“Money is usually attracted, not pursued.” —Jim Rohn
Unfortunately, a lot of organizations begin with the amount of money they have to spend and divvy it up accordingly, not spending enough time evaluating tactics that will bring results. So let's dive into some thoughts to consider before writing that check.
I know, it's just so cliche to say, "Start with your objectives," but.... well... duh.
If you're new to the market you are entering at this particular event, then an awareness play may be what you target. Blanketing the audience with your company name or logo through lanyards, signage, coffee break sponsorships, etc. might generate enough buzz to drive people to your booth to learn more.
If you are looking to get new leads for your sales team to reach out to, then you want to focus on activities that will allow you to capture contact info. The booth is the obvious place for this, and if you need a place to do a demo, then a booth is the way to go. If the conference has other add-on events that allow you access to the attendee list with a sponsorship (a fun run, a special luncheon, etc.), that might be a consideration for your funds. It's important to note that these contacts are less likely to be pre-qualified as interested in your offerings, but if you are simply looking for names to nurture, this is a great way to get access to new contacts.
Getting a speaker in front of the crowd is your best bet at thought leadership and owning the narrative of your story. It can also support lead gen by activating the audience to go to your booth after the session. Sometimes you can also get the attendee info for those who participated in your session and can have sales teams follow up (note that these are generally semi-qualified leads since they actively chose to come to your session). There are a number of ways to get speaking sessions, including submitting to Call for Papers, purchasing speaking opportunities, or simply having a topic that is highly sought-after by the conference committee.
If the event you are going to is a long-standing member of your marketing portfolio, you may have all the contacts you need from it and simply wish to deepen your relationships and provide a cheerful environment for your sales teams to interact with their clients. In this case, you might sponsor the evening event, throw your own hospitality activity, or simply take customers to dinner.
Of course, these are all standard off-the-shelf sponsorship purchase ideas. Don't be scared to get creative and work with the sponsorship sales team to build your own sponsorship package. I often bring up one of my favorite awareness plays that I saw at a pharma conference: A company was introducing a bladder control drug and sponsored all the bathrooms! Brilliant!