Mar 11, 2021
Although conferences and trade shows are still taking place virtually, that doesn’t mean you can’t engage attendees—and give sponsors the exposure they’re hoping for.
Swag bags have turned into swag boxes, and ship-to-home boxes can still create connection and provide a shared foundation. For sponsors, virtual events present a golden opportunity to showcase their brands in whatever way they want.
So what should you include? The sky's the limit—and different gifts create different responses. Here are some ideas.
Physical swag will stand out in a virtual conference. Attendees aren’t traveling anywhere, so any sponsored gifts they receive via swag boxes will be their sole non-virtual experience of the event.
Plus, conferences can use swag to create a shared experience for attendees. After all, many attendees look at conferences as a networking opportunity. Welcome boxes give everyone a baseline to build from.
A hospitality trade show might offer high-end candles and essential oil samples like those that are available in a hotel spa. Scent can balance out Zoom fatigue at a virtual event, and there’s no reason why attendees can’t be guided through trying out different scent-based experiences during the conference.
You could also include a wireless charging dock for phone or headphones or a branded USB hub for attendees to place on their desks. It’s new, it’s contemporary, it’s branded, and it isn’t something your attendees have been staring at for the last eleven months. After nearly a year of quarantine, little upgrades make a big difference.
Another benefit to going virtual has been that people who couldn’t previously attend a conference now can. The same holds true for high-profile speakers. And conference organizers are no longer limited by the size of a venue.
A greater number of participants lets sponsored swag reach more people. For instance, sponsors at a conference of restaurateurs might send whiskey kits with glasses and whiskey stones—a swag perk that would undoubtedly be enjoyed during the conference, as well as afterward—including when these conference-goers are able to host friends for cocktails again. The wider audience quickly snowballs the brand’s exposure.
For events that last for more than one day, conference organizers can plan for different sponsored gift boxes each day. This allows each sponsor’s brand to have its own time to be celebrated and enjoyed—without competition.
For example, a photography equipment trade show that lasts for three days could have three separate boxes sent to participants.
While one or two of the days might have swag boxes geared more toward photographers, the last day could be a winery gift set—with a sample of wine and to-go stemless wine cups that can come into play during a closing happy hour—and provide a sponsor with branded opportunities that continue long after the conference is over.
Ultimately, conferences are as much about building an experience as they are about the networking and the learning. That’s part of why organizations pick exciting locations for their in-person events.
And while a virtual event will of course be very different from an in-person gathering, that difference presents opportunities and ways to get creative. So capitalize on how much participants will appreciate not just a physical gift but a sensory dimension to the conference that isn’t staring at or listening to a screen.
To create this sense of a unique experience, give gifts that employ senses of taste and smell. This might include local snacks or beverages, a scented candle, or even the trusty office supplies and written materials that participants will use at the conference. After all, everybody loves that new-book smell.
And since a virtual trade show or event likely means you’re reaching more people than usual, make sure your sponsors know that. Not only is it a chance to get their brand in front of more people, but the items are being sent directly to someone’s home—no chance of someone realizing it doesn’t fit in their luggage.
And finally, consider spreading sponsored swag out over multiple days to create a fresh experience each morning. Get creative with swag boxes and involve your sponsors in deciding how their brand will be presented.
The result? Satisfied sponsors and a memorable virtual event.