It’s hard to go to a show, conference, or annual meeting without expecting a few things: speakers, sessions, and swag.
SWAG: stuff we all get. It’s the pens, the notebooks, the reusable bags, the squeeze balls, the screen cleaners the other variety of branded knick knacks that get passed out at shows.
You probably feel like you need to offer attendees something, and why not? A nice giveaway will help attendees remember your event fondly and look forward to your next event.
The problem is that sometimes those giveaways can get pricey. Chances are you’ll want to brand your item, and that can change depending on the item too. T-shirts and bags, for example, can cost more per unit. So here are some things to think about.
1) When budgeting, consider your RSVPed attendees, price per unit, and try to get as close as possible. There’s nothing wrong with having left over bags or pens (you're hoping for some last minute registrants, after all!), but if you don’t have another event at which to give those things away you could be saddled with a lot of extra stuff.
2) Check, double check, and triple check your specialized logo or branding, and then have someone else check it too. All you need is a box with thousands of t-shirts, pens, or reusable shopping bags with a typo on them. Plus if you’re branding for a specific event (ie Medicalpalooza 2013!) then the date has to be spot on.
3) Think about what people use and need. Again, pens and shopping bags will likely serve a purpose. But is there something that your specific attendance group will use? There is a staggering number of marketing and promotional items out there. There’s bound to be something that fits your membership almost exactly. Be creative! Also consider things they will use or need during the actual meeting or conference. It’s true that everyone gives away pens, but everyone likes to take notes during meetings, too.
4) Price check and ask for samples. "You get what you pay for" comes to mind here, and if you're paying less you might be sacrificing quality. Depending on the item, it might be ok to step down a little in quality to fit your budget. For things like apparel or small electronics, however, they have to work and be of decent quality or people won't use them. In fact, the frustration over them being poor quality, falling apart, or not working may bring on negative feelings, and you never want that associated with your event.
Remember that if your budget just can’t get out some swag for your event, it’s not the end of the world. You’re offering your members and attendees more in knowledge, networking, and interaction. But try to fit it in for the next year if you can swing it. You’d be surprised how a well-chosen item of SWAG can impact your future!