Extraordinary Events Podcast

Ep 58: Turning Down Sponsors

March 09, 2021 Extraordinary Events
Extraordinary Events Podcast
Ep 58: Turning Down Sponsors
Chapters
Extraordinary Events Podcast
Ep 58: Turning Down Sponsors
Mar 09, 2021
Extraordinary Events

How do you create an exclusive event experience for your event attendees? Pick the right sponsors! In this podcast episode, I explain why event sponsors should be strategic for your event, share a personal story explaining what can happen at an event if you do not have the right sponsors, as well as how you can receive a discount code to attend Level Up Your Event Game on April 1st! 

If you want to come to Level Up Your Event Game, send an email to [email protected] and I will send you your own coupon code with money off of the event at registration! 

If you are interested in learning more about Level Up Your Event Game, please visit our website at levelupyoureventgame.com 

Show Notes Transcript

How do you create an exclusive event experience for your event attendees? Pick the right sponsors! In this podcast episode, I explain why event sponsors should be strategic for your event, share a personal story explaining what can happen at an event if you do not have the right sponsors, as well as how you can receive a discount code to attend Level Up Your Event Game on April 1st! 

If you want to come to Level Up Your Event Game, send an email to [email protected] and I will send you your own coupon code with money off of the event at registration! 

If you are interested in learning more about Level Up Your Event Game, please visit our website at levelupyoureventgame.com 

Hello, Hello, my friends! Welcome to our amazing podcast episode today. I just love it so much when I push the record button, and I know that I'm talking to you all, my friends, my podcast family. If you're new to the podcast, welcome! We are a ton of fun, we have a rather unique structure. On Tuesdays we kind of affectionately call it internally lessons and life coaching. We talk about the details, the logistics, the design, the strategy of events, every once in a while we throw in some life coaching. If you didn't know, event planning was one of the top five most stressful careers in the world. And because of that, I do spend some time talking about mindset, the importance of mindset, keeping your life right and doing all of the things. And then if you're new to our podcast, we also release on Thursdays and Thursdays alternate. So every other Thursday, we have a student created podcast, which is a lot of fun. Students can choose to do a podcast, if they want to do one, it is not mandatory, they choose a topic and they do a podcast so they can kind of be involved in the process. And as established event professionals, we can hear about how the next generation's mind is working, how they're approaching problems, how they're approaching mindset. If you are a current student and another university, within my own university, or a potential student, this can also be you, this is probably the same types of things that you're going through. When we have Thursdays that are not student created podcasts, then we feature industry spotlights, a lot of those are former students, which are a lot of fun. Then we just talk about all things life and career and all the things so just love this podcast so much. I cannot believe that I am recording episode number 58 right now. This is tremendous. I am so excited. 

Alright, let's jump into the podcast today. So I have spent a lot of time over the last three weeks talking about sponsorships. Sponsorship the easy way, approaching sponsors, and now is kind of an interesting topic in terms of turning down sponsorship. Now, you might sit there and say,  “Why would you turn down sponsorships?” “Why would you turn down free money?” “Why would you turn down in-kind donations?” And this is really interesting. So I'm going to start with a story right now and I just want to set the scene for you. I had been planning events as part of a team, an executive level team, doing smaller events on my own for probably two years. And I was put on a very large client, I was the lead designer, lead planner. And this was a really, really big association group. They had lots of high profile vendors, lots of high profile sponsors. We had a new executive director of this particular association and she was coming in, she'd been involved in the association for a long time, but she was new in this particular role. Now I had come in and taken all of the feedback from the previous year or two from a previous event planner who was let go and I kind of came in, I was the fixer upper. That's stories for another time about my past life in wedding planning, how I used to fire wedding planners who didn't know what they were doing and then I would kind of come in and pick up the pieces and help the bride's dreams come true. I was kind of doing that for this particular association client. They had a negative experience with a previous person, there was some illegal things going on, which was not good. I was kind of called in to get the books straight, get everything straight and done and handle those partnerships and those relationships. And I really spent a long time looking at the survey data from the past two years and then I went out and did some focus groups, talked to some members. There was a lot of feedback and a lot of the feedback had to do with room setup and being able to see the speakers or the screens. It was a very large event. 

I came in and I took all of that feedback and I redesigned the ballroom. Now, if you have done events for any amount of time, you probably already know that typically ballrooms is just one big rectangle. And then you have air walls. So you can kind of customize the space however you want, depending on how many people you have. I had a very specific layout with these air walls to control the flow of traffic. Now I wanted people to go through my exhibitor show floor to go in and out of the educational sessions, they would also need to go in and out of the exhibitor space in order to go to the bathroom. So there was a lot of interaction with the exhibitors and that meant that those exhibitors had to stay in that particular section of the ballroom.

Now, you can kind of maybe already see where I'm going with this. But granted, good salesperson, good marketing person, we had approached that limit, which was already over what it had been the previous year. We had approached that limit and we still had four people reach out and say I really, really want to exhibit at your show. Now, new executive director, some new members on the committee, they said, “We want to accommodate them.” And I said, “That's awesome. You don't have the space.” And they said, “Well, what if we open up this section of the airwall?”, and I'm like, it is your event. But as a professional as the person you have hired to give you advice and to do the event planning aspects, I'm going to say that you do not want to do that. And this is the reasons why 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, flow of traffic etc, etc. 

