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Eliminating the Costs of Your Next Genealogy Conference

Marian Pierre Louis of the blog Roots and Rambles has been struggling with the cost of attending genealogy conferences. Her small genealogy business just can’t afford the expenses incurred from attending these conferences on a regular basis. She proposed the question: How Do Y’all Go to Conferences All The Time?!. 


That opened up a great conversation and revealed that many others are in the same situation as Marian. The return on investment just isn’t there and so one has to wonder whether you should go or not. Even if you are a speaker at a conference and some of your costs can be recouped, the return on investment can be so minimal. It just does not seem like a great business decision.
 

And yet we can’t dismiss the value of attending conferences, the networking and learning can be fantastic. How can we improve on this experience to benefit our bottom line and our business?


I have struggled with this same dilemma as Marian for the past couple of years. I have been following several conversations in the blogging world with regards to the cost of attending conferences. I been working on a possible solution for myself and although I wanted to share it with you later rather then sooner, (as I want to have my own plans completely in place) Marian’s post has prompted me to write this post a little early.


Here is an idea I would like to share, an idea you may want to consider to help pay your way to the next genealogy conference.
 

Sponsorship is a very possible option to helping your defray some of those conference costs.

Before you start dismissing the idea that no one would want to sponsor little old you, or that you have nothing worthy to offer a sponsor in exchange for their money, humour me and read on for some ideas.


What exactly is a conference sponsorship? You invite a company, a group or an organization to pay for all or part of your conference going experience in exchange for a service that you would offer them. This is not a free ride. Sponsorship is not a hand-out it is marketing. There must be a return on investment for the sponsor. And it must be substantial.
 

Where do I find sponsors?

First think locally, you don’t need to have a big corporation in your back pocket. Nor do you need to be a big name blogger with a zillion followers to find sponsors. Yes it’s a national conference but local businesses and organizations can also benefit. Your local community is a perfect opportunity to find sponsorships. It’s in your local community that you have the strongest connections. You know more local business leaders than you do national corporate leaders, and you can help a local business more directly than you can most national companies. Here’s a few ideas.

  • Look for companies that you already have a relationship with.
  • Look for companies that are relevant to your company and your blog.
  • Look to brands you’ve worked with in the past and start with them.
  • If you’ve never worked with a company consider brands you’ve conversed with via Twitter, Facebook, or email, even if it was brief.
  • Consider a company that might be new to social media and could use your experience getting exposure nationwide.
  • Brainstorm products you already love using and consider reaching out to those companies.
  • At the end of the day, remember that who and what you agree to says a lot about you and your blog and your business, so choose wisely.

 

What Can I Offer a Sponsor?

Consider approaching local civic groups, genealogical and historical societies for sponsorship. 
Local businesses may not be interested in you promoting them at the conference particularly if the event is not in their market area. However, your local genealogical society or civic groups may be interested in the information  you obtained from attending a conference.


Offer your local sponsors the benefit of what you'll be learning at the conference. After the conference, share what you learned by doing a presentation with their group. Coming in to your local genealogical society as a guest speaker or to the local civic club will not only provide a return on their investment but it will also gain attention for yourself within the community. 


Seek out smaller genealogy businesses or businesses with products that relate well to the genealogy industry. A small business that can’t afford be an exhibitor at a national conference may love to have a blogger to be a spokesperson in attendance on their behalf.


These businesses could be local or national. Put your thinking cap on to find businesses that could align well with your business. 


I’ve heard of bloggers being outfitted by clothes designers or jewellery makers. When someone compliments you, hand out their business card, be sure to blog pictures of yourself in their attire. I personally wore heritage jewellery by D.R. Taylor Designs at last years Rootstech Conference. In exchange for the free jewellery that was made personally for me, I blogged about the company and handed out the owners business cards whenever someone commented on the jewellery (that was quite often). It was a trial run for me in sponsorship and allowed me the opportunity to experiment with it without costing me or the owner too much of an investment. The learning experience proved valuable in moving forward.


Other ideas you can offer a sponsor

  • You can write dedicated posts on behalf of your sponsor before and after the conference.
  • Review their products, share their mission, host giveaways. Just remember to be transparent about your efforts.
  • Consider running an ad on your blog or website before and after the conference.
  • Host a twitter party to help raise awareness about the brand prior to the conference
  • Display an ad on your Facebook fan page for a determined amount of time.
  • Include links and ads in your newsletter or at the bottom of your email feeds.
  • Include your sponsor’s Twitter handle in your conference tweets, Include #sp (sponsor) for transparency
  • Include your sponsor’s logo in any video shot as part of the conference
  • Wear a shirt bearing your sponsor’s logo or have them send you a sticker or bumper sticker to affix to your laptop or smartphone.
  • Offer your sponsor an ad in your next webinar, podcast or online chat.

I’m currently working on obtaining my own sponsors for my next genealogy conference including a blog conference I will be attending this fall. I will sent out sponsorship packages to any interested parties.  In my next post, we’ll discuss preparing a sponsorship package and how to pitch your idea to a company. In the meantime, do some brainstorming. Who could sponsor your attendance at the next genealogy conference?


In terms of Marian’s dilemma, while I don’t know Marian’s business intimately,  I have no doubt her strong online presence, her speaking skills and her local connections within the her community would make Marian a great candidate for sponsorship. Marian, I would be more then willing to help you brainstorm some ideas in a private setting.


Have you ever used sponsorship to attend a genealogy conference? Love to hear your ideas.