Ever joked about “gifts that keep on giving?” Sometimes you don’t want certain gifts to keep on giving, but in the case of members attending your conference, you do want the gifts you give them to mean something and leave them with fond memories of your event.
So what’s appropriate? What’s unusual and memorable? And what won’t break the bank?
What Can You Buy for a Buck?
Not much, you say? Maybe not, but add up some dollar-priced items and you may soon have something worthwhile. Denice Cajigas, Executive Assistant with the Crop Insurance Research Bureau, has learned how to work this angle.
“Purchasing gift baskets for your meeting guests can be quite expensive, not to mention the baskets just never seem to have the variety/quantity or theme you may want for your meeting, or fall within your budget,” she says. “At our meeting I shopped at one of the local dollar stores and purchased the following items to make 65 gift baskets for our Southwestern Theme meeting: China dinner plates with a festive southwestern design; large cans of Arizona Iced Tea (2 for each basket); large bags of Dorito chips; large jars of salsa; bags of assorted mini-chocolate candy bars; and colored party plastic wrap and ribbon. I loaded them in my vehicle, returned to the hotel, and assembled the gift baskets for our guests in my room. Avoiding the $3/$5/$10 delivery room charges that a hotel/resort charges, I borrowed the bellman’s baggage cart and delivered the baskets to our registration table where the guests could receive them. Total cost of 65 ‘awesome’ guest gift baskets: $196.75. The baskets were definitely a hit, and the China southwestern platter could easily be wrapped up to fit into your suitcase to take home with you!”
“Regifting” in a Silent Auction
Did you think that Denice Cajigas (who offered the tip above) had only one idea? Hardly! Here’s her tip on getting some free gifts to then auction off in a Silent Auction:
“A good tip for meetings/events that are planning a silent or live auction as part of their activities is to solicit area vendors in the area (provide vendors with your organization’s mission/purpose and event info). You can request a complimentary gift certificate/tickets/coupon from their establishment (i.e., hotel/spa amenities, restaurants, mall stores, theatres, museums, excursions). You’d be surprised the vendors that will oblige!”
Reward Your Hospitality Partners
The hotel staff at your meeting site work hard to help your meeting succeed. So why not reward them with a few trinkets from your hometown?
“No matter where we travel, in the United States or outside the United States, we try to bring small gifts of thanks from Chicago or Illinois for the bellman, wait staff, the administrative staff and even our sales manager,” says Susan J. Rosen President of In the Event, based in Palatine, IL. “Nothing says ‘thank you’ more than something from your own home town! No matter how small the token – a key chain, a t-shirt or a coffee mug – it has always been appreciated!”
Submit a Card, Get a Gift
“All of us in this business want feedback on our events especially so we can calculate the ROI,” explains Vicki Corson, Senior Events Planner with EDS. “At my company we work very hard to get our subject matter experts as speakers on conference agendas and we want to know what the audience thinks of them. One very successful tactic I use is to distribute comment cards to the attendees at they enter the room (or place them on the chairs). The card includes the speaker name, topic, time, etc. and 3-4 evaluation questions about the speaker. Then I ask for attendee information; the kind of information you would collect from a business card or scanned badge.
“Stated on the card is ‘Turn in this completed card for a free gift.’ I also add that if any required fields are left blank they’re not eligible for the free gift. The gifts are usually a business item such as flash drive, journal/pen combo, etc. My return rate on the card is around 95 percent. I’ve accomplished two goals: feedback on the speaker and contact names for our sales folks. I’ve tried a few variations. Instead of handing out the gifts as they leave the room, sometimes I’ll ask them to return the card to our exhibit booth so that our sales folks can speak with attendees directly. Or I’ve entered the cards into a drawing for a higher-priced gift such as an iPod, iPhone, GPS, etc. The most successful is the immediate gratification – turn in the card, get the gift. Make sure you look at the cards and don’t be shy about asking people to complete all the required fields.”
Scavenging for Gifts
Just like asking attendees to fill out a feedback card, they might be willing to do a little searching to get their gift.
Al Rickard, CAE, President of Association Vision, offers this idea: “Have a quick scavenger hunt during meeting breaks that prompts people to walk around a certain area looking for hidden gifts – some of the gifts might be in other people’s pockets, so it encourages conversations to ask if they have them. Put attendees in teams of three or four to enhance the networking.”
Turn Gifts Into Lower Room Rental Rates
“Improve your ROI by negotiating deeper discounts on room rates,” suggests Paulette Miklas with M&T Bank. “If the Sales Manager is willing to give you a few special concessions (VIP gift baskets, comp dinners, etc.), instead request a further discount on room rental rates from the price you’ve already negotiated. Depending on your room block size, you may receive an even greater cost savings (versus the VIP gift basket). Plus you hopefully helped yourself in establishing a good rate for the next time your group returns.”