Tuesday, January 27, 2009

ORF and Sponsorship

Many years ago I co-ordinate the Practical Applications of Prolog conference with Al Roth [now sadly deceased]
For 4-5 years we build up the event and diversifed into Constraints, KM, and finally Agents.
PAAM was a big success.
We had reviewed submitted papers and a handful of selected invited keynote speakers with a Program Committee of the great and good etc.
We made money thru:
- sponsorship [I trawelled round all the vendors and some publishers and the European Commission]
- delegates [we ended up with three hundred plus over the week - they could mix and match events/tracks]
- proceedings [we printed and sold the proceedings and back copies]

Most were in London and one year we went to Paris.

Sadly, with Al's untimely death, his widow inherited the business, took it to Manchester and proceeded to kill it off quite successfully.

Lessons Learned:
Fix Dates as early as possible
Avoid Holidays
Choose convenient location for both delegates, sponsors and coordinators
Try and Keep Costs down and have ability to scale down as well as up
Don't print/mail anything if possible - use the internet and mail groups etc
People like to get away early on Fridays and arrive late on Mondays

In the old days, you used to have to back into a weekend to get reduced air-fares [Saturday night stay] - dunno to what extent this holds

Get sponsors to underwrite expenditure ASAP - early commitement should be rewarded thru preferential treatment and choice of slots, booths, spaces etc

Have a good budget model and try to stick to it! And have a contingency entry for the unforseen [expect the unexpected]

Understand who you audiences are [multiple audiences are OK] - and what they want out of such an event
a] techies deep into the exisiting technology and familiar with an existing product
b] vars/consultants already involved with technology thru one or more products
c] people who may want to get involved with the technology
d] potential end-users [prospects, suspects]
e] academics
f] industry commentators/analysts

Benefits and Objectives
a] let people mingle - its all about networking - create the room and environment and right mix of people
b] people want to talk to real practitioners [not theoreticians and not salespeople]
c] vendor indepedant ethos
d] hands-on tutorials if possible
e] keep attendance affordable and value-for-money

Sponsorship - 9 months is already tight
My focus was sponsorship - benefits were:
a] access to delegates at event
b] ability to help shape program - maybe nominate an invited speaker or two
c] visibility on event web-site
d] access to event mailing list /enquiry list
e] logo on proceedings
f] sponsor breakfasts, mugs, cups, delegate bag etc
g] press access - arrange strategy briefing
h] ability to invite delegates at a reduced rate
i] invitations for exhibition
j] 1 or 2 free delegate places - with/without lunch
k] option to organize satellite events

To me, vendors were always the key - after all they bankrolled the event - they could use the event as a springboard to meet with all sorts of people, launch/announce products and develop relationships ... with their help we were able to reach all sorts of people at various stages of exploring/exploiting the technology on show

Clive Spenser
Hope this is not too obvious and helps ...

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