10 tips on how to make your virtual conference sponsorship a success!

For the past year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual sponsorship has become the norm rather than the exception at scientific conferences. With most events taking place exclusively virtually, companies are seeking alternative ways to stay connected to their users and potential customers. One way is supporting a scientific conference as a virtual sponsor and companies have increasingly been taking advantage of the benefits these packages offer. Undeniably, sponsoring a virtual conference is an entirely different experience from sponsorship at in-person meetings. Therefore, based on a year of experience, we have put together a list of tips and tricks to help you make the best out of your virtual sponsorship.

1. Define your goals and set priorities

Sponsorship goals may vary from company to company. While one company may aim for wider brand recognition, others may look for ways to generate leads or introduce a new product. Taking this step back to reflect on your goals will help you choose the best package for your needs and define your overall approach to achieve these goals.

2. Find out more about the virtual event platform

There are various virtual conference programs in use throughout the event industry. Inquire in advance about the software features that are relevant to your goals and do not shy away from asking the organisers about what worked previously and what didn’t. We pursue open communication with our sponsors and are happy to clarify all details in advance.

3. Choose your sponsorship package

Now that you have set your goals and know more about the virtual event platform, it is time to select the most suitable sponsorship package – it can either be a set package or one specifically tailored to your needs. Get in touch with the organisers to discuss the options.

4. Get ready for the event

Depending on the package you book and the opportunities the virtual conference platform offers, prepare all the necessary materials and content. For instance, if your goal is to generate more leads, prepare a sign-up form on your webpage and link your virtual booth to it. Keep in mind the deadlines so as not to miss any networking opportunities with the attendees.

5. Be creative

Understanding the format and the needs of the virtual audience is essential for your success. We now know that more interpersonal interaction and networking is something that many participants wish for at virtual events. You could address this need by offering quizzes or games at your booth with the chance to win prizes such as attractive merchandise products, discounts, or vouchers. Many of our participants are interested in career opportunities, so this is also a good way to engage them.

6. Highlight your sponsorship

Your participation at the virtual conference is not only a possibility to reach out to attendees but also the opportunity to create digital marketing content for your own audience. You can highlight your sponsorship and your support of the scientific community in your social media, newsletters, and website posts. Make sure to use the event hashtag in your post and don’t hesitate to ask us to provide you with the event visual.

7. Be curious, get involved

Take an active part in the conference, visit talks and posters to understand the participants’ research-associated needs and problems. This way you will be able to offer suitable solutions by your company.

8. Use networking opportunities

Your participation at networking activities can be the first step in engaging virtual participants. This is important to gain visibility and could encourage more visits to your booth. Make use of as many conference platform features as possible for better networking, e.g. fill out your profile, write about your interests and put in relevant keywords for better searchability. If you are interested in meeting specific people, request a virtual meeting with them via the platform. Once you’ve made a new acquaintance, do not forget to send them your virtual business card.

9. Request analytics

After the conference, do not hesitate to ask the organisers to provide you with some post-event analytics. For data privacy reasons, no personal details can be shared, but you can still get some anonymised statistics about the traffic at your booth or talk views. This will help you evaluate the success of your campaigns during the conference and will show if you need to make any tweaks for future events.

10. Give feedback to the organisers

For us, virtual conferences are a new domain so we rely heavily on the attendees’ and sponsors’ feedback to help us improve our services and their experience. We are eager to receive your feedback so please do not hesitate to pass this on to us. You can do this by either filling in the feedback surveys circulated at the end of the conference, or communicating it directly to our sponsorship and conference officers. We carefully look into the feedback provided by our sponsors and see which suggestions can be implemented in the future.

In times of restricted face-to-face interaction, it is important to stay in touch with the scientific community. Engaging relevant audiences in the scope of a virtual sponsorship is one way to keep their interest and stay abreast of any research developments. Do you feel ready to give it a go? Get in touch with us or check our sponsorship brochure to find out more about the sponsorship opportunities at our upcoming conferences.

 

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How can conference exhibitors and sponsors help your research?

