There’s no doubt that the event industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, as usually happens in unprecedented times, there has been a new type of event rising in popularity; the virtual event.
Have a look at the Google Trends graph below, it proves the increased interest in virtual events:
This doesn’t mean that in person events are dead, it simply means that the virtual world is a good alternative for times like these, such as when a company still wants to increase engagement with a forthcoming, in-person event they’re planning.
The results of a survey on hybrid events prove that a virtual event prior to an in-person one can increase engagement.
Almost 50% of people stated that they’d be likely to attend a physical event after attending a virtual event.
Another 30% said that they’d definitely attend the physical event.
We therefore understand that even when large physical conferences will be made possible in the following months, virtual events will still be of relevance.
Although virtual events and conferences have lots of advantages, they have a disadvantage that’s to do with lack of the human element.
We believe that promotional products and branded swag can help restore and enhance human connection as well as make attendees feel like an essential part of the event.
We’ve been around promotional products for almost three decades now and thought an expansive guide to the best conference swag ideas will help companies be more considerate of their swag and give their audience stuff they can actually use.
Additionally, in terms of virtual events, getting the material to people is a big part of the whole process too – we’re making sure that your swag gets perfectly packaged and sent.
Let’s dive right into our list.
Author’s Note: Some ideas apply to only virtual or physical conferences while others could work for both.
30 Best Conference Swag Ideas
Idea #1: Water Bottle
We’re starting with our first idea for branded conference swag, which is a water bottle.
Offering a water bottle can create a nice first impression and work as a ‘welcome’ gift to conference attendees.
Please try not to offer plastic bottles – there’s a wide range of sustainable, reusable water bottles that can be used for a lifetime.
Have a look at this sustainable and ethical beauty below:
Your audience will appreciate it way more than a piece of plastic, trust me.
Idea #2: Charger
No one likes to be out and about when their mobile device’s battery drained.
Especially not when you’re attending a conference and you might need to jot down ideas and email addresses for the people you’ve met, or you want to take pictures and post them on your social media.
A branded charger can be a good idea for conference swag, although it might need people who work at the conference to take some extra time to find the appropriate charging cable for each attendee.
Thank God there’s only two or three that are most widely used these days.
Idea #3: Power Bank
Similarly to the previous idea, a power bank will be much appreciated by everyone attending both a physical and a virtual conference.
Even if one’s not going to need and use it at the time the event is happening, a power bank will be happily received and definitely be used for years.
Think of a branded power bank as a fantastic opportunity to get your company logo out there, given that a large number of people are going to be seeing it for years after the conference.
Idea #4: T-shirt
I know this idea might sound a little too obvious, but who hasn’t had the experience of getting a T-shirt for free from a company that they adore and wear all the time inside the house, when going jogging, or doing some gardening?
I know l love my branded T-shirts.
Not all promotional tees look cool, but since printing application options are becoming better and better these days, why not invest in making high-quality T-shirts – which are traditionally some of the most popular pieces of swag one can make and distribute.
You might also want to consider hoodies in chillier times, to make participants feel the warmth we all need right now.
Idea #5: Tote Bag
One of my favorite sustainable branded items for conference-goers is the tote bag.
A tote bag is a fantastic alternative to the plastic bag – it helps us reduce plastic waste and it can be used trillions of times for a variety of activities.
Additionally, your logo or company motto can be printed and look great on it.
Does it get better than this?
Yes! Event attendees can start using it during the conference to put all their freebies in.
Idea #6: Flash Drive
A tech accessory that can be given both to physical and digital conference attendees is the flash drive.
Although a drive is probably not going to be used during the conference, it’s definitely a practical piece of swag that’ll be used extensively in the future, given that one can use it to store all types of digital files.
Idea #7: Earbuds
Moving on to another promo tech accessory that’s also very practical, and your event attendees will love to see in their promotional items bag; the earbuds.
A set of earbuds is definitely a luxurious piece of swag that’ll be highly appreciated every time someone is using them to listen to music or their favorite podcast series.
Idea #8: Bluetooth Speaker
Bluetooth speakers are top level conference swag that’ll impress your attendees.
They work with all smartphones, but most importantly, what makes them a hit is that they’re portable, which makes them the ideal tech accessory for listening to music when outdoors.
Idea #9: Coffee Mug
An all time classic, the coffee mug couldn’t be missing from an event swag list.
