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group of sponsors networking in an expo hall
Katie MoserMay 1, 2024 3:43:59 PM5 min read

How to Make Your Sponsor and Expo Halls More Effective

Eliminate table top exhibits for good.

The standard for conference sponsorships: the 8x10 table with a black table cloth and a few chairs.

The ultimate value-drag.

No one wants to be shoved into a hallway to maybe talk to a couple attendees and hope for the best. And no attendee wants to walk through a bunch of table tops with people staring at them just to be able to grab their coffee.

We all know this is ineffective. Sponsors aren’t getting value out of it anymore, and attendees have honed their avoidance skills.

How can you make sponsorships and exhibits more effective? Here are our recommendations.

group of attendees visiting a sponsorship expo hall

Select Your Sponsors and Exhibitors Carefully

Be very thoughtful about who you’re inviting to sponsor and exhibit. Do your attendees actually want to interact with them? Will their products and services be beneficial to the attendees?

It’s not just about who will spend the most money with you. Just because a company shows interest in sponsoring your event, that doesn’t mean you need to have them exhibit.

When selecting your exhibitors and sponsors, ask these questions:

  • Do their business goals align with ours?
  • Are their product or service offerings beneficial to our attendees?
  • Do their personalities align with your attendees?
  • Will they be active participants in your event?
  • Can they offer creative solutions or ideas to enhance your event (e.g. activations)?

These questions will help guide you toward the most valuable sponsors to bring into your event and highlight. If you have alignment between your company, theirs, and your attendees, the value each group gets out of the event will increase.

group of attendees networking at a corporate event conference

Give Your Sponsors a Playbook

You train your speakers and your staff on how to present and interact with your attendees – why not your sponsors and exhibitors?

Help them be successful by teaching them about how your attendees like to interact. Your playbook can include:

  • The event agenda, with highlights for when exhibitors can expect to see the most foot traffic
  • An overview of your attendees: their likes, dislikes, personalities, interests
  • Recommendations for how to approach attendees and suggestions on topics to open conversations (hey, did you see that session on AI? Well we have the solution for you!)
  • Helpful KPIs to track at your event
  • Clearly define expectations for your event – what sponsors should and should not be doing (e.g. we expect you to be at your exhibits during these times!)

Helping your sponsors and exhibitors know what to expect can help them drive more value from the event, and ultimately make them want to come back in the future!

group of attendees networking at a corporate event in mexico

Make Your Sponsorships More Than Logos

Logos have a place in sponsorship options (especially if some of your sponsors need more brand recognition), but most value lies in people speaking with people.

Your sponsors want interactions.

Consider how you can incorporate more interactive sponsorship opportunities throughout your event.

  • Instead of a logo at the breakfast buffet line, why not have your sponsor host roundtable discussions during breakfast?
  • Instead of “sponsoring” the evening event, why not have the sponsor host a room or cabana for networking?
  • Instead of a shout-out at the beginning of your keynote, why not have your sponsors host short, actionable, data-driven presentations throughout the event?

There are tons of ways to incorporate fresh sponsor opportunities into your event. The key is to think through all the different pieces of your agenda and brainstorm how to bring in sponsors in an authentic way, instead of just slapping their logo on a sign.

group of attendees networking at a expo hall

Make Your Exhibits More Than Tabletops

Without a doubt, if you have a hallway full of tabletops where attendees think they’re going to get sold when they just want to get coffee: they will avoid that area!

This isn’t beneficial for anyone.

Your exhibitors will sit at those tables the first day and then abandon them because they know no one wants to stop by.

Make the room more fun and inviting for attendees. Here are some ideas:

  • Make your exhibit hall a place of learning. Include areas for short presentations, networking, and fun, all mixed in with the exhibits.
  • Encourage your exhibitors to be more creative with their giveaways. Instead of pens or pop sockets, provide them with some ideas around what your attendees actually like (e.g. sustainable items).
  • Incorporate games into your exhibit hall. We’re not talking “passport” games – what are some ways your exhibitors can host fun games throughout the show floor?
  • Make the visuals exciting! When your show floor is uninspired, your attendees are uninspired. Encourage your exhibitors to bring in color, interesting graphics, fun things to check out, and more.

Let’s ditch the uninspired hallway. Attendees want fun, valuable exhibit halls where they can discover new ideas. Encourage your exhibitors to push outside their box and support this new way of hosting exhibits.

two attendees networking with a sponsor at a corporate event

When in Doubt, ASK

Your sponsors and exhibitors will tell you what they want from your event. Your attendees will also tell you what they want out of the event.

Stop guessing and make it collaborative!

Send a pre-event survey, learn what people enjoy and their goals for your event, and build the structure around that. 

If your attendees are there to find new products or services, then maybe it makes sense to have more booths. If they are there for networking and learning, then lean more toward activations and short sessions led by sponsors.

On the flip side, if your sponsors are looking for brand recognition, then maybe placing their logos around makes sense. But if they’re trying to drive new business, you’ll need to think through more ways to make that happen than just tossing them into an exhibit hall and wishing them the best.

group of attendees visiting a sponsorship expo hall

Provide Post-Event Value

How can you continue to help your sponsors interact with your attendee-base in a positive way?

Whether that’s curated content sent out to attendees post-event or hosted webinars with your sponsors, there are many ways to extend the value you provide after the event.

Not only will your sponsors be happy, you’ll be able to curate tons of content without a heavy lift, giving more value to your attendees.

And ideally, all of this goes toward encouraging everyone to attend your event next year.

There’s nothing worse than an exhibitor or sponsor deciding your event isn’t worth the money next year. With so many events crowding the market, it’s vital yours provides value to those that provide you with revenue. Rethinking your same-old sponsorship and exhibit prospectus is a necessary step in making sure those companies return year-over-year.

Ready to rethink your sponsorships and exhibits? Let’s chat about how GoGather can help you drive more value from your events.

Let's plan your best event yet

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Katie Moser

Katie Moser is the Director of Marketing and Business Development at GoGather. She has an extensive background in creating content and branding for events, working with speakers, and managing agendas for conferences. When she's not updating blog posts and sending out social media posts, she helps clients identify areas of opportunity for their events from branding to communications. In her downtime, she enjoys spending time at one of the many beautiful San Diego beaches, exploring new breweries, or chilling at home with her cat.

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