Quick Tips on Virtual vs. In-Person Event Sponsorship

By: Mark Fisher
event sponsor presenting at virtual event

Many meeting organizer debates are currently taking place on whether a virtual conference can bring as much ROI to sponsors as an in-person conference. There are pros and cons to both types of events, but putting on your event marketing hat a little differently can help drive home the best return.

As a meeting organizer, it is in the best interest of your sponsors to help them reach their event marketing goals whether an event is virtual, hybrid or in person. Here are some tips on some popular similarities and differences there are between virtual and in person events. Keeping in mind that the options will vary based on the virtual platform being used.

What are the similarities?

Just like you would for an in-person event, prioritize what your audience really wants. Focus on providing valuable information that’s clear and easy to use, and present it through an experience that’s engaging and relevant to your audience.

Just like an in person tradeshow, you can’t just sit in a virtual booth awaiting someone to visit you so some actions to take are:

  • Develop a Coherent Brand Message: Create a simple branding message that can be understood at a glance.
  • Personalize Calls to Action: Make your CTA web link a show-specific, targeted information or an option to setup a one-on-one meeting.
  • Reward Desired Behavior: Include an incentive such as a raffle, product discount or other free content.
  • Communicate Clearly: Distribute pre- during and post-event marketing communication to attendees.
  • Create Engagement Opportunities: Whether in-person, virtual, or hybrid—the value of an event is building meaningful connections. Sponsors are eager to connect, engage, and bring value to attendees. Sponsored sessions, happy hours, and sponsored Q&As can be great ways to meet and connect with attendees.

What are the differences?

For a start, while virtual events may not quite offer the face-to-face connections a physical event can offer or duplicate the atmosphere in the room, they can improve the quality, reach and longevity of a physical event.

Removing geographic barriers not only extends the reach of your event, it may also provide you with access to better speakers, either broadcasting live, or pre-recorded at a time of their choosing. All of this means great value for your sponsors.

A virtual event can open up new ways of connecting. In some ways networking can actually be easier virtually.

Event attendees are generally interested in seeing what vendors have to offer. There are tons of tools out there that we don’t yet know about, and by chatting it up with booth reps on a virtual events platform, we can learn a lot about what’s new and what’s possible, all without feeling the pressure of buying anything.

At a physical event, we often avoid eye contact or try to browse datasheets while dodging overzealous sales reps. At virtual summits, we can take our time and browse what we want when we want. It is a much more relaxing experience.

Participating in virtual platform options such as web-linked graphic advertisements and gamification can also assist with increased sponsor engagement, survey participation and reaching your target audience.

Take Time to Educate Sponsors on Opportunities Available

It is recommended that not only meeting planners train their sponsors on the virtual platform being used for the event, but also educate on the tactics noted above to help sponsors reach their goals.

Now you understand some of the similarities and differences awarded to sponsors when they invest in virtual events, it’s time to get creative with your strategy. The good news: The same—if not more—sponsorship opportunities are available.

Mark Fisher
Mark Fisher

Mark has been a marketer for over 25 years. After receiving a bachelor's degree in communications from the University of California, San Diego, he spent several years with Ziff Davis Corporation. While at Ziff Davis, he created event marketing plans for some of the largest high-tech tradeshows, meetings and events in the industry. In other roles, Mark was able to explore meeting and tradeshow planning, promotions, and event marketing in the pharmaceutical industry, associations, franchise and other industries. Mark was also a Marketing Manager for the Life Sciences group at Microsoft Corporation. He has had articles published in event magazines and is an established speaker at Exhibitor Show, Healthcare Exhibition Association (HCEA) and Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA) events. Mark continues to be an instructor in the Meeting Planner program at San Diego State University. Currently, he holds the position of Senior Sponsorship Event Manager at ITA Group.