Offering event goodies your meeting attendees won’t throw away

No one needs 20 stress balls or 10 water bottles; these new gift ideas are sure to please

Ultimately, the quality of your gift reflects your brand.

NEW YORK - They may come for the networking and education, but conference and trade show attendees do enjoy walking away with free goodies. From clothing and key chains to branded mugs, the armloads of gifts from trade show sponsors and exhibitors nicely complement the stack of business cards and inspirational ideas participants carry back home.

While goodie bags and gifts might be synonymous with events, one has to wonder whether most of the stuff accumulated gets thrown in the bin. "Just because an item is free doesn't mean it's desirable or useful, and handing out 100 pens doesn't necessarily mean exhibitors will convert conference-goers into customers or users," sais Erin Bury, CEO and co-founder, Willful, an estate planning firm. "We need to ask how we are creating value through the items and gifts we provide."

Brianna Valleskey, senior content marketing manager at Sendoso, a platform for sourcing and measuring ROI for businesses, added: "Ultimately, the quality of your gift reflects your brand. Since attendees are inundated with free giveaways at every turn of the corner, you should choose items that they'll actually enjoy and use in everyday life."

We look at a few unique giveaway ideas that will better thrill your attendees and keep your brand top of mind long after the meetings are over.


Instead of providing attendees with another desk ornament, ensure they are ready to handle anything by gifting them with a conference survival kit, Ms Valleskey suggested.

"A travel bag or fanny pack filled with a packet of aspirin, a Tide-to-Go pen, gum or mints, face wash, a branded bottle of water and a few protein bars or room snacks goes a long way," she said.


Regina Key, senior director of marketing and creative services for Destination Concepts Inc., understands that the competition is fierce. "In the game of amenities, the winners are often locally sourced products," she noted. "We have learnt that attendees really appreciate items they might not find elsewhere."

An easy way to do this, she suggested, is by handing out fun and flavourful foods that reflect the destination. "The key is to drill down on the demographics and determine what will hit the mark."

Ms Key added that Destination Concepts also takes into account common needs one might have in the host city. "We often equip attendees with an item essential to the location they are visiting, such as providing a wet-clothes bag when the conference is taking place in a waterside locale." She believes the gesture adds value to the overall attendee experience during travel.


Over the years, a growing trend among some conferences has been for organisers to move away from physical items and instead create a digital goodie bag for attendees, accessible through event apps or online accounts.

Examples of these include discounts on apps and services relevant to the show, and music downloads featuring exhibiting artists.

Digital goodies remain an emerging trend and a great way to save money, but planners should ensure all digital goodies are easily accessible and desirable enough that people will want to log on and download or open the item. The bonus: Organisers and sponsors have clear data about who downloaded what.


"We have seen a steady shift away from branded items with brand awareness being incorporated into to the gifting experience," said Destination Concepts' Ms Key. "Planners should ask themselves 'Does this feel like XYZ brand?' or, 'How can we create packaging that is brand-forward?' instead of, 'What can I stick the conference logo on?'."

If a conference T-shirt is a must-do, she suggests pairing it with a live-screen printing experience so that each guest can customise the clothing with their own creative style. "Fully customisable pop-ups are also a win-win. Brands often offer customisable options such as personalised flip flops, live leather-stamping, custom jewellery and beyond."

Instead of "defacing" the gift with a logo, Ms Key suggests packaging the item with inexpensive details like branded ribbon, tissue paper, gift boxes or personalised notecards.


"One of my favourite things to do is incorporate CSR into the gifting experience by connecting the amenity to a team-building experience or initiative," Ms Key continued. During a recent sales conference, Destination Concepts hosted a gifting experience where attendees decorated pairs of Toms shoes that were then donated to a local hospital. After designing the shoes, attendees were given their own pair of Toms to take home, too, to commemorate the experience.

Another great way to tie in CSR is by connecting the gift to an initiative such as reducing the use of plastic water bottles. "If the planner has chosen to gift a branded water bottle, they can pair that with sponsored water stations at the event and capture the data of how many plastic bottles were saved in the process," said Ms Key.

The initiative gives the branded item a bigger purpose and delivers feel-good moments for attendees throughout the event.

"To take it a step further, we have also set up customisation stations where attendees can pick decals to decorate their water bottles to commemorate what they have accomplished throughout the conference, such as a bike decal if they participated in the host-city bike tour."

SOURCE: Successful Meetings