Steve Smyth Event Publishing Tips

Event Sponsorships – maximizing revenue without selling out


October 19, 2007

By Steve Smyth

With most of the event publications we publish for clients, we sell the advertising that supports the costs of providing these services to the attendees. Since we have relationships with many of the agencies handling marketing decisions for the exhibitors at these events, we are often asked by our clients to enhance the event’s revenue picture by including sponsorships into the marketing mix we present to these buyers. But before we begin the sales process, we always do an analysis of the sponsorship opportunities that the group wants to make available.

One reason we insist on the analysis– many, many groups seem to be taking a “more is better” approach to the sponsorship opportunities they offer, believing that the only way to increase revenue is to continually add choices to the mix. While this method of revenue growth might work short term, it can also lead to a program that confuses prospects, devalues otherwise smart marketing opportunities and worst of all – may lead to a marketing “overload” that turns off attendees.

A better approach involves taking a hard look at the attendee-exhibitor dynamics of your event and gaining a solid understanding of the outcomes your exhibitors and supporters are expecting from their investment.

Here are some suggested steps for evaluating your sponsorship program:
1. Discuss and Discover
Have some frank discussions with your core exhibitors and event supporters to find out what their business goals are for participating in your event. If you have an EAC – make use of this group, or set up some focus groups to help uncover their expectations. If you’re not focusing your sponsorship opportunities so that these goals can be realized, you need to redesign what you’re offering – or introduce new opportunities.

2. Research New Options
Use your peer network to investigate new sponsorship opportunities and programs that may work well for your event. You can also make use of the many active industry listserves to query for some best practices. Here’s some links to use:
IAEE:  www.iaee.org,
MiForum: http://groups.google.com/group/MiForum
MECO: http://www.meetingscommunity.org

One thing to keep in mind about “best practices” – just because some sponsorship opportunities work well for other groups, it doesn’t automatically spell success for yours. For example, with some events in-room bathroom mirror clings will be a hit while with other more conservative audiences, this could be a disaster. Know your audience – and apply what you’ve learned from your exhibitor discussions to come up with a sound strategy. There are many, many options out there – but some require creative adaptation to fit. I’ve built a fairly extensive list of opportunities over the years- if you’d like a copy, just send an email to me at: ssmyth@tristarpub.com and I’ll share it with you.

3. Evaluate your program- every year.
Armed with your exhibitor’s expectations and create ideas cleaned from the market, your in a good position to evaluate your current sponsorship offerings with an eye toward improvement. Do this every year – eliminate those which don’t provide value to attendees or exhibitors; implement new ones that add value to both. By carefully examining your program and staying proactive with key stake holder expectations, your financial success will follow!

If you have additional tips on how to improve sponsorship programs, send in your thoughts!

Greening your Meeting Publications


October 17, 2007

By Steve Smyth

Al Gore wins the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to alert the world to the dangers of climate change; “green meetings” initiatives are sprouting up through grass roots campaigns and new national organizations – it’s no wonder that moving toward “paperless” conferences is a hot topic aimed at helping your event keep up with the environmentally conscious imperatives being pursued today.

Going “paperless” is not at all new of course, but the social consciousness connected with today’s push is clearly much more emotionally charged than the “paperless” hype brought about by the technology innovations presented with portable media (CD, DVD’s, thumbdrives, and perhaps most portable of all- the web). Back then, the benefits were cost reductions achieved through cutting out print and the addition of sophisticated search and storage capabilities present with the new technology. Today, the technologies are even more impressive and going “paperless” helps brand your event and organization as socially responsible.

But being socially responsible AND ultimately responsible for successfully implementing everything your attendees are expecting to receive from your meetings and events can be a difficult balancing act. Meetings are about human interaction, education …..

