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Conference Swag Ideas Your Attendees Will Remember

Posted by Kim Paugh, CAE on May 11, 2016 12:00:00 PM

How does your organization decide what this year’s conference swag item will be? Do you sit down with your conference committee and brainstorm ideas? Do you rotate through a list of the same items or order another bag, pen or padfolio? Swag is great advertising for your organization and your conference. Not thinking strategically about your giveaway items is equivalent to not having a marketing plan for your conference. Before you order your conference tchotchkes, read through these helpful tips and swag ideas to give your attendees an item that will represent your organization, event and goals.

Buy Better Quality Items

If you want your attendees to use your tumbler, coffee cup or portfolio with your logo on it, it is important you buy a quality item. Ask for samples from your vendor and use them for a month. Did the cup break? Does the pen write well? Your goal is to get phone calls after your conference from people begging you for another because they loved your swag so much! 

Five Swag Items Where Quality Matters Most:

  1. Bags/backpacks/totes
  2. T-shirts/apparel
  3. Plastic tumblers
  4. Pens
  5. Golf gear

Reflect Your Brand

Your swag should not be chosen randomly. Think about your goals and your organization’s brand. Are you trying to attract younger members? If so, your swag should be fresh and appeal to a younger audience (i.e. no padfolios, paperweights or even pens). What do you want your attendees to remember about your organization or meeting? Do you want to appear fun, prestigious, inspirational? Your swag should reflect those feelings. Before you start ordering your conference giveaways set a clear goal for what you want your attendees to think, feel and remember about your organization when they look at their keepsake and then start your search from there.

awareness-bracelet-21.jpgFive Brands or Feelings and the Swag to Match:

  1. Fun – Frisbees, picnic blankets, yo-yos, outdoor gear
  2. Young – Awareness bracelets, earbuds, USB hubs
  3. Health-Focused – Pedometers, water bottles, gym towels
  4. Prestigious – Moleskine notebooks, mobile devise chargers, quality laptop bag
  5. Green – Reusable shopping bags, notebooks made from recycled paper

Know Your Members

If you want to give away items your members will use every day, then you need to understand how your members work. Don’t miss the mark by purchasing items that don’t fit for your members. For example nurses, doctors, general contractors, etc. don’t sit at a desk all day so don’t give them a mousepad or notes cube. If your members are older and not tech savvy, then a tablet holder probably won’t be popular. Younger audiences are not going to have any use for notebooks, pens or bookmarks. Also, remember to add a question about your conference swag to your post-event survey so you are measuring the effectiveness. Ask attendees if they will use the item and what they thought of the quality. This will help you make better decisions in future years (and give you data to show your conference chair so you are not just getting items that meet his/her preferences).

Five Audiences and Swag to Match:

  1. Travelers – Luggage markers/tags, passport portfolio, clear carry-on pouch, toiletry case
  2. Casual – Koozies, coolers, seasonal items
  3. Sit at a Desk – Mousepads or mouse, calendars, coasters
  4. Construction – LED flashlights, pocket knives, pocket tools, tape measurers
  5. Salesperson – Business card cases, mobile devise charger

Remember a Destination

You spent a lot of time and energy picking an awesome destination for your annual conference and that destination is a big part of what your attendees will remember about your conference. Give them an item that reflects the city in which you held the conference and your attendees are likely to keep the item for a long time.

custom-branded-watertite-beach-box-31.jpgFive Destination-Focused Swag Ideas:

  1. Seattle – Umbrellas
  2. Beach Destination – Water tight beach storage boxes
  3. Las Vegas – Playing cards
  4. New Orleans – Beads with a branded medallion
  5. Anywhere – T-shirt that reflects the destination and your conference

Even better than these ideas—get local. Partner with local businesses to create a one-of-a-kind keepsake for your attendees.

The Things No One Buys

If you want to find items that have a 12-month shelf life to get attendees from conference to conference, think about items we all use, but no one actually buys.

usb_hub_phone_holder.jpgFive Useful Swag Ideas That No One Buys:

  1. Luggage markers/tags
  2. Mobile devise chargers
  3. USB hubs
  4. Flash drives (don’t forget to add content as a bonus)
  5. Calendars

Be Cool

Unique is always a good goal. Put some effort into finding something new and cool for your attendees.

travel-exercise-kit.jpgFive Cool Swag Ideas:

  1. Travel exercise kits
  2. Fruit infusion water bottles
  3. Water bags (water bottle that rolls up when empty for easy travel)
  4. Hot/cold packs
  5. Recipe books (get recipes from your members)HOT_COLD_PACK.jpg

Remember the rules still apply to these unique items. Ensure quality, usefulness and messaging is in line with your goals.

Other Swag Ideas

A quick Google search will show you there is no limit to the swag ideas out there for your meeting. Here are some other ideas for your conference giveaways.

Five Other Swag Ideas:

  1. Food and booze are always great. Give your attendees a taste of the destination by partnering with a local vendor.
  2. Create an experience. Experiences are always more powerful than stuff. Plan a memorable local experience for your attendees and snap a commemorative photo (branded of course) for your attendees to keep.
  3. Create an attendee care package. Conferences are tough. Give your attendees items that can get them through the event, such as local snacks, first aid items and water. This may not have a 12-month shelf life, but attendees will appreciate the thoughtfulness.
  4. Partner with the city’s CVB to provide something local.
  5. Create a digital swag bag “filled” with digital downloads (think discount coupons, content, etc.) desirable to your members. Make sure you promote it well and it is easy to access.

Have you used other items that have been a huge success? Or is there something you tried that didn’t work?

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Topics: Conferences, Event Planning, events, giveaway items

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