Conference Sponsorship:: Social Media Saturday

A friend recently sent me a question about conference sponsorship, and I thought it would make the perfect Social Media Saturday post since this is a question I’ve been asked many times.

Q: How do you find sponsors for a conference? Do you have a conference sponsorship proposal?

When I first started blogging, and had no income coming in I wanted to attend several conferences, but the cost of flight + hotel + conference fee was just too much for our budget. I remember watching tweets go by and blogs be updated with info, photos, and funny stories from conferences. It’s hard not to feel like the last kid picked in gym class knowing that everyone else (or so it seems) was off learning, laughing, and networking while I was at home. I’ve since learned appearances can be deceiving (it’s fun, yes but can also be exhausting), and sometimes being at home is just where I need to be.

I attended my first conferences in 2010 and have since attended a number of conferences both sponsored and on my own dime. I’ve found that you have to be careful about what type of sponsorship you choose. Below are some of the best pieces of advice I have for conferences and sponsorships.

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7 Tips for Savvy Conference Sponsorship

1. Make a schedule, make a plan. Look at a list of conferences {like this one from Mom Spark} that are coming up and choose what conferences are the most relevant to you and your niche (if you have one).

Tip: While I love large conferences, they can be overwhelming if it’s your first experience. Stick to a smaller conference to start for better networking and a slower pace.

2. Do the math. In order to afford a conference (even sponsored) you should consider all the costs involved. Shuttles to and from the airport, parking, meals, and more should all be accounted for in your tally. If you do seek sponsorship you do not need to outline the specifics unless you are asked to by your potential sponsor (IE $400 for childcare, $100 for shuttle, etc.), come up with a total that makes it worth it for you.

Consider the overall cost and make sure you have the funds in your budget to cover your own costs. If you absolutely can’t go without a sponsor covering your costs read on for advice on pitching potential sponsors.

3. Pitch past clients. The most natural fit for a sponsorship is not a blind pitch, it’s extending a working relationship in a way that makes sense for your sponsor, you, and most importantly your readers. Finding out what current or past clients are working on that would be a good fit with a conference you are planning on attending. If there isn’t a natural fit, move on. The best way to do this is to get on the phone and discuss it with your contact.

Leticia {Tech Savvy Mama} shares, “The most effective sponsorships are the ones that benefit both blogger and brand.  As someone who has worked for brands, it is worth the time to cultivate relationships to discover people who can be natural enthusiasts and will represent the company honestly and with passion.  The relationship aspect is key for bloggers too because it allows you to have coversations with the brand to determine the scope of the work involved in the conference sponsorship.”

4. Know the conference rules.    Almost all conferences have rules about sponsorships. This is because sponsors of the conference spend big bucks to reach the audience, and your sponsor shouldn’t conflict with them. There are plenty of creative ways to share your sponsor without breaking the rules. Hosting a breakfast the morning after a conference is one example that may work. If you aren’t sure about the conference guidelines simply ask.

Kelby {Type A Parent  and Type A Conference} shares, “Look to see if any of the official sponsors are ones you have worked with in the past. They might be interested in help at their booth or hosts for a party.”

5. Think outside the conference box. Sponsorship doesn’t have to mean working while you attend the conference. For some brands it may be a good fit to place content on your site or theirs surrounding the conference. This can be a great way to avoid issues with breaking conference rules and still offer a brand a lot of value.

Valerie {Charmed Valerie} offers this advice, “Instead of offering to promote a sponsor AT the conference, pitch content that you can create for the brand. You won’t have to spend valuable conference time busy with promoting them and you can focus. It’s a win-win.”

6. Be your own sponsor. If your blog is a business than you need to invest in it the same way other businesses invest in conferences and training. Seek new income streams (affiliate marketing, freelance writing for websites or print) to cover your costs. This will give you the freedom to work for yourself at the conference instead of working hard for someone else.

7. Start small. Look for local groups, meetups, and even conferences within driving distance. While these may not be as glamorous as big name conferences they can often net relationships that are much more valuable. I met Julie over dinner and drinks and as we brainstormed at the table our business was born.

I have attended conferences sponsored and on my own dime, and I find that there is always a balance between what I’m willing to do and the cost of a sponsorship. I’m usually able to find a happy medium between what works for me and what the sponsor is offering. In every case allowing me to focus on learning and networking during the conference are key to a successful conference experience.

Typically I don’t seek conference sponsorships unless I feel the idea I have for a client or brand is a perfect fit. In those cases it has been a genuine fit for the brand, me, and my readers.

I have worked with sponsors in a variety of ways including but not limited to,

  • writing blog posts for my blog
  • vlogging
  • writing for their blog or website
  • sharing tweets about my sponsor
  • collecting contacts on behalf of the brand
  • attending an event at the conference

Ways you can save on attending a conference:

  • Share a room. If you don’t mind splitting a room (it can be kinda like a slumber party!) it can save you big money.
  • Volunteer at the conference. In exchange for some time volunteering you will get a free ticket, and it can be fun to man the registration desk and meet and greet people you’ve only known online.
  • Drive vs. Fly: Do the math-it may cheaper to drive instead of flying.
  • Eat at the conference. As tempting as it is to go out to eat, eat at the conference provided meals so you don’t spend a small fortune on meals.
  • Buy your tickets early. Most conferences offer an early bird discount. Buy the tickets early for $100-$150 or more off! If you’re attending for as a past attendee you may also get a special discount. In the worst case you’ll have to sell your ticket later, and believe me people will jump on your early bird rate ticket!
  • Forget the swag. If you’re flying forget the swag. It’s not worth the fee to take another bag on board.

Do you have a recent social media post you want to share? Link up below for Social Media Saturday!

How do you feel about conference sponsorship? Have you had a successful conference sponsorship you want to share? Leave a comment below!


About Kelly

Kelly Whalen is the founder and editor of the Centsible Life blog. She started the blog 6 years ago as her family faced a mountain of debt. The blog became a resource to readers and a hub for everything you need in life for less. Kelly lives in the Philadelphia area with her superhero husband, 4 awesome kids, and one adorable dog. She still believes you can have it all....just not all at once.


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