When you sponsor an event you do not buy the right to bore or offend the audience!

Boring PresentationAt many events, an organisation paying to be a sponsor has an opportunity to give a presentation as part of the package. For event organisers, this is often a necessity, if the tickets are not to be even more expensive and if the organisation can’t draw on member funds.

The chance to speak at an event should be an opportunity to impress the audience and ideally set the stage to win business. However, in many cases, the company that has paid for the slot uses it as an opportunity to bore and/or offend the audience and, IMHO, quite often reduces its chance of winning new business.

What do I mean by bore and offend? The most common problem is when a sponsor simply talks about their product or service, using the slot as a sales pitch. If the product or service is amazingly innovative, or engagingly funny, this can work (e.g. the first time I saw Google Glass pitched I did not mind hearing about the service). But, in most cases, people get irritated when confronted with a sales pitch, or a boring presentation, or the perfect storm of a sales pitch delivered in a boring way.

Other ways of boring or offending audiences include:

  • Knocking other companies’ products and services – this is seen as bad form.
  • Not tailoring the material to the local market.
  • Claiming you invented something or are the first to use something when the audience is unlikely to believe you.
  • Refusing to answer reasonable questions during Q&A. (It is fine if asked about the price to say something like “The pricing depends on the specifics of what you want. Let’s get together after the session and I’ll take you through the options.”)
  • Not being properly practiced or rehearsed.

Sponsors boring or offending audiences represents a ‘lose-lose’ situation for the event and the sponsor. The sponsor loses out because it turns people off wanting to do business with them. The event loses out because people do not want to go to events where they feel people are just selling – in particular, people do not want pay money to be bored or offended.

The solution?
The solution is for sponsors to see their slot as a chance to shine; a chance to show their company in the best possible light. If a company have sponsored the session, they will usually have more freedom about the topic, title, and content than a regular presenter. This freedom is typically used to bore the audience, but it could be used to create a first class presentation that energised and intrigued the audience.

If you are paying thousands of dollars to sponsor an event, put in a bit more time and effort to maximise your investment. For example: pay for a script writer, a designer, and for somebody to help your present better. The sponsored presentations could be the best ones on the programme, creating compelling reasons for people to want to speak with you – but all too often they score the bottom marks on the evaluation form, attract negative tweeting, and bad word of mouth.

As a tweet
“A sponsored slot is not a winning ticket; it’s a ticket to enter the competition. You win by making a great presentation.”