Matthias with several participants from the EMBL Conference: Transcription and Chromatin 2018. From left to right: Adam Whisnant (University of Würzburg), Melvin Jesus Noe Gonzalez (Francis Crick Institute), Matthias Spiller-Becker (Active Motif Europe), Gabriel Villamil (Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry). PHOTO: EMBL Events

Meet Matthias Spiller-Becker, Key Account Manager at Active Motif Europe. Matthias acquired his PhD degree in Biology at the Centre for Molecular Biology Heidelberg (ZMBH) where he focused on chromatin and the regulation of the centromere in Drosophila. Now in his 7th year at the company, Matthias is one of the most familiar faces at our conferences on transcription, chromatin and epigenetics – always friendly and welcoming. The popularity of the Active Motif booth at these events has not gone unnoticed, so we asked him what the secret to this success is and what tips he can give to conference attendees when approaching exhibitors.

How many events does your company exhibit at annually? 

In general we participate in about 50+ conferences and meetings/workshops each year, globally. But it’s not only the big and medium-sized conferences that are important to us. We often try to be present at more intimate, local events. Sometimes we sponsor chromatin clubs where only a couple of students and postdocs come together to share their latest research. And we also do a lot of tech talks where we discuss cutting-edge techniques to study gene regulation.

In the era of digital advertising, why do you still choose to be physically present at conferences?

Talking to people face to face changes EVERYTHING!

I think that’s a statement of holistic truth in life! You don’t trust companies in the first place – you trust people. You don’t buy your antibodies or reagents from companies. You buy from people!

And even more: you don’t give away your scientific baby (aka outsourcing your project) to strangers – you give it to people you know and trust. Sure, it happens a lot that folks in the lab search an assay on the web and inform themselves about alternatives on the market before making their “informed” decision, but that is often not the end of the story. It turns out that students and postdocs mostly need to get in touch with us at some point during the experimental process to further discuss their project. And surprisingly often, this first interaction happens at conferences as in “hey, are you working for Active Motif…I think we used your antibody. Can I ask you something?…”. Moreover, being physically present at the conferences is the only way to stay current with cutting-edge research. We discuss with people at their posters and also join the conference sessions in order to see the latest and future trends in chromatin and gene regulation research.

Apart from presenting their newest technology and developments, what else can exhibitors offer participants?

Networking, distraction, fun, and a “Staun-Anlass” (hard to translate that word but probably a reason to positively wonder nails it). Basically, you want to be the red bean in a jar full of green beans. You want to be distinct and recognised among others, leaving a positive impression that lasts.

During my PhD, I always liked companies that didn’t come around too stiff at conferences, but were more approachable”. As a student it takes courage to cross the invisible boarder at a company booth – you don’t want to end up in the web of the sales spider. You are afraid that the company representative might talk you into buying something you never really wanted.

I know this feeling personally – so I try to avoid that when talking to people. My daily goal (whether at a conference or elsewhere) is to be able to help people a bit further. Having a chat at the conference booth can do many things. For example, you may learn that the problem you are discussing with the exhibiting company is indeed a bigger one that’s not to be solved easily. That’s great information! You may also hear that your problem is actually easy to address and solve – even better! You may get info about peers in the same boat as you => networking!

And last but not least, you may simply want to use the chance of talking to people in industry to get an idea about their journey in life & science => career chat!

I try to offer all the above to the people that get in touch with me during a conference!

The Active Motif booth at the EMBO|EMBL Symposium: Metabolism Meets Epigenetics (2019). PHOTO: EMBL Events
What tips can you give participants on how to approach exhibitors?

DON’T BE SHY! Just go and talk to them.

Of course, you need to choose your battles. Often it helps to orient yourself first. Do you already know the company? Is there an overlap between your research and them? If not, just read their banners and roll-ups. Sounds trivial but many people don’t do that. A company would hopefully try to have the most prominent and distinct features of their capabilities written or otherwise sketched out on their banners. If you don’t find any overlap there, I would not necessarily approach them.

But beware: company roll-ups can be like lab websites. Some truths are stated, and some are hidden, so even if your fancy new technique is not mentioned there, as long as the company topic seems to fit your science, go check them out.

If you just want a pen or some chocolate but otherwise, they don’t interest you – simply tell them upfront. You will still get your sweets but honestly, how many pens does a single person need?! 🙂

Can you give an example of a mutually beneficial collaboration that has arisen at your booth through your presence at a conference as an exhibitor?

There are so many examples. It frequently happens that conference participants approach me and tell me that they have an issue with a given technique, mostly Chromatin IP. It turns out that talking them through the experiment step by step often yields at least one weak spot in the setup.

