VMUG Playbook: Helping Members Get the Most From Sponsors

This is the fifth post in my series of developing your user group. In my previous post I share with you how to get meeting logistics right and that being consistent with meeting location and timing will build habits in your user group and help with growth.

My seven part series on developing your user group:

Have you ever had a sponsor present at your user group meeting and when the meeting was over a member or two came up to you and said ‘That’s not the presentation I was expecting’ or ‘I wish they could have gone into the tech a little more’. It’s happened to all of us in the past. I’ve learned that rather than treat sponsors as one time visitors to the user group, you need to involve them from the time they have committed to take part.

Once you have a sponsor committed you should have an initial call (discovery call) with them and explain that you want to help make their talk relevant, meaningful and share any tips on how to reach the group most effectively. Share what you have seen from other sponsors – what has worked and not worked in the past. Re-enforce that this is a technical audience and they should lean in on the technology when presenting. Ensure they have the person giving the presentation on the call, so they can hear directly from you.

Ask if there is anything specific they need for their presentation, like wifi and ask about their laptop, what make is it, do they need any special dongles, etc? You don’t want any issues from a setup perspective to slow them down.

I’ve always had good feedback from sponsors who appreciated the added interest I took up front to ensure they would have a smooth day at our event. I also tell the sponsor they can structure their presentation two ways – 45 minutes to present + 15 minutes for questions or 60 minutes to present with questions during the presentation. I’d suggest option 1 as it gives the presenters time to get through the entire presentation with distractions.

Sponsors are not aware of the ebb and flow of themes happening with your meetings. For example, you might have an end user computing theme for the day or remote office branch office theme. It’s important to share that info with the sponsor so they can incorporate that in their talk as it makes it more relevant and appealing to the audience. Ask them to tailor the slides to match your themes, and that includes adding diagrams and images that represent end user computing for example.

Work with the sponsor on preparing their slide deck, it’s a good idea to ask for the sponsors slide deck so you can review it and share any concerns or comment on where you think could remove, add or enhance. The goal of this review is to make sure the deck is meaningful to the audience. You don’t want a situation where the audience tunes out, that’s not good for the sponsor or for the future of your user group.

ProTip: You are making a first impression with each meeting you hold. You want folks get value from the talks so they return for future meetings

Getting a copy of the slide deck early also helps ensure you have a copy on the day of the meeting and you have a copy ready to post on the user group blog. This is a great way to share resources quickly once the meeting is over.

If are recording the talk, give the sponsor a heads-up and let them know where you plan to post the video. I usually see a 60/40 uptake on this. Post the recording on YouTube and embed in the user group blog. They might want to review the recording before posting, so always send them a link to the recording for review. This is where you as the leader are adding value to the sponsor by helping to get their content more exposure.

You might want to share the recording with the membership first through email and then post on the user group blog. Think of it as being an insider, and for that, you get this content first before the rest of the world.

Let sponsors also know up front that you will not be sharing the attendee list with them, but if they are giving away any prizes, they are welcome to collect names. This way they know it’s an opt-in situation.

I hope I’ve given you some new ways to think about getting involved with sponsors. You might already do some of these things and some I didn’t mention, let me know on Twitter what you are doing and as always, thank you for reading.