How to Help Your WordCamp Attract and Retain Sponsors

WordCamp Sponsor Tips Featured Image shows conference chairs.

WordCamps range in size from small (less than 100) to large (500+) all around the world. Some are held in conference centers while others are at local schools. No matter what size, all WordCamps require sponsorship.

Funding a conference event like a WordCamp isn’t easy, especially if you’re in an area where venues are pricey. High-tech venues, which are infinitely more helpful for a WordCamp, are even more expensive. So where do you get the money to do all that you need to do in order to provide the best conference experience?

Sponsors. Yes, there are global sponsors for WordCamps, but you need more. Getting sponsorship agreements from a wide range of companies requires a lot of planning and time-investment. Making sponsors happy, including them in the whole WordCamp experience, and making it easy for them to sponsor your camp are key to a good sponsor relationship. Here are several tips to help you attract and retain more sponsors for your local WordCamp.

Reach Out to Global Sponsors

Global sponsors may not be aware of every single WordCamp. They globally sponsor the event so that they can cover each with minimal effort. If you want their presence at yours, you’ll need to reach out.

A personal invitation to attend, provide swag, and participate in the speaker/sponsor dinner goes a long way toward welcoming global sponsors to your camp. So send an email. Make a call. Reach out.

The presence of a larger sponsor at your event says a lot to those you’re asking to attend. Let them know that this big sponsor will be there. The sponsor will advertise their presence there as well, helping get the word out about your WordCamp.

The WordCamp EU 2019 Sponsor Area. Open, friendly, with lots of free coffee and water. It was a great place to network which is great for attendees and great for sponsors.

Reach Out to Past Sponsors

Past sponsors don’t always consider returning. Whether it’s because their marketing budget shifted or they forgot to check back in, not all come back year after year. Show them how much you valued their presence with a phone call and email followup. Share details about this year’s event that are new. Give them a reason to return.

Reaching out to past sponsors never hurts. If they had a great experience at your camp in the past, they’re likely to return again. Just make sure you ask in advance.

Contact Potential Sponsors Early

Many companies set their budgets well in advance. The marketing budget, in particular, is usually limited the most strictly. Make sure you reach out early.

If you reach out before the previous calendar year ends, you’re more likely to get a “yes” in response. You might even catch the sponsor while they’re deciding which camps to invest in for the following year.

Deliver Promises in a Timely Manner

Sponsors participate for two reasons: to help the WordPress community, and to help them reach potential new customers through your camp. Enticing your sponsors with promises to promote them on your social media channels and on your site is important. It’s even more crucial to provide this in a way that benefits both the WordCamp and the sponsor.

If you wait until the day before the event to send out all your sponsorship marketing then they’re less likely to return another year. If you can, over-deliver on promotion. Throw in an extra tweet the week before your event. Your sponsors will retweet and that will help with last-minute ticket sales.

Make Sure There’s Enough Space

Your venue might be great for WordCamp sessions, but what about your sponsors? Is there a logical space for a sponsor exhibition area?

If you’re not able to accommodate your sponsors, you fail to deliver the reason they sponsored your camp. Ensure that you only offer enough tables for the space and limitations you have. (Remember you can provide a “community swag” table for lower sponsorship levels, too!)

Even Silver sponsors at WCUS had enough room for a small crowd to gather and discuss. The Sponsor area was one of the best areas of the venue to network and chat.

Ask For Sponsors’ Requirements

WordCamps are tech conferences. Many sponsors will want to demonstrate their products and to do that they need access to electricity and the internet. How many chairs do they need? Will they require any additional accommodations? (And while you’re at it, make sure that if there are any ADA requirements you are able to accommodate them. Wheelchairs, for example, need more room to maneuver than someone who is walking.)

Simply asking your sponsors what they need goes a long way. Making sure you have these options is crucial to a great sponsor experience.

Communicate Sponsor Schedule

Most sponsors don’t need more than half an hour to set up, so don’t require them to be there hours earlier than necessary. By the same token, make sure they have enough time to be set up before registration opens, as coffee time is prime time for attendees to visit sponsor tables.

