July 20, 2021

Sponsorship, Streamlined: How We Shifted In-Person Benefits to a Virtual Space

About this series: The 2021 Virtual Library Publishing Forum was a huge success, combining excellent content with smooth facilitation and a liberal dose of whimsy and care. We decided to pull back the curtain on how it was run to support other organizations that are interested in hosting thought-provoking, humane events on a shoestring. Because we have a lot to say, we are publishing a series of daily posts, each with a different theme. The series was created by the group of Educopia staff and LPC Program Committee members listed above, but the guide is written in first person and each section is written from a different perspective. Authors listed above who aren’t credited on a particular section helped with planning and editing this series.

Planning a virtual forum presented a unique challenge to sustaining our sponsorship program. While we could shift the delivery of presentations and conversations to the web, without the naturally occurring opportunities for attendees to connect with sponsors provided by the coffee breaks and shared meals of an in-person event, we knew the relative value of a virtual LPF sponsorship was not equal to a typical forum. 

Acknowledging that our sponsorship program had to shift with the format, we made two major changes: 

  • Reduced and streamlined sponsorship tiers: In prior years, sponsors had the option to support the Forum at two different levels—Forum Supporters at $500 and Forum Sponsors at $1,000 or more. Additionally, sponsors could pledge additional funds to sponsor a keynote or reception. These add-ons were not offered for the virtual forum. For the virtual forum, all sponsors received the same benefits, including logos on the website and Sched, acknowledgement on the LPC Twitter account and on slides that ran between sessions, and inclusion in a PDF program. Those at the Forum Sponsor level also received one new benefit: inclusion in our virtual Sponsor Hall. 
  • Sponsor Bingo: In an effort to recreate an environment where sponsors and attendees could interact freely, we set up a virtual Sponsor Hall, basically a plenary Zoom meeting with self-selecting breakout rooms for attendees to join at their leisure. Each sponsor had their own breakout room, where attendees could join, ask questions, and chat. To encourage participation (because we know it can be hard to add more zooming to a packed online schedule), we incentivized attendees to visit all the sponsors/attendees with Sponsor Bingo. Attendees who visited all the sponsor breakout rooms were entered into a drawing to win LPForum swag or a free registration to next year’s Forum in Pittsburgh. 

Lessons learned: 

  • Sponsor Bingo was helpful in allowing attendees and sponsors to connect face to face, but was still an imperfect solution. One suggestion we received was to provide an opportunity for sponsors to address attendees briefly as a group.
  • Preserving our relationship with sponsors and making their contributions to the community  visible during a virtual forum requires careful and intentional effort—more so than an in-person event. We had to think creatively to find ways to acknowledge sponsors during the forum, including displaying sponsor logos in Zoom between sessions and calling out sponsors on Twitter before and during the Forum.