A classic is that people often use the same amount of antibody for ChIP, independent of the varying targets and the respective antibody clones they may use. This is (like many protocol-related “facts” in the life sciences) a dogmatic – or nearly a religious – topic. People can be determined to use “always 2 µg of antibody”. Then you ask them “but did it work when using 2 µg?” and they may need to admit that “no, it didn’t”.

This is a good example that talking with a person outside your own lab can help you to critically re-consider an established protocol, and see things from a new angle.

Another example is that some projects can truly benefit from outsourcing parts of it. Everybody does it in academia but they mostly call it a “collaboration”.

You can take it a step further and outsource parts of your work to a company that offers paid scientific services. This “commercial relationship” can truly boost creativity and assay development. A company that does ChIP-Seq as a paid research service for years will always see more model organisms, more common and uncommon obstacles and more antibody targets than any other lab working only on their own project.

What approach do you use to get into contact with participants?

“It’s just me, myself and I” LOL…

No, it’s not 100 % like that but mostly…you need to simply engage the people!

I try to see every interaction with a person as the most important one in my life at that specific moment. I tend to call that my “Dalai Lama approach”.

How else can you do it!? At Active Motif, we often use our chromatin-related T-shirts to break the invisible barrier between conference audience and the booth. People usually like nerdy science shirts and ours are no exception to that rule. I mostly play a game where people can win the shirts or at least have some distraction from the packed conference program. Often, I implement a little quiz session: people need to give me one or two lines about their research and I create a question around it. If they can answer it, they can play the game to win a shirt. This shows them that we belong to the chromatin community and they often feel more encouraged to talk about a given experiment or planned project.

Is there anything you always wanted to try out at a conference but didn’t do yet?

YES! In a perfect world, I would want to sit in a tweed jacket in my very British armchair, a boiling tea kettle next to me…people can sit down in my little chromatin tea room called “The Nucleosome” and have a relaxed chat around gene regulation and epigenetics with me, or do some networking with others.


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5 tips to drive more traffic to your exhibition booth

 

Sponsoring and exhibiting at events is still one of the major ways for companies to showcase their products and technology to relevant audiences. Companies spend a lot of time choosing the events they go to every year, but once they decide comes the big question – “How do we stand out from the crowd?”

There are various articles and ideas out there on how to effectively drive traffic to your booth, but from what we have seen, the methods you choose largely depend on the size of the audience, the competition onsite and the creativity of your booth personnel.

Here are 5 tips that have proven effective for life science conferences of 100-450 participants.

  1. Forget the flyers!

People have not flown thousands of kilometers to take your flyer back home. Companies love to produce promotional flyers that don’t say much and are destined to land in the bin. Rather, bring free samples and loads of free goodies. If you are marketing an instrument, bring it onsite and offer free demos.

  1. Bring in some colour!

In a previous post, we put together the logos of all of our supporters from last year, and one thing we noticed was that the predominant colour of choice for most of the companies was blue. Although you may not be able to change the corporate colours of your company, you could try to bring some bright colours to your booth – e.g. goodies in rainbow colours. You would be surprised what the effect of such a small thing would be.

  1. Spark joy!

When at a conference, people are usually suffering from jet lag, sleep deprivation and dehydration. And while you cannot make all of this go away, offering a good cup of coffee, tea, hot chocolate or ice cream can make you the hero of the day.

  1. Unleash your creativity!

When choosing your goodies, try to think outside of the box. People don’t need another pen or notepad. Try to put yourself in their shoes and think what you would like to keep as a giveaway. If you have to go with a standard giveaway, then at least try to integrate more than one function in it, e.g. I still carry around a pen/screwdriver I got at a conference 10 years ago and have since used it on many occasions. You may also want to consider offering some giveaways for children, such as colouring books, stuffed toys (e.g. shaped as bacteria or cells) or games.

Another great way to engage your audience is to offer interactive activities at your booth, such as short fun games, puzzles, quizzes, fun facts about your products, or virtual reality glasses.

  1. Be an active participant!

Try to attend as many lectures as possible during the conference. The scientific lectures will not only bring you up-to-date to the latest research in the field, but will also help you put your company in the context of this research when talking to participants onsite.

Don’t forget the poster sessions. By understanding the research of your potential customers you can more readily identify their needs and bring suitable solutions to their attention.

Last but not least, social events are always a great platform to meet people in a more informal atmosphere and break the ice.

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