Image of excited group of friends standing isolated over grey wall background holding surprise gift boxes.

Swag That Your Corporate Event Attendees DO and DON’T Want

Corporate event planning is often times a whole other experience, compared to organizing regular events and weddings. But just like at weddings, showers, birthday parties, etc., corporate events are regularly known for giving some sort of gift to the guests. In the world of event management, these gifts are called “swag”.

And just like with wedding favors, there are practical gifts that guests will genuinely like, and there are the gifts that will make them scratch their heads and ask, “Why?

So if you’re a corporate event planner, you may want to stop whatever you’re doing and give this a read. You wouldn’t want months of hard work to be soured by picking the wrong swag for your client’s event attendees!

Gift bags on the seats in the conference room, at the presentation.

DO: USB Keyrings

Those in attendance of a corporate event are often times busy, hard-working professionals. It’s probably not a far off guess that many of them have hectic schedules, crazy workloads, and more ambition and drive than they know what to do with. Especially when they’re on the go, having a USB keyring can make certain things way more convenient and easy for them.

This type of event swag is both practical and helpful to guests. Not only are they extremely likely to use it, but they also have the flexibility to use it for work, personal use, or both!

Pro Tip: Be sure to purchase your USBs from reputable vendors and even then, spot-check a few to make sure they’re free of any potentially harmful files, malware, etc.  If you purchase from a reputable source, they’re likely perfectly fine. But you don’t want to risk your swag installing a virus that ruins a client’s business!

DON’T: Regular keychains

It’s one thing if there’s something on the keychain (such as a USB) that the guest can and will realistically use. But if it’s just a keychain for the sake of a keychain? Not only is that predictable, it’s a bit lame. When most people think of corporate event swag, a keychain is quite literally the first thing to come to mind. It’s a gift that doesn’t require much effort, and it shows.

Furthermore, most guests would never want something like that. Most keychains are often bulky, tacky, and do nothing but get in the way.

DO: Lightning to Headphone Jack Adapter

There are going to be a lot of corporate event attendees who have the newest iPhone versions. The thing about these latest iPhones is that they don’t have a regular headphone jack built into them.  A Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter acts as the missing link, allowing you to plug any pair of headphones into your iPhone’s charging port.

This type of swag is not just convenient for guests; for many of them, it’s legitimately needed. (I have an iPhone XS, and I needed to buy one.) And if they’re not Apple customers? It’s a quick, easy, and popular gift they can give to someone they know who is one!

Pro Tip: If your swag is available at a booth for attendees to grab (as opposed to in an event bag that’s prepared in advance), consider having Apple and Android versions of adapters. They’ll be useful for a wider range of attendees!

Diversity Group of People Meet up Party Concept

DON’T: A cheap pair of headphones

You know those flimsy headphones you can get for free on a plane? The ones that either aren’t working from the start, are completely silent on one side, or malfunction on you ten minutes into using them?

Yeah, no one wants that as a gift for attending your client’s event.

Headphones can seem like great swag for corporate event attendees because, on paper, it checks off the 2 major components of any favorable guest gift:

  1. The guest has a need for it. This means they’ll be likely to actually use it, rather than throw it away.
  2. The guests actually wants it. This means the gift in question needs to be at least somewhat relevant and/or popular to the majority of the people at the event.

The above would be true for headphones if it’s a high quality pair. Unfortunately, when it comes to tech, higher quality often times means a bit of a higher price tag. So we completely understand that your client might not have a big enough budget to warrant spending all that money on fancy headphones for that many people.

But the alternative is a cheap gift that will either fail the guest way too quickly, or won’t be well received from the start. If the guest already has headphones, they’re likely of better quality. If they don’t, they’re probably going to want ones that are better quality for the long-run.

DO: Small company-branded items

When it comes to corporate events, it’s to be expected that the business’s brand/logo will be monogrammed or labeled onto some of the swag! But there are ideal ways to do that, versus ways that should be avoided.

If your client wants to provide branded swag to their event attendees, their best bet is to keep the item(s) smaller in size or relatively light in weight. Here are some examples of branded swag that are often put to good use, while remaining neutral enough that they can appeal to the majority of the crowd:

  • Keychain bottle opener
  • Pen/pen set
  • Luggage tags
  • Clothing (such as t-shirts, hats, hoodies, or socks)
  • Reusable travel mug
  • Decorate pins
  • Laptop stickers
  • Phone cases
  • Notebooks and pens

If possible, try to find that nice balance between showing off the company logo, while not being too in-your-face about it. If it can be tasteful but subtle at the same time, it’s more likely to be put to use. This is because it will pander to more people than if the swag is too personalized to just the company!

Brightly colorful little party favors in the form of decorative gift boxes tied with bows on a table at a special event or reception

DON’T: Big and bulky company-branded items

In general, giving large and heavy swag at a corporate event is a poor idea to begin with. The attendees are going to be walking around, often times for the majority of the night. If the attendees are travelling to your event from around the country or around the globe, they could also have trouble getting large bulky items home in their luggage.

For example: absolutely NO ONE is going to want to have to carry around a paperweight throughout the event and then lug it home. Full stop.

(But while we’re on the topic, paperweights in general are typically lousy gifts. Do all of your client’s guests live on top a very tall hill where it’s always windy? Because if not, how many people need or use paperweights anymore?)

What we’re trying to say is that heavy swag that forces guests to inconveniently haul it around with them all night will either be ditched before the event is over, or it’ll be met with more than a few grumbles. If that swag also happens to have a massive, glaring company logo ballooned across the majority of the item, the chances of it going to good use are only going down even more. A small, sophisticated branding is acceptable on event swag. But huge brandings are obnoxious.

The swag may not even necessarily be a bad gift in and of itself – it’s more so that it’s an inconvenient gift for the guests. When a gift is inconvenient for the person receiving it, it can almost come across as being inconsiderate. We know that’s not the vibe you or your client wants to give off!

That being said…

We fully understand that the above list is by no means universal to everyone and their preferences. Some corporate event attendees may LOVE some of the things we’ve discouraged above. If you, your client, or their guests like it, then that’s really all that matters!

While the above list is speaking broadly, you will come to know your client and their company better than anyone. You will know the best way to get things done, so that your client’s vision comes to life. At the end of the day, when it comes to corporate event planning (and event/wedding planning in general), trust your instinct! We believe in you.

Happy multi-ethnic business team with thumbs up in the office

Do YOU have any swag ideas that you feel are either good or bad, and want to add them to this list? Let us know in the comments! 🙂

Want to have a professional career in corporate event planning? Enroll in QC’s leading event management course today and get certified in 2020!

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