR codes to enter attendees into raffles or send follow-up emails with brochures and other information about their products and services – making the event paperless and environmentally friendly.
  • RFID tag in conference badges: If you’re worried about crowd control at your event, consider adding a RFID tag to your conference badges. While costly, the tags will allow you to track your attendees – making it easier to focus on crowd control efforts.
  • Virtual Swag Bags: Rather than distribute collateral on-site, why not send all of your attendees a “virtual swag bag” filled with sponsor-provided content. This can be a video demonstration of their product or service, PDF brochures about their company, or even coupons for future purchases. Plus, by having sponsors pay for the content inside the bag, the cost to you is minimal.

 

What is your association doing to adapt to the changes created by the coronavirus pandemic? Have any of the above solutions worked for you? Do you have any suggestions you’d like to add? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.