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goodie bagAttend just about any event, conference, or convention, and you’ll usually find the longest line at the table with the swag. But what do attendees hope they’ll find in that bag? To answer that question, you have to understand that the best swag bags serve multiple functions. They create lasting memories for attendees, but they also include items your attendees want or need. In short, creating, designing, or filling swag bags is much like thoughtful gift giving. 

Corporate event gift bags should be full of possibilities, not disappointment. If they’re done right, they’ll not only improve the overall impression of your corporate event and brand, but that impression will be long-lasting and help create buzz about your event. And when goodie bags fall short? They’ll likely be unceremoniously dumped – along with any lasting impression you hoped to build.

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How Conference Swag Contributes to Events 

When it comes to events, attendees can be excited about various aspects, especially if you’ve done the preliminary marketing to drive attendance. When it comes to your corporate event, nearly every attendee has a different aspect they’re looking forward to, from networking and keynote speakers to off-site events and parties. Even with those varied goals, attendees all have one thing in common – they all love a good swag bag.

As an event planner or host, you should also love conference swag. If you see it as an add-on rather than a tool, it will show. Instead, if you prioritize the gifts you give to your audience, you can create a long-lasting impression.

First and foremost, swag reminds each attendee of the event experience you created. It’s also something they can share with others when they return home, expanding your reach and the reach of your partners.

Items that attendees use in everyday life (some of the best gifts!) serve as conversation starters for the brands you want to promote–whether it’s yours, your sponsors, or your partners. If you choose the items wisely, you can also ensure that the swag will make an impact. For example, consider custom headphones for a destination event. Not only are these a great gift for travelers, but the post-event brand visibility is significant.

Hybrid event? Imagine the impact of a gift arriving at the door. It’s a fantastic way to build anticipation for the program and create a connection, especially if you include items that in-person attendees will also receive. Your swag bag can bridge the gap.

Further, for in-person attendees, a table full of gifts builds excitement and buzz. Your eye-catching display will have guests talking from the moment they walk in.

Gift bags can significantly improve the overall attendee experience and leave the kind of lasting memories that are the goal for most corporate events.

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What Are Conference Attendees Looking for in a Conference Swag Bag?

While attendees are often excited about swag, their hopes can be dampened if the contents of the bag don’t deliver. This doesn’t always mean spending tons (though the cost of items in the bag should be commensurate with the event). However, it also doesn’t mean filling the bag to the brim with low-cost items that will be thrown away immediately. Striking the right balance is important, but what’s more important is understanding what event and conference attendees are looking for in a gift bag.

In general, bags should contain items event attendees want and/or need, though it’s okay to toss in some items that are just for fun, especially if they’re relevant to the event. For example, if your event is held somewhere tropical, consider a snorkeling mask. Meeting at a resort with pickleball courts? Include a paddle in your bag.

However, the most important element of putting together a goodie bag that doesn’t end up being left behind is to understand your audience, your event, and if applicable, your location (as the examples demonstrate). With those aspects in mind, you can tailor your gift bags to include items that are connected to the event itself.

So what do attendees want in a gift bag?

  • Apparel or clothing that’s good quality or useful (wicking/rain gear)
  • Electronics or electronic accessories (headphones, tablets)
  • Gadgets and tools (multi-use tools)
  • Snacks or treats (sweet, savory)
  • Travel accessories (pillows, eye masks)
  • Gift cards (dining, entertainment)
  • Beverages or beverage accessories (wine keys/bottle openers, insulated koozies)
  • Luxury spa items or toiletries (be careful with scent selections)

In general, attendees do not want:

  • Cheap plastic or low-quality items
  • Items that create travel issues (airport security or too large to pack) 
  • Coupons
  • Food or beverage gifts that can melt, be messy, or leak
  • Often included items, such as keychains and magnets 
  • Heavily scented items
  • Subscription services for items they will not use 

As a host, your primary objective for all facets of event planning is to understand your audience. This means that your gift bags should change with each new group of guests because they all will have differing wants and needs. While one item may be a perfect fit for one event and audience, it may not work as well for another.

One of the best tricks to put together a great gift bag is to use a theme. Much like event themes, swag bag themes can tie all of the items together, making the gift feel cohesive and complete. And if you can tie the gifts’ theme to the event or venue, even better!

