Alternatives to Standard
One of the most important things at a conference or trade show is your brand’s ability to stand out. So don’t default to the same old, dull conference swag!
Trade shows, conferences and corporate events are making a comeback in 2023. But does that mean boring swag has to tag along?
We think not.
If you’re looking for ways to outshine your competitors, connect with conference attendees and represent your brand meaningfully, you’re in the right place!
Here, we’ll share some awesome gift ideas and traditional conference gift alternatives that’ll level up your next event! We know finding high-quality swag for conferences can be a headache — and we’re here to help.
Swag for conferences has never been so snazzy.
1. Support Local Businesses
Company event swag and conference gifts without meaning behind them are so 2010.
So instead of sending a gift bag full of cheap stuff, impress attendees with a gift box brimming with locally sourced products from small businesses. Even better, find conference swag from businesses in the city where the conference takes place!
This doesn’t just make a major impression on recipients — you’ll give the local small business community a boost!
Sweet-and-Spicy Gifts for a New Orleans Conference
Skip the same-old swag and celebrate the host city in style!
No matter where your event occurs, you can give gifts that the local culture and energy inspire. We designed these French Quarter-themed gift boxes for the Paycor team to hand out at the 2022 SHRM Conference in New Orleans.
And we didn’t skimp on the vibe and flavor! We included top-notch goods from local businesses:
- Mardi Gras king cake pralines via the New Orleans Famous Praline Company
- Beignet-flavored popcorn via Cajun Pop
- A Cajun spice blend via Nourished Roots Spice Co.
- A bottle of TABASCO original hot sauce
- A New Orleans beignet-scented candle
You can bet folks were ready to hit Bourbon Street after nabbing this gift!
Chicago-Themed Gifts for a Big Corporate Event
Opening a new location? Launching a new product? Amplify your neighbors and local biz community when you make the big announcement!
Our friends at Fellowes Brands, a family-owned company serving workplaces for over a century, came to us for custom gifts to announce their new experiential office in Chicago’s Fulton Market District. Frankly, we couldn’t wait to bring their vision to life!
We created these fully custom gift boxes filled with items from surrounding businesses:
- Intelligentsia coffee
- Good Ambler cafe treats
- Vital Proteins hydration supplement packets
- A coaster from the neighboring Guinness Factory
- A guide to Fulton Market
This conference swag went above and beyond — it was a true celebration of the neighborhood!
2. Swag That Doesn't Feel Like Swag
Listen: BACK AWAY FROM THE LANYARDS AND BRANDED PENS! Yes, brand recognition and company logos are important.
Let’s say you want to give some swag-like gifts. We get it.
But when it comes to conference gifts, it’s all about the look and feel. So the best move you can make is to give swag that doesn’t feel like swag.
That means meeting your customer where they are and giving them something they’ll actually use! Hopefully, they’ll hang onto it long after the event ends. (A little heart goes a long way.)
Conference Swag That Actually "Creates a Buzz"
Check out these gifts for the folks at Lessonly — they understood the assignment!
For their annual Yellowship conference, they wanted to “create a buzz” that’d boost attendance at the virtual event. So they treated attendees to a gift they could enjoy during the conference.
In our gift box, we went way beyond free stuff with a popped-on company logo:
- Coffee from Tinker Coffee Co., an Indianapolis-based coffee roaster
- A uniquely branded camper mug
- Fun llama stickers
Sure, you might see similar promotional products in a typical swag bag. But notice a key difference — they didn’t just slap their logo on the mug.
Instead, they added the event’s minimalist symbol, then their company mantra to “Do Better Work.” Here’s the kicker — it then reads, “But First, Coffee.”
Brilliant. That’s what we call understanding your customer!
Conference Speaker Gift and Swag Ideas
Having a guest speaker at your next conference? A curated gift is a great way to hype attendees!
Check out these custom gifts for Zendesk’s Women’s Leadership Conference. Besides featuring their guest speaker’s book, “The High 5 Habit” by Mel Robbins, they included practical items and treats:
- An insulated water bottle by Que
- An embossed black leather notebook
- A deck of Mal Paper affirmation cards
- Delectable lemon sugar cookies
- An invigorating candle
Yeah, some of these are familiar promotional items in swag boxes.
But it’s all about the little details and packaging pieces. They’re what make this gift so much more than drab swag!
Pro tip: You can’t go wrong with classy reusable water bottles (heck, you can even go kitschy, depending on the event). Stay hydrated in style!
Check Out All Our Brand New DesignsView The Corporate Catalog
3. The Modern (and Budget-Friendly) Swag Bag
So, you’ve got a small budget — that’s totally understandable. We can’t all go for the luxurious stuff.
But even with a small budget, you can give gifts that make a big impact! If we've learned anything from crafting thousands of corporate gifts over the years, it's that presentation is key.
Instead of doling out standard conference swag items, hand attendees a gift box of items that matches the event’s overall theme.
Need examples? Let’s see here...
Affordable (and Fun!) Swag for a Miami Conference
Drift’s 2022 FLASH Conference in Miami inspired this beachy-fun gift box. Wouldn't this be a fantastic way to welcome conference-goers upon arrival?
We put together all the goodies to Miami-ize event attendees:
- A floating flamingo to hold a poolside beverage
- 1990s music trivia cards for a seaside game
- A disposable camera to capture team selfies
- Bright bracelets to glow on the dance floor all night
- Liquid IV packets for the morning after … “networking”
Overall, this gift was so fun and on-theme while staying low-cost. (Talk about a social media hit, too. Go employee engagement!)
