What is TEDMED? – Lessons Learned on Corporate Sponsoring

TEDMED is the medical version of TED. This unique 3-day event applies the successful TED format to the world of healthcare. Hosted next week (April 10 – 13) in Washington DC, TEDMED stands to become the nation’s premier gathering where folks from inside and outside the world of medicine. Delegates explore key issues and think up new, out-of-the-box ideas for solving some very big challenges facing our nation as healthcare becomes the largest line item in our GDP. It is a multi-disciplinary collaborative experience that aims to develop a lasting community – not just an annual event –  dedicated to imagining how we can make the future of healthcare happen today.

For me, TEDMED is also a crash course in corporate sponsorship. Back in January, I moved over to Xerox corporate to head up industry marketing across the enterprise. Coincidentally, Xerox had signed up to sponsor TEDMED as one way to continue to demonstrate our long-standing commitment to healthcare innovation and to simplifying the business of healthcare. So, guess which new kid on the block got the nod to activate this sponsorship?

It’s been a thrilling, busy, exciting time acting as the head mistress of all things TEDMED at Xerox. Here are a few lessons I’ve collected along the way regarding advertising, event management, and message communication:

  • A well-planned creative brief is essential to any large event or sponsored program. So is a detailed program plan. But the brief is the centerpiece for communicating what you plan to do, with whom (audience), why, and what you want to convey in the process (message).  It’s the scaffolding that supports the whole event and makes a myriad of decisions flow smoothly. Other key elements include: proof points/evidence, creative mandatories and key assets to draw upon.
  • Avoid the temptation to view advertising and messages through your eyes, not the audience’s. I was surprised at how easily I fell into this trap. I’ll share the ad with you in a later post – after it’s aired at TEDMED – but the key was to appeal to the full TEDMED audience, which includes educators, lawmakers, inventors, medical students, investors, and health activists.  Pictures of people with stethoscopes looking at x-rays cast too narrow a net.
  • Hire a good meeting planner. This is very tactical, but very necessary. Meeting, incentive and travel firms – like our partner BCD M&I – make life easier, handle all the tricky last minute details, and keep you from going bonkers.  Perfect example of why outsourcing client registration and travel to experts is essential and cost effective.
  • Get your friends to help out. In this case, help comes from our friends at FORTUNE magazine, who will co-sponsor a dinner event for our guests, Xerox executives, and select delegates. Besides wonderful counsel on great places to eat in Washington DC, FORTUNE (more importantly) adds provocative conversation as Marc Gunther, contributing editor, MCs dinner commentary.
  • Small details can make a big difference. Case in point, as one of the major sponsors for TEDMED this year, we worked closely with our hosts to ensure delegates see Xerox equipment when they queue up at registration. Will anyone notice?  Maybe not.  But, then again, what if they do? If you are a major sponsor, you need to make sure to sweat the details and act like a major supporter, not just someone contributing their name to the program.

There are 20 more lessons I could add to this list. But this experience proved to me that successful corporate sponsorships have been and will continue to be a useful and productive way to get your company’s name and message in front of a key audience – industry-specific, role-based or otherwise. The best lesson I have learned, however, it that the folks at TEDMED are very, very committed to being the best partner to their sponsors. It’s very easy – and productive – to work with a team that is always willing to say “yes” – but who have a solid vision and purpose that helps to keep you on the straight and narrow as you work to provide the most differentiated, exciting, and memorable experience for our delegates.

Like Xerox, I am a proud sponsor of TEDMED 2012  — and so very excited to be there next week!

PS: For a sample of the TED experience, go to this link and watch the presentation.  It will blow your mind.

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