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So, You Want To Grow A Community? Help Your Sponsors Use Their Time Wisely

This is the fourth of a five-part series of a guide that gives you the tools to plan, manage and measure a great technology or creative event—then demonstrate that it can not only impact your community, but also the industry sector surrounding that community, and ultimately, the city-at-large.

This guide is primarily written in the context of my experience living through Portland’s thriving technology and creative communities, and is organized in five sections:

  1. Introduction: why Portland is the perfect place to start, and what to do about it
  2. Plan: write a goal statement that demonstrates depth and details
  3. Manage: help your sponsors use their time wisely (you are here)
  4. Measure: continue to engage after and throughout the event’s lifecycle by using a social intelligence dashboard
  5. The Big Picture: examining Portland’s capacity for creativity and innovation, making a case for more grassroots initiatives

Often, even the most generous and perceptive sponsors are dumbfounded when faced with the prospect of speaking to the event’s audience. What, for instance, should they talk about in what little airtime they have?

In this section, I’m going to switch my gears and speak from a sponsor’s point of view.

The answer is threefold. You, the sponsor, should know your:

  1. Sponsorship objective
  2. Company’s background, and
  3. Event expectation

Before you start, it helps to think of this speaking engagement as a pitch. Remember: your company has paid for this, so it is your responsibility to make your money’s worth.

The first step to building a successful pitch is to know why you or your company, sponsor this event. My personal experience, unfortunately, says otherwise. More often than not, a speaker would say something along the lines of:

Hi. My name is [your name here.] I’m a brand developer at [this company.] We’re a full-service advertising agency with a strong PR front. And we’re trying to, you know, engage in this ‘PR 2.0’ movement. So talk to me if you’re interested. Thanks.

This is fine if you’re a big company with a nearly limitless budget that is able to sponsor any event without breaking the bank. But you’re not them, and this event may be your only chance to get the words out this months.

What should you do? First, know your sponsorship objective.

For instance:

  • If your company is seeking to be the next Facebook, then your objective for sponsoring an event like Lunch 2.0, a monthly informal lunch for tech professionals, is probably to recruit developers and talents for your next big feature release
  • If your company is a design agency that wants to expand into the interactive and social media area, you probably want to discover talents and talk to as many people as possible. Maybe not necessarily to recruit them, but to see which one has the best fit.

Knowing, for example, that your objective is to recruit, the speech now could say:

Hi. My name is [your name here], a brand developer at [this company.] We’re a full-service advertising agency with a strong PR front, who is looking to expand into web application development. And we need talent. If you’re a Ruby on Rails, Java or PHP developers, we want to hire you. Talk to me at lunch.

Better.

The second step is to know your company’s background.

Mind you, aside from the fact that you’ll be asked questions relating to this when you talk to people individually, everyone will say that her company is, in fact, unique, and occupies the number 1 spot in its category.

So you need to change your angle.

If your target is a talented group of developers, you must convince them as to the reason why they should work at your company. Why is your company unique? What would compel them to work there? Is it about the perks? The work environment? The in-house beer tap in the breakroom? The answer can differ wildly, but it must be there. It’s simply not enough to say that you’re “the market leader.”

Knowing this, the speech now could say:

Hi. My name is [your name here,] a brand developer at [this company.] You may know us from our work with Microsoft Silverlight and Nintendo Big Brain Academy. We’re a digital agency that are looking to expand into web application development. We’re searching for people who “get it,” and can get us up to speed in this wild frontier: developers, designers, researchers and anthropologists. We like to surround ourselves with smart, rock star developers. If you’re not getting proper recognition, talk to me during lunch. Thanks!

Again, better.

The third step is to know the event expectation.

Is it big or small, formal or informal? Where is the venue? Is it standing room only, sit-down, or a mix of both? Who will be there? Designers, developers, PR people, a mix of any of the above?

My experience: standing room facilitates more rapid interactions (on a Lunch 2.0 session at Vidoop, I talked to about 20 people over the course of two hours) but is also more chaotic. Conversely, a sit-down venue means slower pace, but is in dan-ger of getting stagnant quicker.

Your speech should consider all these factors. In smaller venue, you could afford being more intimate and allow some interaction. In larger ones, you must be dynamic and move through quickly.

Here is an example of speech for a smaller venue:

Hi. My name is [your name here.] I’m a brand developer at [this company,] an agency who works with Microsoft Silverlight and Nintendo Big Brain Academy, but serve beer at the end of ever week and provide endless bowl of M&M’s. How many of you would consider yourself rock star developers? We’re a digital ad agency who wants you to get us smart and up to speed on web application development. And we’re hiring. So come talk to me at lunch if you’re a developer, designer, researcher or anthropologist. Thanks.”

And a speech for bigger venue:

Hi. I’m [your name here.] I’m a brand developer for a digital agency in town called [this company.] We usually do traditional interactive works around the web, like the ones for Microsoft Silverlight and Nintendo Big Brain Academy, but we decided to come here because we hear that all of you are smart about web application developments. We want you to get us up to speed on that. We’re hiring developers, designers, researchers and anthropologist. Like you, we like to be surrounded by the very smartest people. Talk to me if this sounds like you. Thanks!”

Much better.

Remember, the three rules for creating a better sponsor speech are to know your:

  1. Sponsorship objective
  2. Company’s background, and
  3. Event expectation

With some planning and knowledge beforehand, both the attendees and your company will benefit from it. Now if only there is a way to track all the information surrounding the event…

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5 thoughts on “So, You Want To Grow A Community? Help Your Sponsors Use Their Time Wisely

  1. Great article Bram. I am always wondering what to say and how to say it in such a truncated time period. Sometimes I feel like it is a verbal Twitter!

    Thanks for the information!

    Troy Malone

  2. Pingback: Building Social Intelligence Dashboard: A Real Time Online Content Analysis Tool « Link En Fuego

  3. Allison McKeever says:

    I like the element of simplicity you have outlined with the three bullet points. In all of your examples you positioned the sponsor as seeking new employees, which was their objective for deciding to sponsor the event.What if the sponsor was looking for new clients in order to grow their business? Would this change the game? I don’t think it would be as effective to be that blunt about your intentions if you are a sponsor looking for new business. It would sound rather rude to go up there and say…”

    Hi. I’m [your name here.] I’m a brand developer for a digital agency in town called [this company.] We usually do traditional interactive works around the web, like the ones for Microsoft Silverlight and Nintendo Big Brain Academy, but we decided to come here because we hear that all of you are smart about web application developments and[work with promising companies in the tech industry]. We want to [hear your insights on the industry and where it is headed]. We’re looking for [clients to help us grow our business]. Like you, we like to be [working with] the very smartest [clients]. Talk to me if this sounds like [a service you need]. Thanks!”

    Now the speech sounds too much like a pitch and loses the interest of the audience.

    What do you think is the best way to pitch your services to an audience if you are a sponsor of an event,taking advantage of your stage time?

  4. What do you think is the best way to pitch your services to an audience if you are a sponsor of an event, taking advantage of your stage time?

    This is an interesting question. First of all, you’ll likely to get limited stage time (not that the audience wants you up there any second longer than you need to.) Second, you have to offer something interesting in comparison to every other sponsors.

    From my experience, I found that the most successful sponsor speech is the one that 1) speak well of the audience, and 2) offers value. A speech that only address #1 won’t generate good turnout, and one that address #2 would be “pitchy.”

    I think that addressing both successfully would be key.

    So you could say something along the lines of:
    [This is who we are], [this is why you’ll like what we’re offering], [this is why we need your help].

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