Here are three quick thoughts on how you can start the greening process of your event publications:

1. Consolidate
If you offer attendees a stand-alone Program Book, Exhibit Guide and note pad, consider consolidating them into one publication. If you’re worried about losing ad revenue because you’re moving from three back cover premium spots to one – triple the price of the back cover. I guarantee that your advertisers will notice and appreciate the difference if attendees are thoroughly engaged by one publication as opposed to skimmingly acquainted with three. Also, if any of your publications have content redundant to others – carefully consider the purpose and value of each; moving one to an electronic-only format might make sense – and save trees and cost!

2. If you must print – save a few trees in the process
Recycled paper stocks no longer look like the trash they are created with, and pricing for the basic 30% post consumer recycled stock is now in-line with many standard stock varieties. Availability has also dramatically improved – in fact, for nearly all of the event publications we produce nationally in the major markets, 30% post consumer recycled stock is considered “house” paper supply along with vegetable-based ink, so it is our standard issue. Moving all to way to 100% recycled stock can still be a challenge due to scarcity, but expect demand to improve availability. If you’d like more info on sourcing environmentally-friendly paper – check with your local print house. Another good resource can be found here: www.conservatree.com

3. Recycling implies a continuum
Even if you do all you can to make your meeting or event environmentally-friendly from a publications stand point – by reducing printed material and using recycled paper stocks – if your attendees don’t participate in the process, the recycling cycle ends. Make sure that you not only press your event facilities to have appropriate recycling bins abundantly available, but that you reinforce the recycle message to your attendees through signage, notices in the publications produced – and perhaps as a “housekeeping” detail mentioned during session wrap ups. Like many efforts- it takes a community working together to really make a difference.

What other greening tips have you tried- successfully or unsuccessfully – to keep your event publishing environmentally friendly? Let us know!

Next up – Sponsorships – selling without selling out

Event Publishing – Some tips and a note of thanks


October 15, 2007

By Steve Smyth

I recently contributed an article to the ASAE Communications Section Council’s newsletter with a few tips on how to successfully pull off the oftentimes stressful and strenuous task of producing an onsite event daily newspaper. The article was written to assist the association communications folks who often are tasked with these projects – either as project managers or as a liaison working with an outside vendor.

When I was invited to contribute to the mimegasite guru series it occurred to me that a great many of the folks I work with on event publications are actually on the meeting/events side of the house and might also benefit from these tips and suggestions. So, to start things off this week, here are some logistics tips to help you make the event publishing process work more smoothly:

1. Get to know the print process.
If you are tasked with running the show on your event publications, it may be beneficial to get a brief tutorial on the printing process from your publications folks. Or better yet- enlist their assistance in selecting the printer you will use for the project. Not all printers are created equal – and subtle differences in the press type and staffing capabilities can make or break the project.

A good start point to help find potential printers in your next event city can be found at this link provided by the Printing Industries Association: http://www.printaccess.com/perl/pia

2. Budget conservatively. Everything costs more than you think it should when you are producing a tight deadline, overnight turn publication. In addition to the actual printing fees (which can be significantly higher than normal due to overtime staffing requirements), most printers charge from $50 to over $100 per issue to truck your completed papers to each delivery location. If you are arranging hotel delivery to a number of properties in addition to distribution at the convention center or main meeting facility, these costs can quickly add up.

3. Negotiating the big expense – hotel distribution.
When your advertisers buy space conditioned upon hotel room distribution, you do not want to be forced to pay huge fees to each property in order to accommodate this service. Here’s where a meeting professional’s hotel relationships can really have a positive impact. If possible, work door-to-door room distribution into your hotel contracts – even if those contracts are negotiated many years out from the event, you can save big on delivery fees. Hotels are now charging upwards of $2 per room per drop to facilitate the door-to-door distribution of event publications, and if your newspaper is particularly fat with exhibitor advertising – look for that cost to be even higher. Any savings you can negotiate will certainly help the event’s bottom line – and you should make sure to include this savings when you discuss your contributions to the success of the event with senior management. I personally would like to thank every meetings professional who went to bat with the hotels on our event publishing projects – your contribution is huge!

If you have other tips and/or challenging experiences – let’s hear them!

Next up – the “greening” of those event publications.

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