by Rameka Jennings , August 12th, 2021

 

Show Notes

Whether virtual, live, or hybrid, one thing is for sure: your event is not complete without gifting. In this episode, we talk with Rameka Jennings, a Gifting Guru at Eventure, to better understand event gifting and to learn the best corporate swag ideas. Topics include: 

  • Virtual event gifting and ways to take it to the next level 
  • Hybrid event gifting and how to bring both audiences together through gifting 
  • Live event gifting and unique ideas for those in person 
  • Overall gifting trends

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Transcript

Hi, and welcome to The Event's Experience, where we take a deep dive into everything event planning. I work for Bishop-McCann, an agency devoted to creating JOY through meetings, incentives, and events for big name brands. On this podcast, myself and our company's experts will discuss all things events, so keep listening to hear all about the latest tips and trends for virtual, live, and hybrid events. 

Hi, everybody! Today, I have with me Rameka Jennings who has been in the events space for over ten years, and she has led the event gifting company, Eventure, since its inception to grow into a thriving business devoted to corporate event gifting. In this episode, we are going to be discussing virtual, hybrid, and live gifting, along with the gifting trends you should know about. So happy that you could join me on the show today, Rameka. Thanks for joining us!

Thank you, Brenna! I'm so happy to be able to join you.

So I thought that we could kick off our little chat with virtual gifting since that was why Eventure was founded to fill that need. So we all know that while there are some spectacular virtual events that can be attended, there's always that missing piece of connection--being in that physical space to feel that energy, instead of being at home and you miss that. So because people may feel like there are some missing components when attending virtually, would you say that online guests expect corporate swag when they attend?

You know, it's interesting. I think it kind of depends on the culture of the event to begin with. Have they received things in the past? But, yeah, it's pretty standard. Most people are used to getting the swag, the registration bags, the amenities from vendors, things like that. So being able to take any thoughts and be able to bridge them across into the virtual experience only enhances your overall guest experience because we are just striving to have that touchpoint again with each other and to connect with each other. And that's just an easy and simple way to really say to your attendee, "Hey, we're thinking of you."

Speaking of enhancing your event, how can a gift really take your virtual event to that next level?

So by having a gift experience for your attendees, it really 1) sends a message of "We're thinking about you. We miss you. We want you to be able to connect with us." But 2) it's a great strategy to not only enhance your messaging, but also be able to connect with your audience at a level that you want them to understand your strategic messaging. So if you're doing a sales meeting with some people in the field market, and you want to really show them that you're excited to power up and ready to head into this next quarter, then send a gift box that’s curated that has really exciting items in it. It doesn't have to be high priced items. It could be things like a power bar to charge your cell phone. But it's all going in with the same idea and theme, and that's conveying your strategy. So I think by conveying your strategy across not only your meeting but also into the gift really makes a whole, cohesive experience.

Yeah, it can really just bring everything together and make it feel like one complete thing. I get that.

Yes, one complete thought.

After months of creating boxes for these types of events—and I have seen the pictures. I've seen the stacks of boxes. I know you've been very busy! So what are some of your favorite gift ideas for virtual programs?

Yes, it's been quite a year, honestly. We are a very green company, but we have hit the ground running, and we've been very fortunate to be able to partner with some great brands out there. So we've done across the board things like snack boxes because they just want their attendees to have a little snack that they're used to. And what I love about those experiences is that I like to be able to bring forth unique brands. So if you've got a company that's health conscious and focused on that, we're looking at unique brands that are small mom and pop shops, female-owned, BIPOC, and LGBTQ-owned companies that I want to be able to bring exposure to their brands, so that it reaches a wider audience. So that's been really a big part of that. Especially during the pandemic, a lot of the corporations that we've been working with have wanted to be able to support smaller businesses, so I've been able to just spend a lot of time focusing on finding these smaller businesses. 

At the same end, we've done some fun gift boxes that have really just blown out a theme and a location where they're used to meeting. We did a fun Chicago-branded box where it had everything from the Garrett popcorn to Wrigley’s gum and Frango mints. It was really location-centric since this was a Chicago-based office, and everyone was used to going there to Chicago to get a little Windy City love sent to their homes.

