6 Ideas to Impress Me with Conference Swag

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HR conference, human resource blogger, HR blogger, conference swag, SHRM 2011 conferencePlease, please impress me with your swag. . .

At this very moment as we near the annual SHRM conference, swag is on my mind.  Especially since I just spent the last two weeks pouring over promotional product magazines and quotes for my own media kits and swaggy stuff.  I’d like to think I know a little about vendor and marketing promotional items for conference, career fairs, and events.  Last year I attended twenty-plus conferences either as a speaker or blogger.  While I enjoy the sessions and talks, I really love the vendors.

Yes, the vendor hall is my favorite.  It’s pure marketing and sales at it’s finest.  Hundreds of vendors pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to set up shop, dive bomb you with emails, and sell, sell, sell.  So if you came to sell, consider your swag.  Vendor halls allow me to connect with book publishers to receive review copies, learn about the business, enjoy a few drinks, and just connect.

But if you want to draw me in, what really matters is the swag.

And if you happen to be attending SHRM as a vendor or HR Solutions Provider, here are some items on my SHRM swag wish list.
  • Champagne. SHRM is in Vegas and what better way to impress that HR influencer than with booze delivered directly to my hotel.  I’ll have a bottle of your finest bubbly please.
  • Tech Products. Anything for the tech user and blogger like myself.  Depending on your budget and willingness to engage the conference social media influencer, iPad covers or custom branded Flip video cameras are a great way to make an impression.  One of my most favorite swag items I picked up at a conference is my iphone cover from Jobbing.  It’s a product that I use every day which is essential in branding and promotion.  It’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to do — driving conversations and candidates to their website.
  • Buttons. Colorful buttons, necklaces that draw attention and push the line.  Interactive swag is one of the most effective tools, interesting and unusual pins, and items that appeal to the audience.   Another favorite swag item of mine came from the Persimmon Group who gave out pins with the words, “Cat Herder” on the front.  These were the talk of the event.  Everyone was making a b-line to their booth to grab one.
  • Light It Up. It’s Vegas folks and what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas at least at SHRM 2011.  Light up sunglasses, necklaces, and shot glasses just may do the trick.  But please check your branded poker cards at the door.  I’m really not the gambling kind.
  • Travel Bag or Custom Luggage Tag. As I mentioned, I travel A LOT.   I have a slight addiction for purses, bags, and luggage.  That and comfortable shoes for all this travel.  I’m sure I’m not alone.  A collapsable travel bag that goes beyond the basic black or custom luggage tag will have people talking about you wherever it is I go.  Even a custom Twitter name badge will do the trick.
  • Travel Products. I never seem to remember everything I need when I go away for a trip.  Branded personal products, hairspray, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and hair combs may just win me over.  I stumbled around the giant casino in Vegas last month for nearly 25 minutes at HR Demo before I located a shop that sold hair picks for this girl’s curly mop of hair.
Conference give-a-ways should appeal to a multitude of audiences to drive word of mouth conversation, candidates, and branding exposure.  Consider reaching out to the event staff to learn about what bloggers and social media influencers will be attending your event.  A simple email or tweet inviting them to your booth to interview you could land you a really great opportunity in a lot of different ways.  Are you a vendor or attendee who will be going to the SHRM Annual Conference?  If so, I’d love to connect. . . . And by the way, my favorite wine is Riseling (not necessarily champagne) if you are so inclined.

Learn more about conference swag, in another post entitled Swag Hoarders.

Photo Credit Zen is Stupid.


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Comments

  1. As long as vendors do not give away roller bags, I’ll be happy. In an already busy expo hall, roller bags take up extra space and the user is often unaware of how they are affecting people walking behind them.

    akaBruno |
    Reply
    • Agreed Joan. Those Meet Meme cards are pretty awesome. I have some more freebie ones for the People Report Summer Camp that I’m attending later this week in Dallas.

      Thanks for the comment!

      JMM

      Reply
  2. Hey, JM2. I was going to write a blog post on this — I’ll delete my notes. Can I just do it here?

    First of all, many of the (in)famous vendors who make millions of dollars on HR enterprise software rarely send their senior leaders to SHRM because very few attendees at SHRM are senior-level HR peeps. The vendors will invest in ‘swag’ in lieu of investing in real conversations. I don’t want to talk to some chumpy saleswoman who hands me a glowstick. I want to talk to your CMO. And maybe I don’t even want to talk to her — I just want to know she’s there & learning about my community & realizing that one day I will be the CHRO.

    Second of all, all of that swag stuff — all of it — is made in China or Sri Lanka or the Mariana Islands or in parts of the world where labor practices are awful. Any HR person who collects a bag of swag from SHRM without a hint of irony is contributing to sweatshops and human trafficking. That being said, *I* collect bags of swag (with irony) and I am contributing, too. I suck. I am a hypocrite. But part of my ‘personal brand’ is collecting swag & raising awareness about this junk — so I’m part of the problem. I need a better way to fix this. And I agree — if you’re going to give me something, make it useful.

    Finally, the expo hall is a who’s who of failed dreams — and the swag represents the souvenirs from a failed business model. The world doesn’t build relationships on tote bags and exercise squeeze balls. This is why I strongly believe in virtual conferences. Whether it’s HR or Marketing or Sales or Career Advice, the virtual conference has the potential to disrupt the traditional conference model. No swag. No expo booths. Just content.

    That being said, I saw Cedar Rapids http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1477837/ and I know conferences are (for many) an opportunity to leave your kids behind and have some fun. And I work for a marketing firm and we will be doing something fun & different for the HR/blogging community. But we will be doing something fun with the express intent of getting to know each. and. every. single. blogger.

