How to Choose Conference Swag that Stands Out: 3 Easy Steps

    Giving awesome conference swag is more than just picking out a fun gift (though that’s definitely a part!). 

    To improve attendees’ overall experience, you need a complete conference gifting strategy.

    If you’re not sure where to start, fear not! We put together a framework to help you spice up your next conference and build a smart event gifting strategy in three steps. 

    After implementing this framework, your conference swag boxes will be the talk of the town.

    Step 1: Know Your Audience and Your Mission

    Before you pick your conference gifts, you need to know your audience. 

    Take a look at the people who have registered for your event. Or, if registration hasn’t opened yet, review your invite list. What common traits do they share? 

    Some questions you may want to consider include: 

    • Are most people traveling or are they local?
    • Are registrants managers, directors, or individual contributors? 
    • What are their job functions?
    • Why are most people attending? Do they want to walk away with practical how-tos or are they there to network and be part of a community? 

    You may not be able to answer all of these questions, but that’s okay. Use this as a jumping-off point to make sure your gifting strategy is in line with guests’ expectations, wants, and needs.

    You can also send a survey before the event asking registrants to better understand their reasons for attending your conference.

    You’ll also want to get crystal clear on how you want to be perceived as a company. The gifts you give will be a reflection of your brand’s tone and values. Do you want to lead with humor? A socially conscious message? The sky’s the limit, but you need to make a strategic choice.

    Step 2: Give Creative Conference Swag and Gifts 

    Cue the confetti – it’s time to choose conference gifts! 

    Here are some best practices to stand out and avoid common swag mistakes.

    • Stay away from the same old boring swag. No one wants their 200th branded pen.
    • Be mindful with branding. Adding some branded elements helps your guests remember you long after the event ends, but you want to ensure it’s done in a tasteful way. After all, folks don’t want to look like a walking billboard for your brand!
    • Choose practical and functional gifts. Notebooks, water bottles, totes, snacks, and more are great options to give during the conference. 
    • Remember what you learned in the step above. Try to curate conference swag boxes that align with attendee’s roles, interests, and goals. And, make sure your gifts reflect who you are as a brand.

    Now for the fun part! Here are some of our top ideas for conference swag that are sure to make a splash.

    new orleans gift box

    1. Gifts that support local businesses

    Step up your conference swag boxes by celebrating the host city in style! No matter where the event is taking place, supporting local businesses is always a good idea! Incorporate treats from the neighborhood bakery, source products from artisans in the area, and really lean into the local culture.

    Check out these custom event gift baskets we designed for Paycor to hand out at the 2022 SHRM Conference in New Orleans. This custom swag box was PACKED with flavor! We included Mardi Gras king cake pralines from The Famous Praline Co., beignet-flavored popcorn by Cajun Pop, a Cajun spice blend, and more. You can bet folks were ready to hit Bourbon Street after snagging this corporate gift box!

    deacon snack gift box

    2. Gifts that share small business stories

    A foolproof gift for conference goers = snacks! We've found that delicious treats are the top requested items in corporate gift boxes. Not to mention, a well-crafted trade show survival kit helps attendees avoid getting hangry — which is always a plus!

    Sweeten the deal by highlighting the makers behind the gourmet treats! Take this one for Deacon Construction as an example. They wanted to make sure their recipients knew alllll about the awesome small businesses that made each item. So we included a custom card amplify to tell their stories!

    Sharing these small business stories made for a much more thoughtful corporate gifting and event experience.

    miami gift box

    3. Surprise welcome gifts

    Hosting a conference in Miami? We're not *not* jealous!

    If you're hosting an event in a sunny destination, consider gifting branded hats and branded sunglasses.

    When Drift held their FLASH Conference in Miami last year, we dreamt up these awesome corporate gift boxes that were full of beachy fun!

    What better way to kick off a conference than by surprising attendees with a custom event gift basket? Whether there's a specific theme for the conference, or maybe it's just being held in a host city that deserves to be celebrated — no matter what, it's always a good idea to lean into it. That way, folks will use the branded swag during the whole conference. Talk about making a good first impression!


    Give New Life to Leftover Conference Swag

    Are you afraid to open your company swag closet in fear of an avalanche? Then it might be time to consider kitting and fulfillment services. Just send us your swag, and we'll kit your products, giving a whole new life to your leftover swag!

    conference speaker gifts

    4. Gifts from the guest speakers 

    Have a special guest speaker at your next big conference? Round out the experience with a special keepsake from them!

    Take these swag boxes for Zendesk’s Women’s Leadership Conference as an example. These goodie bags were filled with useful products that the attendees could actually use during the conference — like a branded water bottle (hydration is key!) and cookies for sustenance. The best part? They included a signed copy of The High Five Habit from their speaker, Mel Robbins.

    guild sustainable tote bag

    5. Sustainable swag bags

    Custom tote bags have totally nailed the trade show swag game, thanks to their versatility and eco-friendly vibe. These bags go beyond the event scene, becoming your go-to for groceries, work gear, or just about anything. Plus, they're like a high-five to the planet – a reusable, sustainable alternative to those pesky plastic bags.

    And the best part? You can jazz them up with cool designs, from event logos to artsy creations. With options like organic cotton and recycled materials, tote bags are the eco-warrior of swag box choices. They're not just event accessories; they're everyday reminders of a great experience!

    sustainable swag gift box

    6. Eco-friendly conference swag

    One of our favorite designs, these sustainable corporate gift boxes for When I Work included amazing products from small businesses committed to eco-friendliness: 

    • Sustainably sourced and ethically made custom socks by Conscious Step, which donates a portion of every purchase to nonprofits
    • A custom logo candle by Modern Sprout, with a ceramic candle vessel that transforms into a planter after the flame burns down (it even comes with seeds so you can reuse the planter to grow herbs and flowers!)
    • Two seed-bearing lollipops from Amborella Organics (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!)

    Step 3: Follow-up

    Your work doesn’t end when the event ends.

    Now it’s time to follow up with an awesome message (and dare we say – another gift?). 

    You can email attendees thanking them for their time, sharing follow-up resources, and asking for their feedback, on the event, or the gifts. 

    Doing this will ensure you stay top of mind and help to continue the conversation. 

    You can also create a separate website or use our Gifting Portals to let attendees claim a gift and share resources.

    Best Conference Swag Items

    Creating a winning conference swag strategy is as easy as 1,2,3

    Knowing your audience, selecting a fun gift, and following up will help you create stronger engagement with your audience. 

    If you’re looking for even more gifting inspiration and ideas, check out our Corporate Catalog!

    Written by Molly Ledwith. Updated Nov. 2023.

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