Yeah, I love the idea of making it so specific to them and making it unique for them, really customizing it for their location. I love that. Let's shift gears a little bit here and talk about hybrid events, since we know these are becoming increasingly popular in the environment that we are in. So when preparing gifts for hybrid, do you always give both the people at home and those at the venue the same gift, or do you customize it depending on the attendee type?

Yeah, you know, the hybrid world is a world that we're kind of getting re-familiarized with. I think it's going to be a reality for a lot of us for quite a bit as we all kind of get used to the post-pandemic world of meeting everyone's comfortability as to whether or not they're going to travel, so there is this hybrid experience. With the clients that we've worked with, it kind of depends on where their budget lies because doing a hybrid experience does obviously increase your IT costs that you have for audio visual. And I do find it important, though, to be able to send something to your hybrid people because they're not on site; they're not seeing the people in person. You know, there's that element of being on site and being there live that's different from being able to join on Zoom or whatever platform you're using. 

So when I'm working with a client and if they have a reduced budget, I almost fight a little bit more for these hybrid folks to have some sort of element or gift that we can bring over and across to that field. We want them to be exposed to the sights, the smells, and the vendor interactions just as much as the people who are on site. And then even so, for the folks that are on site, if you're able to buy in bulk, I try to harness as much buying power and leverage as much as I can, so that they do kind of have an equal experience being home versus being on site (but kind of getting the same stuff that we're used to getting).

Yeah, so you kind of touched on this a little bit. But one of the most important considerations of hybrid events are those two separate audiences. You want to make sure that there's this cohesive group feel even when there are thousands of miles separating them. But as we know, this can be very challenging because they can be worlds apart. Because of this, what are some ways to bring both your virtual and live audiences together through gifting?

Yeah, so one of the biggest and easiest ways is to just have an experience of a gift or gift box type experience that both sets of groups, virtual and live, are able to experience together. So almost the opposite side of making sure you have something for the hybrid folks, give everyone the same experience. It might not look exactly the same, but people are sharing the same commonality of either a room drop and a live experience where you're receiving something and you're like, "Oh, it's that surprise and delight that everybody wants to have and achieve at events." And the same thing is happening when someone might be receiving something at home in that same experience. 

What we love to do with Eventure is get into the branding and really dig deep into that. So we brand all of our boxes, and they're custom printed. We just really blow out the brand, you could say, and use the conference theme in the logo to design the box so that you're not just getting your craft Amazon looking box on your front door. You're like "Wow!" You're eating with your eyes first, and you're like, "Oh my gosh. Like, this is cool!" And you open it up, and it could even just have snacks. But just the presentation of what you receive is something that bridges across hybrid versus in person. Everyone has that hit of dopamine that you get when you either get a card in the mail or someone gives you a card in person at a birthday party. Like that's just that feeling that we all want to have, and that's what we try to achieve.

Yeah, definitely. And that personal component where you talked about how you brand it for them, that really does have a different feel to it compared to just the brown boring box that you might get, like you said, from Amazon. So I definitely think you're right; that could be like a little spark, a little bit of energy boost for them, and a little bit of happiness in their day before that event starts. That's awesome.

Exactly.

So as we continue to see more and more live events start up again that means, obviously, a need for corporate swag in person. What are some unique ways to tackle the gifting component of your event that give attendees a little bit more choice when they actually are there in person?

Absolutely. We've seen a lot, and I think everyone in the event industry, especially on the promotional side, has had to flex over these past 18, 19 months of being able to reinvent their business model to be able to reach a wider audience. Now that we are going to, hopefully, start looking toward the live experience again. What I love is when we can bring several brands together and create either a hospitality suite, a gifting suite, or something like that. So that if you have someone that wants to bring in, say, the Maui Jim experience - that someone wants to do the sunglasses experience. I love having those types of fittings on site. I think it not only allows the attendee to kind of feel like that VIP Oscars swag room, that notorious room everyone talks about, it kind of gives you that VIP feel and experience. But then also it allows the vendor to interact with your attendees and make the right choice for them. So whether that's an experience where it's actually something tactile that they get on site or something that they dropship, so they don't have to worry about taking something home. That's what I love doing. 

