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3 Great Ideas for Sponsor Interaction at Virtual Events

Just like at in-person shows, sponsors want moments of deeper connection with virtual attendees. Here’s how one association provided those opportunities.

When SCTE-ISBE, an association for the cable-telecommunications industry, had to convert its annual Cable-Tec Expo to an online event in late 2020, the issue of sponsor ROI was top of mind for the planning team. 

Zenita Henderson, vice president of marketing and business development for SCTE-ISBE, knew that it would be a selling point to sponsors that the online version would draw more attendees than the physical show, which is the largest cable-industry event in the western hemisphere. On the other hand, she and her planning team also knew that the sponsor activations would have to deliver sufficient interaction with attendees.  

1.Sponsor Showcase
To start, SCTE-ISBE created a sponsor showcase through Freeman’s OnlineEvent Pro platform, paired with matchmaking app Grip, which drew on keywords and product-related interests that attendees entered into the system when they registered. Besides facilitating pre-scheduled meetings, the system promoted on-the-spot interactions too. Whenever an attendee entered the showcase area, sponsors with matching keywords in their profiles received an alert and could ask the attendee a question in hopes of getting a one-on-one video meeting. For the 70 participating sponsors, the showcase generated more than 1,300 attendee interactions. 

2. Virtual Small-Group Tours
Taking the showcase concept a step further, SCTE transitioned its “CTO tour” on-site offering to the virtual medium. Each tour consists of five chief technology officers who meet with a sponsor for a 20-minute demonstration of new products, previews of coming products, and small-group discussion of technology-related issues and challenges. In many instances, a group of CTOs will move along together to meet several sponsors, which builds camaraderie and facilitates deeper dialogue. 

While these tours are easily coordinated in small meeting spaces for the in-person event, SCTE had to build an area on its virtual platform to accommodate the tours, including video-chat capability for participants. Fortunately, the platform gave both attendees and sponsors what they wanted. “The tours were a great opportunity to interact with our customers but also to meet new people,” said Jan Ariesen of Technetix, one of the event sponsors. “We generated more leads than we have in previous years on site.” 

3. Discussion Hosts
Lastly, to connect sponsors with attendees through thought leadership, SCTE invited its top “corporate alliance partners” to host 30-minute panel discussions rather than run typical product-focused sessions. To boost immediacy and the value of the real-time event, each virtual panel was only accessible at a specific time and date and was promoted through email and social media. Some panels were pre-recorded and some were done live, but all of them offered audience interaction with panelists through a real-time Q&A period at the end. 

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