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Five Themed Conference Swag Bags Your Attendees Will Love

Hopefully, you know your audience well or are working with someone who can provide you with insights. But even before digging into those who are attending, everything from destination to the conference goals can provide inspiration. For example, if the goal of the event is to reward your team, consider items that offer a unique experience (like tickets to a concert, sporting event, or other in-demand performance).

Remember, one way to ensure you create a lasting impression is to try to put yourself in the shoes of those attending your conference. Ask yourself what you’d like to see in a swag bag, how you would use the gifts to make the event even more relevant, and what small but significant changes you could make that will have a big impact.

The Tech Bag

When an event is high-tech, attendees expect the same in a goodie bag. Branded chargers, headphones, portable power banks, or travel chargers can be great items to include in your conference goodie bag. There are also fantastic virtual gift ideas to keep the weight down, such as e-gift cards or phone apps.

Or get really creative and steal a page from Polaroid. Get your guests a smartphone printer, and let them print pics from the event on the fly. You can even put a board up, and let your attendees share their printed photos!

The Survival Bag

Asking attendees to travel for your corporate event? This swag bag can help ensure they return home well-rested. In addition to avoiding overscheduling your event and including health and wellness, make sure your attendees are well taken care of after the event. A survival swag bag acknowledges that conferences can be taxing when travel is involved.

Consider an electric or bamboo toothbrush or a travel bag with toiletry items that can be used and taken home on a plane. Essentially, you’re looking for items travelers often forget or items they wish they had.

Similarly, sleep masks, neck pillows, earplugs, plane snacks (chocolate covered espresso beans!), and travel-size tea kits are thoughtful items that can help your attendees prioritize self-care during and after your event.

For those virtual attendees, don’t be afraid to include a few office-related items in your conference event bag—Moleskin notepads can easily be branded and are one of the most popular items for note-taking, even in our digital age.

The Seasonal Bag

While simple tees with quotes, designs, and logos are always a fan favorite, consider the season of your event when building your swag bag. In summer, consider tank tops or cooling shirts, microfiber sports towels, beach towels, flip-flops, sunglasses, sunscreen, and baseball caps. Winter events can offer gourmet hot chocolates, umbrellas, hats, scarves, gloves,  earmuffs, and warm clothing. Meeting near a ski slope? Consider lessons or a toboggan ride. Staying near the beach? Consider car sun shades with your logo.

The Spa Bag

Remember what we said about relaxation and self-care? Whether you’re trying to provide ways for your attendees to destress at your event or you want to help them relax after, a goodie bag filled with items that allow your guests to pamper themselves can be an amazing treat. Consider bath bombs or salts, exfoliators, luxury soaps, face and foot masks, body scrubs and sponges, and perhaps even a gift certificate for a massage at the hotel spa. Do keep in mind that scents are often a personal taste, so consider some unscented options.

Want to be a bit more extravagant? Consider a branded massage gun or even a pressure point set. Encouraging your guests to practice self-care leaves a positive impression that will last long after your event.

The Cozy Bag

You don’t need a winter night to create that cozy feeling. In fact, imagine your guests' delight when they retire for the night with a mug of hot cocoa or herbal tea with honey, tea biscuits, chocolates, comfy socks, candles, fuzzy slippers, and a cozy throw blanket.

Another gift you could consider for this type of bag is an oil/aroma diffuser, which is great while traveling and at home. Even if you just want to promote coziness in general for your attendees, you really can’t go wrong with making life more comfortable for them. Your guests will continue to curl up with your gifts even when they return home.

Whether it’s friends, family, or attendees for your event, gift giving should always take the recipient into consideration. It's not just a reflection of your event, but it’s also a reflection of your brand or your partners.

Planning a corporate event and want to be remembered for all the right reasons? Think outside the box. Put yourself in your attendees’ shoes when imagining conference event bag ideas. With a little imagination, creativity, and thought, you’ll be giving away swag that creates a positive, lasting impression. 

If you’re looking for a partner to help you plan your event and design amazing swag bags, get in touch with the Bishop-McCann team today, and let us wow your attendees!

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