Whether you’re trying to get sponsors for your event, or sponsoring yourself, there are some key questions to ask before confirming that activation. And yes, this goes way beyond just putting your logo on every surface of the designated booth space or interaction.

Let’s break down what to do and what not to do when planning a sponsor activation.

To Do: Start by asking yourself, “Is the sponsor a good match for the organization?”

It may sound simple but if the sponsor is not the right match for your organization, then its presence there will be both unproductive for them and confusing for attendees, the latter of which could lead to a negative experience overall and affect their view of your organization.

More8 Essentials for a Killer Sponsorship Strategy

Not to Do: Have sponsors for the sake of sponsors.

What does your sponsor ultimately want to accomplish? Make sure they have synergistic goals with your association. You don’t want to take on sponsors simply for the sake of having them and/or getting money in the door. Having the right donors activate is what will make a difference in the attendee experience and ensuring the right perception of your organization and its goals is clear.

To Do: Focus on collaborative sponsors (aka partners.)

Just as you need to ensure their goals are synergistic to yours, you also want to work with those who are open to recommendations on the best ways to activate at your event. Often times companies have a set activation they do for all event sponsorships.

See also: Partnership Lessons from a Cvent Panel Speaker

While that may work for them in many scenarios, the sponsor who is going to be open to ideas of what will make their brand stand out best at your event is ultimately the best sponsor for you. Activations should be as unique as possible to the sponsoring organization so it makes sense for both of you. If it doesn’t, you will lose the attendee next time around.

After all, your suggestions all tie back to making both organizations look good, so it’s a win-win! Which leads me to my next suggestion…

Not to Do: The same thing that’s been done over and over…and over again.

We’ve all been to that event where all the booths are holding raffles in exchange for an attendees’ contact information (#beentheredonethat) or where the sponsor’s remarks at the opening sessions, luncheon or closing are just well, dull.

Instead, look for new ways to activate that can be mutually beneficial to both of your organizations. For instance, sponsorship of breakout sessions or workshops that are relevant to attendees’ topics of interest are a great way to provide training and education for them and keep a sponsor’s name top of mind.

📍 Smart Tip: Be sure the workshop topic and the sponsor’s corporate message are synergistic such as when Lifetouch, the major photography company behind school photos, sponsored a headshot photo booth at a recent conference for National PTA.

To Do: Ensure the sponsor’s message to attendees is clear.

Let’s say you’ve got the right sponsor(s) and the activation is different, stand-out and on message—as I would sincerely hope it is by this point in the story. Do the attendees know what to do next? Is the sponsor’s call to action clear?

Some sponsors may be in it for brand awareness, which can work, but even then, there should be a clear takeaway for anyone who engages with that sponsor—whether it’s future business, referring business or following up for a separate meeting later.

The best sponsor activation in the world can easily be negated by a lack of follow through in the message to its intended recipient. Give them a clear call to action and next step and then you’ll truly have a successful activation.

Amaia Stecker has more than a decade of experience planning a wide variety of events for corporate, nonprofit and social organizations. With more than nine years in event production and 13 on Capitol Hill, she approaches each event holistically with an eye for detail and a passion for making the experience purposeful. In 2015, Amaia founded Pilar & Co., an event planning agency specializing in innovative association and government relations events that achieve a defined purpose.