Hello everybody, my name is Aniss and I was the main organizer of the 4th edition of WikiStage HEC Algiers: Leaders 2.0!
Before jumping onto our main subject, I wanted to thank you all for being part of our WikiStage family. I encourage you to keep making efforts for a positive change in your environment because organizing a WikiStage event is all about impact.
My main goal while I’m writing you today is to share with you how we as a team managed to get help from companies, and most important - what things were most difficult for us during the process of organizing an event that hosts 600 people each year and has a team of 60 organizers.
Let’s start with the things you should do if you want to make a successful WikiStage event:
1. Start early!
No matter what’s the size of your event, no matter how many people will be organizing it, if you start 2 months before the set date of your WikiStage event it’s too late. Sponsors tend to prefer being part of the process of organizing an event quite early, so the earlier you start the better. Companies also don’t like working in the urge so it’s always better to reach out to them months before the due date. Something I’d also like to share is that as a Project Manager, I was too focused on networking and that made my team uneasy and doubtful about the chances of making it. We ended up having some minor grudges during the process. This leads to the next point.
2. Your theme needs to be chosen wisely
Depending on the theme of your WikiStage event a company is more or less likely to be your partner. Why? Because some companies don’t like to be involved in politics, for example, an industrial company has nothing to do in an event that’s aimed for agriculture and so on... So chose wisely, and target companies that share the same values as the theme you want to work on.
You can’t possibly do everything alone, trust your teammates and associate them to your decisions as hard as it can be for us to not be in control... it’s for the better. As a project manager you can’t be in charge of everything, so make one of your team members responsible for sponsoring part. The time is limited and if you can’t give your full trust to the team, the event won’t happen! One of the mistakes I made was that I relied too much on myself at first. Listening to your teammates and exposing your problems to them might help you have a better chance of getting a sponsor. For example: I had approached a company without any contact while one of my teammates knew someone in there. If I had shared with my teammates this info I would have gained lots of time. So - share your thoughts and listen to your team more often. The communication between all team members is really important.
In the end, what is crucial is that during the process of getting sponsors and partners you need a maximum of contacts and the best network.
4. Your sponsoring document is your ID!
If you want to have an interview for an eventual sponsoring, your sponsoring document needs to be the best, not just good, the absolute best! It has to contain all the information about what you achieved as a team before, your event, why you are organizing it, when, where etc... all information needed for sponsors to understand better the context of your event.
5. Always choose a direct contact with the company
Most of the companies will start by asking you to send your sponsoring folder (like I said it’s your ID) but sometimes it happens that they ask directly for an interview. Never refuse that! If you can get in touch with one person from the company directly, you are more likely to get something from them.
6. Be honest about your intentions, problems, strengths, and weaknesses
The relationship between a sponsor and a young team trying to make an event like WikiStage is bound to fail if it starts by lies. No company will ask you to be the perfect team and to have everything ready... what they see in you is potential and talent and they want to help by any means not only money. Just be honest, be ambitious, and be tenacious because you are going to fail multiple times before getting your first partner. Be patient - good work often takes times.
I prefer sharing my mistakes with you - the future organizers of WikiStage, hoping that you won’t do the same when the times comes:
- Never go unprepared to an interview with a company. If they see that you are not in control of your subject, you have nearly 0% chances of succeeding
- Be sure to have the means necessary to receive the money, goods, or any support the company might accept to give you. One of the few mistakes we made as a team was to reach out to companies that agreed to support us, but in the end, we couldn’t receive that help because we didn’t have a bank account for example. So, try to see the limitations that you have, and find solutions to overcome it as quickly as possible.
- Organizing an event = making a plan: I can hear you from my place saying: I have everything in control don’t worry... Yeah, I know, but write it down and expose it to your team. You can plan everything in your head but your solutions may not be the best and another point of views are always welcome. In addition to that, sponsors won’t read your mind, they want to see your plans black on white, written in a perfect, clear and easy to understand language. W.R.I.T.E. I.T. D.O.W.N.!
- This one is quite difficult... it may vary depending on your region/country but as hard as it may be, you have to affirm yourself as the Chief/Leader/Manager (depending on your personality) and even if it displeases some people (or others don’t consider you as such) you have to keep going on and make the project the priority and make things move. As a WikiStage Project Manager you may have to lead teams like mine, which had about 60 people, so be patient and try hearing out everybody and solve the interpersonal issues. Depending on the situation you may have to take the decision of dropping a partner for the benefit of the other, so don’t be scared and take the best decision you can think of. Egos are not something you should care about, your goal as an individual and as a team is to make the conference a reality, and decisions need to be taken.
- Last but not the least, don’t forget that it is supposed to be FUN! You are friends, you are a team, you’re in a process of learning how to work as a whole not as individuals. If you can sell yourself as a team, it will be easier to get sponsors.
As silly as my advice may appear, they are quite effective. And here’s why:
• During our edition of WikiStage HEC Algiers, more than 50% of our contacts came from our team members, more than 50% was set up thanks to the same team members, and the final sponsors were all with us because of same those team members
• We were taken seriously because we had a plan, a vision, and a document to attest of what we were aiming for
• We never lied nor gave promises we couldn’t accomplish
• Even if we had conflicts, we always put the event before anything else
• Problems always happen, but it’s how you deal with them that changes everything
• Trust your team and let them take responsibility (even when it means not taking credits for something you did) nobody will be remembered as THE ORGANIZER, but THE TEAM will be remembered as the best
Organizing an event is not like solving a math problem, you will all have a different result even if you follow the same steps. So be patient, try finding the right solutions and don’t waste time blaming people. As for me, you can contact me whenever you want if needed.
Once again, thank you for being part of the great WikiStage family and good luck!
May the force be with you!