A Better Way To Gift a T-Shirt
We’re not nearly out of nifty and budget-friendly conference swag ideas. Check out these gifts we made for Design Pickle’s annual Spirit Week company retreat!
This summer camp-themed event was the perfect opportunity for matching tees and canteen stickers to get folks in the groove. By presenting the tees and stickers in a custom-packaged box, this swag gift has a whole new look and feel.
The Design Pickle team told us everyone LOVED the gifts. And we loved seeing LinkedIn photos of everyone rocking their camp duds at the Spirit Week kickoff!
Pro tip: Summer and fall are great themes for corporate gifts and conference swag!
4. Snacks, Not Conference Swag
There’s a lot of talk about waste around conference and trade show gifting. Why not fix it?
Give something practical and useful — like snacks! In our experience, employees would rather receive snacks than other conference swag stuff.
And that makes perfect sense. With long days full of events and networking, people need to nosh!
So, how do you give a bunch of snacks while making them feel like parts of an actual gift?
On-Brand Snack Gift Box
Take a note from the folks at Mirati Therapeutics. They supplied snacks for their company-wide conference with cohesive, on-brand gifts.
In fact, their gifts fueled team members all day:
- Coffee packets by Kuju Coffee
- Salted pretzels from On Tap Kitchen
- An almond butter IQ Bar
- Superfood granola by Gr8nola
What’s really unique here is that the snacks themselves feel on-brand without trying too hard. By simply following the company’s color scheme and adding branded packaging, we took this snack-centric gift box into the stratosphere!
Stories Behind the Snacks
Here’s yet another great example of a snackified gift box. This one went out to Deacon Construction.
We made sure this gift featured gourmet treats and snacks from awesome small businesses. Plus, the Deacon team wanted to amplify the stories behind each incredible product!
By sharing stories with recipients, these gifts had genuine thoughtfulness behind them.
Pro tip: Thoughtful, meaningful gifts also share your company’s core values!
5. Sustainable Swag
Speaking of thoughtfulness, consider going green with sustainable event swag to cut down conference swag waste. That means making sure what you give is from environmentally conscious businesses that create sustainable products.
Sustainability isn’t simply one of the most popular gift box trends. It’s REALLY important to our planet’s future!
And it’s becoming increasingly clear that people (and potential customers) expect the companies they work with to take part in protecting that planet.
Inspired? Here's how one company decided to go green with swag for conferences this year.
Eco-Friendly Conference Swag Gift Box
This is one of our favorite green gift designs!
Our custom gift boxes for When I Work included amazing products from small businesses committed to eco-friendliness:
- Sustainably sourced and ethically made socks by Conscious Step, which donates a portion of every purchase to nonprofits
- A Rooted Candle by Modern Sprout, with a ceramic candle vessel that transforms into a planter after the flame burns down
- Note: It even comes with seeds so you can reuse the planter to grow herbs and flowers!
- Two seed-bearing lollipops from Amborella Organics
- Note: After you finish the lollipop, you can plant the biodegradable stick in soil, cover with a layer of topsoil, water daily and grow an herb or flower.
6. Give New Life to Old Conference Swag With Kitting and Fulfillment
Are you afraid to open your company swag stash because an avalanche might hit you? You’re not alone!
This means it might be time to consider kitting and fulfillment services. You have tons of different ways to give fresh life to dull swag, whether it’s embracing custom packaging or combining swag with products from our vendor portfolio.
No matter how you want to go about it, we’re here to help!
Your Products + Our Packaging and Fulfillment Services = Perfection
Do you happen to have 2,000 branded mugs sitting in your office? Are you having trouble figuring out how to package, ship and get them in people’s hands?
We admit it sounds extreme. But actually, it wouldn't be the first time we’d heard a similar story!
When our friends at FlynnO'Hara Uniforms came to us, they needed help sending out 2,000 gifts to their partners to celebrate the company's 50th anniversary.
They’d already purchased the branded mugs they wanted to send — but then they got stuck on how to send them. That’s where our kitting and fulfillment services come in!
We designed a custom mailer to elevate the mug to feel much more special. Plus, we handled all the packaging and shipping logistics.
7. Reduce Conference Swag Waste With Portal Gifts
Want to treat trade show attendees or conference-goers to gifts without contributing to swag waste? We hear you!
Portals, our corporate gifting platform, is the ideal solution. Here’s how it works.
At your trade show booth, attendees simply scan a QR code that leads them to your company-branded Portal with selectable gifts. They choose their favorite gift, and it goes right to their door — all they do is enter their shipping address.
We handle the rest!
It’s truly a win-win for everyone involved:
- Your company avoids overbuying a bunch of swag.
- Your recipient enjoys having free hands during the trade show instead of toting a gift.
- We handle all the gifting logistics for you.
- Your recipient still gets a lovely gift at their residence.
- Swag waste officially decreases.
Gifts in a Click!
Give recipients the power to choose a gift they'll actually like.
Whether they scan a QR code or you send them a link, they can access your branded Portal to select a gift and get it right at their door.
In fact, that's exactly how we helped the folks at Warner Music Group offer gifts to 2,000 nationwide employees! We designed five gift options for their Portal, plus an option to donate to charity in lieu of a gift box.
This not only let Warner employees choose a gift they truly liked but also reduced swag waste.
Read about Warner Music Group's experience with Portal gifts.
Get Custom Gifts with Teak & Twine
Have a gifting project on your radar? We'd love to help! Whether you need custom corporate gifts, custom swag boxes, or even just need help packaging up your own merch (hello, kitting and fulfillment!) — there's really nothing we can't do when it comes to gifting.
What are you waiting for?