With businesses gearing up for another season of conferences, many event planners are trying to bridge the gap between virtual and in-person events. With complicated logistics and weariness for large gatherings comes the reality that hybrid formats could become the everyday standard for industry conferences and meetups.
But many planners fear that virtual attendees may miss out: no opportunity to shake up the workday, auditoriums of like-minded professionals, or conference materials to collect and peruse once the event is over. Even though virtual conferences present a unique set of challenges, they also provide organizers with a wealth of opportunities to think creatively.
At Packed with Purpose, we often talk to event organizers who seek to recreate those connections in their online events and, we’ve seen the successes when they get it really right. Ever the creators, event organizers are finding innovative new ways to replicate the in-person experience in the homes of attendees, speakers, and sponsors. And they’re using the simple power of gift-giving to do it.
Recreate the Lobby Experience
Anyone who has attended a conference can attest that it all begins in the lobby. It’s a launchpad, a space to catch up, to make new connections, and idly chat—the human entry point missing from most online conferences.
So how do you recreate a semblance of that bonding experience?
One idea in particular that we love comes from a client who opted to send boxes with a “Do not open until X day” note attached. Not only did that create excitement for attendees leading up to the event, but it gave the participants a sense of a shared, tangible experience and conversation starter.
Some have taken it a step further and built in a “box opening” event on their agendas, where attendees unbox their gifts together. Because each item comes from an impact-minded company, it creates an opportunity to talk about something values-based other than professional development and, if timed just right, can increase the day’s overall engagement.
And don’t forget the advantage of swag as an added benefit for the cost of attending.
Engage Attendees During Break Time
Another way to improve the virtual conference experience through gifts is by recreating session breaks. Among the ways our clients have gotten creative with this, one sent separate boxes of coffee and cookies to attendees to encourage them to take a break, recharge, and rejoin online sessions. Another client sent a happy hour box for a post-event online mingle session to mimic the traditional after-hours networking sessions of years past. The packages served as an interesting centerpiece for conversation during unstructured time.
Shine a Spotlight on your Sponsors
Any event organizer will recognize that sponsorship exposure is a critical part of funding events and strengthening relationships with those individuals or companies. Event gifts can also serve as a creative way to show thanks and strengthen partnerships with your sponsors
For fundraising events or galas, we’ve had clients create special gift boxes featuring donors’ names and logos. You can also seize the opportunity to customize packages for your donors as an extra-special thanks.
We often get asked if we can customize gifts to reflect sponsors of conferences both in-person and online. The answer is yes! We’ve had lots of clients request a sponsor’s logo on a particular item inside their custom orders or on the box itself. It’s a longer-lasting way to keep your sponsors’ names in front of attendees long after the event has ended.
Saying Thank You with Swag
Perhaps the most critical aspect of conference gifts is the tangible connection that a physical item creates between you and your prospects, speakers, and attendees. If you have the opportunity to engage with your attendees personally, it should be memorable and meaningful to be effective. There are countless opportunities to do this, like:
- Send a small gift to prospects or new connections with whom you’d like to cultivate a relationship
- Thank a guest speaker, showrunner, or moderator for their time in making your conference valuable
- Create a post-event gift for attendees to incentivize them to give feedback on their experience
While we may have grown more used to a digital life in the past year, there’s real and lasting value to you and your guests in providing them with takeaways that they’ll continue to use after any event. Giving your gifting options real thought may result in a tangible difference in your event’s overall feel, enjoyability, and long-term growth.
Have an idea for a unique way to engage your attendees? We can help. No matter what it looks like for you, we can work with you to create a memorable and impactful gift to elevate your conference and provide that tangible takeaway your attendees will love.