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Organizers ‘set to fail’ by misjudging sponsor ROI needs

Event organizers are “setting themselves up to underperform” by failing to grasp the expectations of sponsors when it comes to ROI, according to an industry expert.

Timothy Skennion, managing director of Derabo Advisory Group, set out his route for planners to uncover exactly what is wanted in this area – with pre-show activities specifically designed to drive alignment around ROI a “mandatory” component of this.

His comments were sparked by new findings in the latest Event Tech Forecast, which includes evidence that achieving good ROI is a major challenge facing eventprofs.

Timothy said: “There is an historical disconnect between organizers and sponsors when it comes to understanding – and ultimately achieving – ROI. The onus for bridging this gap belongs to the organizer.

“I would challenge that most event organizers do not understand their sponsors’ ROI expectations, setting themselves up to underperform from the very outset. 

“Uncovering ROI expectations – with clearly defined markers – through pre-event activities should be a mandatory component of every event sponsorship.  

“Absent this, the organizer has no insight into how to align their team’s behaviors to ensure that ROI expectations are achieved.”event tech forecast

A total of 76% of those who took part in the Event Tech Forecast study chose achieving good exhibitor ROI as a key hurdle they face, comparing this with findings from previous studies suggests this is a persistent yet growing issue facing planners.

This was also found to be the biggest challenge in January 2023 with 55% and 64% in the July edition.

The study surveyed eventprofs on topics such as the biggest opportunities for technology, the most popular AI-powered features, metrics for success as well thoughts on the need for regulation of AI.

It includes in-depth insights and guidance from industry leaders and experts so that organizers can fully understand and make the most of the findings.

Many of the results can also be compared with previous editions of the research to help give eventprofs a long-range view of these trends.

Meanwhile, proving exhibitor ROI came second place for tech opportunities with 60% of respondents choosing it.

This area was also high in the previous edition of the Event Tech Forecast, with 72% of people rating it highly.

Timothy believes it is crucial for organizers to introduce digital solutions that allow any returns made on investments to be clearly understood by partners in their events.

He said: “The need to quantify ROI of any event investment will continue to increase.  Event sponsorships remain one of the single largest line items on marketing budgets.  

“These investments will continue to be scrutinized by senior management and marketers will need to defend potential investments in a highly quantifiable manner.  

“Event organizers should be investing in technology solutions that will help their sponsor partners to clearly understand, quantify and articulate ROI. 

“In addition to technology, organizers should be investing in ‘sponsor success’ resources, to ensure that they are aligned with the sponsor’s ROI expectations – and these teams should be measured against the achievement of the sponsor’s ROI expectations.  

“Post-Covid, there has been an influx of events flooding the market – both returning events and new launches.

“Marketers have too many choices when it comes to event investments and it would behoove organizers to partner with their sponsors around ROI achievement to create differentiation, drive new partnerships and retain and grow existing ones.”

Personalization of event experiences came out on top for where event tech can be grasped as an opportunity, with 64% of the respondents choosing.

However, this year’s edition of the Event Tech Forecast saw community nurturing continue to reduce in popularity, now sitting at fourth place with 44% of people choosing it.

That’s down from 55% in H2 2023 and 64% in January 2023, when it was in the top spot.

Timothy called on event organizers to “significantly” change the way they look at this approach, pointing to the potential for engagement and revenue through year-round touchpoints.

He said: “This is another big miss by conference organizers. Their community is their asset.  

“Curating, engaging and ultimately monetizing their community should be at the forefront of their strategies. 

“Year-round engagement with their communities via content will reduce attendee marketing costs substantially, while providing opportunities for both their speaking faculty and sponsoring partners to share their subject matter expertise with the organizer’s community year round – extending the value of their investment (time and money) well beyond the day(s) of the event. 

“The perception of the event organizer should shift significantly. They should not be viewed simply as a ‘conference organizer’ but as a ‘thought leadership platform’ that happens to also produce conferences.”

Year-round engagement with event audiences offers an organizer a way to draw out monetization opportunities they build around their brand.

The live show will always remain the highlight of any calendar year, but business does not stopped once the venue closes its doors/

A community platform offers ways to bring in revenue way past the expiry date of an event – and even before it starts.

Online marketplaces and sponsorship options are just some of the ways event organizers can benefit from this 365 approach.

Timothy believes this is an important part of how planners can increase the digital component of their budgets.

A total of 72% of survey respondents said they believe this channel will increase in the next year, with no-one saying it would reduce.

Expectations of digital revenue

He said: “Implementing digital solutions that inform and engage attendees year-round will provide the organizer with the opportunity to monetize their audience well beyond the day(s) of the event.  

“Sponsored content, webinars, and research are tried and tested vehicles for driving digital revenue, providing event sponsors with opportunities to access attendees outside of the event year-round, extending the value – and increasing the ROI – of their investment.”

Meanwhile, one of Timothy’s predictions for 2024 is the slow but steady progression of AI-powered features used by eventprofs.

Tools such as ChatGPT made a storm across global industries last year, with many in our industry starting to consider how to implement in their own businesses.

Timothy believes that now that journey has started, the only way is forwards for AI in our industry.

He said: “This will not be a clumsy sprint, but a measured and controlled marathon.  

“Consolidation of the event tech sector through acquisition and divestiture.  I would also expect to see larger conference organizers ‘build or buy’ their own tech platforms versus licensing 3rd parties.

“In addition to creating efficiencies internally, many of these platforms provide access to troves of behavioral data which these organizers can leverage to learn more about their attendees.

“AI was mainly a buzzword for many conference organizers a year ago.

“Over the past 12 months organizers have had the opportunity to understand what AI can and more importantly, cannot do.  

“While there are many AI applications that will enhance the productivity of event teams, provide deeper understanding of audiences, influence agendas, etc, AI is not the silver bullet that many may have felt it was a year ago.”

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