google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html Eliminating the Costs of Your Next Genealogy Conference | The Armchair Genealogist

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. 


Randy Seaver said...

Excellent post, Lynn! Great ideas.

Lynn Palermo said...

Thank you Randy!

Rorey Cathcart said...

Great post, Lynn, very clever use of sponsorship.

Great thought-experiment too. I suspect cross-promotion is an under-utilized marketing tool for many of us in genealogy.

FGS2012 Birmingham will be my first national conference. I knew going in I wouldn't recoup my costs via client generation. I consider it a continuing education expense. However, I know I won't be able to attend any other conferences in the next 12 months if I don't come up with a funding source.

Sign of a great blog makes you think. Kudos.

Elyse said...

Great ideas, Lynn! Definitely not something I've ever considered and very clever indeed.

I think if it is all done well and everyone gets something out of it. Wonderful!

Jill Ball said...

Fantastic, original post Lynn.

Love your ideas - now I wonder if any Aussie companies would like some promotion at Rootstech 2013.

Marian Pierre-Louis said...

Great ideas Lynn! You've really got me thinking.

Marian Pierre-Louis said...

As one of the few attendees from Australia, I think you would be in a very strong position to receive sponsorship.

Judy Webster said...

Great ideas. However... (and please don't shoot the messenger - I'm just repeating what people have said to me)... By accepting sponsorship from (and publicly endorsing) a particular company, you do risk alienating colleagues or clients who dislike that company. But you can't please all the people all the time, so in the end you just have to do what feels right for you.

Lynn Palermo said...

Jenna sorry I lost your comment somehow and you make valid point please repost and I'll try not lose it this time

SM said...

Gracias por tus ideas Lynn!

Jenna said...

Be sure to check the Exhibitor Prospectus of any conference you are considering doing this. Most conference's have rules & regulations which include protection for their exhibitors from non-exhibiting competition. The term used is carpet bagging. Meaning a person markets and/or sells their products to attendees without purchasing an exhibit booth or a conference sponsorship.

CMPointer said...

I'm thinking, though, this would/could take up a lot of time for those who already have a business. Wouldn't the resources needed for this be better allocated to marketing your own business to increase revenue and profit margin so that you could afford to go? The added benefit being in this scenario that not only will you hopefully have increased profits in order to go, but increased it enough for other business expenditures.

Additionally, sponsorship is a business transaction. It may not behoove a business owner -depending on their business plan- or a blogger who has other affiliations with competitors on their blogs to tie themselves down with a particular vendor.

Also from a social media standpoint, those who are considering obtaining sponsorship in trade for promotion both offline and online must have stats for their social media platforms, and not just numbers but where their influence lies. For example, if you were to ask for sponsorship from a local business, are you able to show them that you have the platform for them to at least possibly break even? They're going to need to know the return on investment [ROI]. Other advertising avenues [and this is what it would be for a sponsoring company] exist for business owners and decision makers that can provide a little more solid information to base their decisions on.

Just my thoughts. Not saying this is a bad idea, but I think it needs to be fleshed out a little more.

Thanks, Lynn, for bringing the idea up! =)


Lynn Palermo said...

Thanks Jenna, I completely agree. I certainly do not mean to encourage anyone to cross any lines. Do your homework. You certainly have the options of supporting your sponsor on your own blogging platform and within your community.

Lynn Palermo said...

Hi Caroline, thanks for stopping by. Always a pleasure to hear your sound business sense, you make some very valid points.
Certainly the argument can be made to expend your energy on clients, but for those bloggers who do not have clients this is an option for them. As well I am a big advocate for seeking out multiple revenue streams for your business.

I agree with you completely when it comes to being prepared to share your blogging platform numbers and influences with your prospective sponsors and plan to address that in part 2. The sponsor needs to be able to way the value (return on investment) for himself.

And of course you make a great point about being very aware of who your sponsors and affiliates should or could be and weighing out the options.

At the end of the day, you need to know yourself, your business and what will fit with your business plan. A very individual choice most definitely and you need to do your homework while still thinking outside of the box.

Lynn Palermo said...

Might I also add that Jill from Geniaus has shared an idea. She lent her knowledge and experience to a vendor and that enabled her to attend two conferences she would not of otherwise attended. A perfect example of creating a great partnership. You can read her post The Other Side of the Fence

Darlene Anderson said...

I love your ideas! Thanks for sharing.