And then to top it all off, one of my favorite things is a lot of companies are also offering the option that they've already pre-selected a couple charities. And if people are like, "I've been in the industry for a long time, and this is my 10th year coming to this conference, so I'm used to getting stuff." They have the option to donate the cost of what their item would have been to a selected charity. I think that is just such an awesome thing to do and to consider, kind of giving that element of gifting back to someone else or to a great organization.

Yeah, I think that's a great way, and then that also lets them choose what they want to do with that, so then they can choose what they're really passionate about. They get that boost of feeling good because you've helped somebody else out. And if they're set on the gifts, that's a great way to still make them feel rewarded through a different experience, so that's awesome.

Yeah, absolutely.

Are there any other favorite live event gift ideas that you have?

Oh, my gosh. Across the board, I think working in the gifting industry has taught me that I love fancy, expensive things. My husband always jokes with me that I basically get paid to shop online, and I love it. So a lot of people have kind of decided everyone is tired of getting their water bottles, notebooks, and things like that. But we all kind of also need them all the time. So there are a couple brands out there that are doing some really unique things. Like I recently worked with a company where they have notebooks that are completely made out of pulverized apples, and the pages are literally made out of pulverized apples that they then turn into the pages of the notebook. And I had over a thousand of them delivered to our office, and it smelled like an apple orchard. It was amazing! And so it's kind of like that little tweak on the same theme and variations. So we're all used to a notebook, but now here's a really nice, executive notebook that has 1) hit the mark of it being a green product that we love to support, but 2) it's easy and functional. So it's just vendors that are taking something that's almost predictable and changing it in a way so that it kind of becomes a little bit more unique and defining for them. 

Something for the live experience, too, is that we all say that we're tired of the mugs and things like that, but if someone wants to try to give me a Yeti, I will take that any day. And I love being able to have the on-site branding. That's something that's really cool that I've seen where we've been able to bring in engravers that will have their engraving machines. All you have to do is mass purchase your bottle or whatever you want to do, and then people can personalize it, either you set it up that it only prints your conference logo or maybe they can personalize it with their name, too. I think it really surprises people that you can do that. But then people get excited that you have a nice quality mug. It's not just a screen printed logo on it; it's personalized and then you are there to see it. It becomes a whole different experience.

Right. I feel like that personalization—I know we've kind of touched on it already—I just feel like that's such a huge thing. Especially today, when there's so many ways that you can get things personalized, I feel like now when you see that personalization, it means so much more than just a blank coffee mug, like you said, or a blank Yeti. So adding that extra touch, I think definitely takes it to a different level.

Yeah. And there's a lot of opportunity out there too. The standard acronym of swag is "stuff we all get." But to basically touch on your point of personalization, if you want to provide swag, think and try to find a way that you can personalize it in some way. Even if it's just by color or something, you can personalize it a little bit more to a different level to take it from swag, "stuff we all get," to a little bit personalized. It kind of just enhances the overall gift.

Yeah, definitely. So to wrap this up, are there any other overall gifting trends that we should be on the lookout for?

Yeah, so I think some of my favorite gifting trends right now are the wellness items. I think that people have been focusing on the masks and the sanitizers, but now really focusing on the whole wellness. Whether that's something that comes with the mask like a facial mask or  moisturizing products that are of high quality. It just really eases your mind, and it's a nice gift to receive because it's not just for the conference. You can use it and still be mindful, and take that 30 minute break and put on your eye mask. You know, so it's not just getting the PPE anymore. It's now thinking about our whole well-being. So that's been some of my favorite things to see recently. 

On top of that, I think there's a lot of unique products that are coming out from social media that we see all the time - heavily influenced products from like TikTok, Instagram, and things like that. I recently worked with MindBands, a product that is almost like a headband that you can wear at night, but there's a Bluetooth speaker in it, so you can get it personalized. But then also if it's night and you just want to wind down listening to some white noise, or if you're laying in bed watching your iPad and you don't want to have bulky earphones on, it's a really fun product. That is a way that you can use it outside of the traditional meeting.

I have never even heard of that, so how cool is that? Well, thank you so much, Rameka, for sharing your insights on all of these different event types. Thank you for talking with me today!

No, it was my pleasure! Thank you, Brenna, and I hope that we can talk again soon in the future.

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