One of the most uncomfortable times of conference for sponsors and vendors is toward the end when things are winding down, but no one has given them an idea of when it is okay for them to break down their table. Make sure to put in your public schedule when the sponsor area will close so that sponsors don’t have to guess what is expected of them.

Communicate Individual Sponsorship Space

Sponsors invest a lot more money in your WordCamp other than the sponsorship fee. They invest in swag, signage, salaries, and time. Communicating with them in advance the size of the table and floor space allotted to them will help them invest wisely and plan accordingly.

If you fail to provide information about what their space is like and opportunities available to sponsors, then you risk allowing them to waste resources.

Send WordCamp Registration and Invitations to Speaker/Sponsor Events

Sponsors love interacting with your team, the speakers, and each other. Your Speaker/Sponsor dinner (or other event) is a place for them to network with everyone in a fun and relaxed way. Be sure to include them in all the festivities.

Offer Small Sponsorship Opportunities

Your general budget is supplied through ticket sales and general sponsorships, but what if you want to add something extra, like an afternoon snack break, bagels with the morning coffee, or more food at the after party? This is a great opportunity to approach smaller organizations with the opportunity to sponsor specific parts of your camp.

Make sure to include your gratitude for these specific sponsorships with signage, mentions online, in your schedule, and at your event.

Don’t Put Your Sponsors in the Corner

Picture this: your sponsors have paid a sponsorship fee, invested in swag, table cloths, signs, time and people. Then they arrive at the venue and are in a room outside of where your registration, sessions, and general congregation will happen. Nothing is more disappointing to a sponsor. “Nobody puts sponsors in the corner.” (Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing had it been a WordCamp instead of a resort in the Catskills.)

Make sure your sponsors are in a highly-trafficked area of your event. Allow and encourage attendees to walk past them as often as possible.

WC Ahmedebad had spacious designated booths for their best sponsors to fit the whole team.

Use the Right Logo

Don’t do a general Google search and pull the first logo you find there for your sponsors. Not only do sponsors have different logo layouts to consider, but logos evolve over time. You may download a logo that is no longer their current logo, or a low-resolution version of their logo, or the wrong iteration. Make sure to ask your sponsors for the logo they would like included on your site, for a write-up of their company, and for the correct link back to their website.

Thank Your Sponsors at the WordCamp

Opening remarks and closing remarks are opportune times to publicly thank your sponsors for all of their involvement in camp – from their sponsor dollars to their swag to their participation at your WordCamp. Gratitude is always appropriate.

Sponsors who go the extra mile should get special shout-outs too.

Check on Your Sponsors

Sponsors are responsible for interacting with all the WordCamp attendees all day long. Make sure they have everything they need. Offer to manage their table for a few minutes so they can get up and stretch, use the restroom, grab a drink, or make a phone call. Your kindness in doing this will be remembered.

Make Sure They Get Lunch

Similar to making sure your sponsors get a break from their table, offer to grab them lunch from your lunch location. They may be hesitant to leave their table (and equipment) unsupervised, so showing them this kindness will ensure they have a great lunch, too.

Keep Shared Swag Tables Tidy

Swag is one of the great perks of attending a WordCamp. Make it easy for attendees to grab the swag they love by keeping the shared swag table tidy. Not only will it be easier for attendees to find some great camp memorabilia, but it shows respect to your sponsors.

Promote the Happiness Bar

The Happiness Bar is a great place for sponsors to interact with camp attendees, help them with issues, and provide solutions. Most camps never think to ask their sponsors to help out there, but many would love the opportunity.

Sponsors Will Hold Up Their End of the Bargain, Too

If you make it easy to promote your WordCamp, your sponsors will promote it more thoroughly. Share tweets by tagging your sponsors and they will retweet those. Take photos of your sponsors at work and tweet it out during your event with mentions and hashtags. Give them opportunities to be involved and they will be happy to be included.

And be sure to thank them. Send thank you emails, or even thank you cards signed by your organizing team. Sponsors that feel welcomed, included, and appreciated are more likely to be sponsors again and again.