    And we are sending our senior team to SHRM, we are investing in the conversations (& experience), and the dialogue won’t end when the expo floor closes!

    Reply
    • Of course you are welcome to post here Laurie. Love your insights. You are the swag queen afterall. I’m very earth conscious so I hate picking up those swag items just because. I’m so over those crappy mint containers, hand santizer, and cheap pens. Enough already!

      Looking forward to see what Starr Tincup has in store for SHRM 11. Should be a rockin good time.

      JMM

      Reply
  3. I avoid swag like I avoid roller bag ladies but I will make an exception in two instances:

    1. A nice pen – I want weight. I want smooth writing. I want something refillable. I’ve had pens for 10+ years that I use constantly. Those 10 cent pens that you’re guarding with your life? Bah!

    2. USB sticks – I always lose mine and I really hate burning CD’s unless I am making a mix CD.

    That’s it. No need to bring a swag bag either.

    Reply
    • I agree with Lance, give me a good pen and a thumb drive. Other than that, the most impressionable swag was the Cafe du Monde coffee BNA gave out in New Orleans.

      John Jorgensen |
      Reply
      • John,

        You’ll just have to wait for Illinois SHRM or I could mail you the best swag from SHRM 11. Would you be willing to cover the cost of shipping?

        JMM

        Reply
    • Well Lance you are in luck because I have usb’s as part of my media kits, and you qualify as media. I’m always on the lookout for nice pens. I hate those cheapos too. Spend some money on pens I’ll actually use.

      Geesh people. . . thanks for the comment Lance.

      JMM

      Reply
  4. I must be easy to please because I just love a really good pen or notebook! I did go to a conference once where a vendor was giving out $10 Starbucks cards. Now that was nice!

    Reply
    • Notebooks are good. I would like a nice moleskin notebook that fits in my purse. I bought one a few weeks ago at Barnes and Nobles and love it. I’ve had some vendors offer starbucks gift cards in exchange for me to fill out some lousy survey. I’ll give you my opinions but I’m not giving you my real phone number.

      Thanks for the comment!

      JMM

      Reply
  5. After hijacking your FB thread yesterday, I’ll just say this – either do swag well (make it useful or visible or a conversation piece) or don’t do it all…

    Obviously my perspective as an employer with lots of recruiters attending lots of career fairs is different than the biz to biz expo, but we’ve still made the effort to go green and invest in technology by utilizing QR codes on our banners 2 years ago as well as developing an iPad app to quickly gather contact info to enroll attendees in our Talent Network (and qualifies them for monthly ‘swag’ moving forward) to allow us to continue to engage with them long after the event.

    The reality is, at the end of the day- what I spend on swag isn’t that big of an influence into job seekers perspective on us as an employer (based on industry research and our own results) -but we are also sending a message by going green that we care about our sustainability efforts and aren’t just giving lip service (and we even explain it with a cute little table-top display) and we are showcasing the sexy stuff and technology by how we use it to engage attendees during, as well as after the event. Not to mention I can’t cookie my swag and attribute that to an application or a hire… so I’ll stick with the stuff that allows me to do just that, which then justifies to leadership why my team is even being there in the first place (beyond grass roots and branding of course).

    Reply
  6. What about charity swag? Does the option of donating to charity in lieu of a notebook or Starbucks card sound inspiring? We worked with Monster a few years back to donate $1M to charity and the attendees got to choose the charity who benefitted. Doesn’t that say more about a company than moleskin or coffee?

    Reply
  7. Jessica:
    As a full-time independent journalist, I love sturdy pens and lined pads that are spiral bound and narrow enough to fit in your hand (often termed reporter pads.) I can always use another reporter pad, with a sturdy cardboard back. USB sticks are also good.

    What I don’t need are cheesy passport covers, odd-shaped unlined pads (I have more than plenty,) brochures and over-sized postcards that don’t have any value-added benefit besides your logo and tagline (usually not memorable, just tossable.) I also am completely stocked on foldable metallic water bottles and luggage tags, although I understand some folks might like more.

    I recently attended a travel bloggers convention (TBEX) to boost my fledging and not-quite-ready-for-prime-time-travel blog, with the vendors there taking swag up to a new level. About 800 travel bloggers from all over the world attended.

    The best swag ever was Scottevest, (www.GetSeV.com) giving out travel vests valued at about $125 retail that fit an amazing amount of pockets for mobile phones, pens, camera lens, sunglasses, iPads, water, keys, and it doesn’t even make you look fat with all that stuff on you (within reason.) Almost everybody tweeted or blogged their Scottevest stuff, with one blogger pair doing a hilarious video blog about everything you could get into a Scottevest. Its namesake Scott Jordan was there btw. An expensive thing for swag, but methinks Mr. Jordan got more than his money’s worth on that one.

    Other good swag from TBEX12: a wine bottle opener from Walks of Italy, universal power charger from MyCityWay Now that promoted their smartphone app, a sturdy spork from hiusa.org.

    WordPress had real humans helping with blogger issues right in their booth … kind of like Apple’s Genius Bar. That had bloggers lined up the whole convention. Real humans being really helpful in a specific way may not be your usual swag, but I appreciated it. It goes to a previous comment about companies sending people to conferences who aren’t just warming the chairs in the booths.

    And one more brilliant best-ever swag: Cottonelle sponsored the bathrooms, with huge baskets of variously packaged complimentary Fresh Care wipes. Who doesn’t need a wipe or two when you’re traveling? For me, the best swag/marketing is that which is out-of-the-box thinking like Cottonelle’s.

    Hope that helps on the media front!

    Carol

    Reply

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