Well, after having had issues with the previous event professional, they were lacking some funds, they really needed this money, they decided that they would much rather have these additional vendors and sponsors who were willing to pay a good price to get in front of this target market, and risk the flow and the floor plan snafus in order to get this money. Now you can already see where this is going. The sponsors came in, the vendors they came in, they were partners, strategic partners. And then the floor plan, those air walls had to get opened up, they allowed even more exhibitors to come in, the air wall had to be opened up a little bit more. And then there was no control over the attendee flow, coming in and out of that educational space. And this wouldn't have been the end of the world, we could have redone this entire thing. Except, of course, it's two weeks prior. 

Well, it turns out that the organization and that particular salesperson hadn't properly vetted all of the vendors and looked at their background and their history was a couple of weeks before the event. And they ended up being predator sales type people, they were selling products on the show floor and they were not high quality products. They broke down. They were very pushy sales people who were getting up in the face of our attendees, we had to talk to them multiple times on multiple occasions. It was a very interesting situation. And because of that, and because the air wall was open, people were trying to avoid the exhibitor floor and they were going through the  doors in the air walls to go to the bathroom and to go to other spaces in the venue. 

This might seem like an extreme example, but this is a real life example. This is something that when sponsors approach me, when sponsors want to be part of my events or involved with my students, I am very cognizant of this, I vet them properly, I make sure all of my partner, and sponsor and vendor materials, they all say that I can turn them down, that the agreement can be terminated at any time,  there's lots of strong language about harassing attendees. It's something I'm very cognizant of. And because of that, I would much rather have strategic partners that pay more money that I can really focus on cultivating that relationship, rather than having 20, 30, 40 smaller dollar sponsors, that kind of spread me out too thin, but then also are they really in it for a win-win for our event. 

I've talked in the podcast a little bit before about the student event, that the students are planning and they're working on it and they're soliciting sponsors and partners, and they're just having such a great time and they're just really loving it. But it's one of these key examples in the fact that some people have reached out and said, “Hey, we're interested in being a sponsor!” and us saying, “You're offering an in kind donation for a ticket in the room. And maybe you're not the right person that we necessarily want in the room because we have capped limits. We're saying, “Okay, we only have 100 people in the room, and we have 300 people that want to get into the event. Are you really a strategic person that needs to be in the room? Or are you someone who could attend online and get this important and valuable concept.” I think that that's really a key thing that going forward into the future we really need to focus on, our events need to be a little bit exclusive. Our events definitely need to be experiential and our events have to have the right people in the room. Sometimes the sponsors, the partners, they know that they need or want to be in that room and they've really got to show that they've got to do more in terms of strategy, and being in it with us as the planners than just accepting a check for an eight foot table. I think those days are long over. 

And then how do you approach those people? How do you say to them, like, “Okay, thank you so much for reaching out! We really love your passion and wanting to be involved, we can think of so many ways to be involved. We actually don't necessarily need this product at this point in time, but here's a list of things that we do need, or here's a list of services or ways that you can be strategically involved. And then it puts the ball in their court to say, No, we're not interested and to step away. Or to say, Okay, I really value this relationship so I'm going to step up my game and cultivate this partnership.

I am so, so, so excited, just so excited for April 1 for a variety of reasons. One is this hybrid event that's helping event planners learn how to plan hybrid events effectively, which you know, inception that's so much fun. So that event will be in person and online. Super excited about that. If you are listening to the podcast today and you want to come to the event, send me an email, or an Instagram or a Facebook message. Our email will be in the show notes as will all our contact information, send me a message and say that you heard me talk about the event Level Up Your Event Game. Tell me that you heard about it on the podcast, and I'll send you a coupon code for a pretty good discount. And that way you too can attend the event. I'm super, super excited about it. I want everyone to be here. 

Second, April 1 is the end of the PCMA North American student competition. So PCMA, the Professional Convention Management Association, runs a student competition in a couple of different continents around the world, and one of the ones is the North American Student Competition. I have two teams that are submitting different event proposals. The whole concept of this student competition is student teams essentially design the event of the future. Students come together and follow the event parameters, which are very loosely defined. Then they say this is an event that I'm planning. This is the research, the feasibility, the marketing, the program and logistics, the sponsorships, partnerships, all the things and it's just so amazing. I have two killer teams this year, who are just pouring their heart and soul into it. They are also going to be presenting at the event about their event design of the future. I'm just super pumped. April 1, they also submit that event plan project proposal to PCMA to be evaluated. Stay tuned for that, because there's going to be some amazing things that are coming out of that. 

And Thursday, we have an industry podcast, industry spotlight with Molly Nicola, and she is at the Cornhusker Marriott. She's also an alum of the Hospitality and Tourism Program here at UNL, though that was long before my time here. I just had such a blast talking with her, we are going to be sharing horror stories from the past and we're gonna be talking about her favorite event, what made it her favorite event, and just so many great things. She comes from a unique perspective, because she's an event manager in a venue and she talks a little bit about how the hotels are structured differently on the back end, how you can do just events, even if you're in a venue, you don't have to do sales and I know it's going to be a super informative podcast for everyone listening. 

So with that, I'll be quiet. I'm so excited, turn down your sponsors. But really, do, turn them down. If it doesn't make sense. If it messes up your event, if they're not strategic, if it's not a win win, if you're selling yourself as an exclusive event and there's people that come in at the last moment - turn them down. Say we were so excited to get you involved next year, start cultivating that relationship and don't be scared, you can justify it, have your reasons. Think of them in the back of the mind. And definitely take an event marketing class so you can learn how to reject sponsors in a very polite and amazing way via email. That should be a whole separate podcast. I will write that down on the podcast subject notes, how to use the right words in an email, super important. 

With that I want to thank you all so much for taking the time to make the time I just love and appreciate all of you and keep reaching out on Insta and Facebook and Tik Tok and all the things I love hearing from you. You guys just give me so much energy. With that, I will talk to you on Thursday.