My advice would be to avoid lame, low-quality coffee mugs and try to go for mugs made by local artists.
This’ll not only show the event attendees that you’re supporting your local artists and workshops, but will also help you make sure that you’re giving out original swag that’ll not just go straight in the bin.
Idea #10: Tumbler
An alternative to the coffee mug, that can be used during conferences to serve coffee, tea, or any other drinks, is the tumbler.
A metal tumbler is reusable and durable so you won’t have to use single-use plastic or paper cups anymore.
Idea #11: Toiletries
When attending a conference, you might find yourself in need for some everyday toiletries.
These could be various items, like a hand sanitizer – especially now, after the COVID-19 outbreak, having your hands sanitized is a must for your health and the health of others – tissues, lip balm, mints, deodorant wipes, hand lotion, or even a stain remover pen.
Because of how useful these products are, I totally suggest that companies should give branded toiletries at corporate events.
The attendees will be happy to see such a range of free stuff and they’ll probably use most of them at the conference.
Idea #12: Gift Card
Another swag idea that I think works for everyone on this planet is the gift card.
It can be a retailer gift card or one from a wellness center.
Promotional gift cards are ideal both for digital and physical conferences because they can usually be used to shop from home or to buy in-store.
A gift card is also very convenient and helps you make sure that your attendees will go get stuff they like, unlike getting tasteless swag that they don’t need.
Idea #13: Food, Snacks, and Drinks
Another swag idea that mostly applies to in-person conferences, but could also be used in digital conferences, are drinks and food items.
During a physical conference, food, snacks, and drinks can be served using sustainable branded food packaging and branded bottles – remember, no plastic.
For digital conferences, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to send out snacks and other goodies – again using promotional packaging – prior to the event.
Idea #14: Things for Kids
Another swag idea I personally love is swag for kids.
Kids don’t usually attend conferences, but their parents do!
However, in the case of a virtual conference, swag for kids will keep them entertained in the other room.
Brilliant, isn’t it?
Why don’t use the conference as an opportunity to give away some toys, miniatures, models, beach balls, etc., to the conference attendees that have kids?
The parents will definitely appreciate your gesture of thinking of their kids and sharing such thoughtful branded items with them.
Idea #15: Backpack
One of the most useful items on this list; the backpack.
A backpack can be used by anyone, anywhere in the world – as a carry-on for short trips or a must have item to take your laptop to work.
That’s why it can be an ideal promotional item for virtual conferences and other events.
In terms of physical conferences, they can also be a very useful place to put all swag products in, like a laptop, notebook, tablet, conference lanyards, and so on and so forth.
Idea #16: Sunscreen
A branded sunscreen might seem a little irrelevant in regards to conference swag, but trust me, it is not!
There has been a rise in outdoors events that comes as a result of regulations around the world that promote social distancing.
If you’re organizing an event outdoors, then a skin care product will be much appreciated from the attendees.
Go for it!
Idea #17: Face Mist
Similarly to the previous idea, a face mist can really save the day when it comes to outdoor and indoor events.
They can be used by men and women and are fantastic for keeping one’s skin fresh.
Conferences usually last a long time and no one likes to look tired at them, given that you’re very likely to meet new people and – in some cases – prospects or potential collaborators.
They can also be sent out to virtual conference attendees who’ll definitely use them during the spring and summer months.
Idea #18: Toilet Bag
Although a toilet bag – also called a toiletry bag, travel kit, and bathroom bag – is very useful in our daily lives, yet many people forget to buy them and try to fit their personal hygiene products in their backpacks, handbags, etc., because they think it’ll work just as well.
But it doesn’t.
A toilet bag is just so convenient because of its small size and many pockets.
Additionally, they can be easily customized to include your logo.
Idea #19: Notebook
Even though we all use our laptops and cell phones to take notes and write stuff, there’s a pleasure in using a notebook and writing with a pen or pencil.
Especially during a conference – both in person and virtual – a notebook can be very handy in terms of taking notes, writing down ideas, or doing some brainstorming with other attendees.
Idea #20: Slippers
Our swag idea #20 is a nice pair of slippers.
Like I already mentioned, no one likes low-quality swag that you wear once and it already looks ugly.
Try giving away stylish, high-quality, soft, and comfy house slippers that people will wear for a long time.
Idea #21: Face Mask
One of the most currently relevant swag ideas that conference attendees will definitely not throw away is the face mask.
Face masks have become so necessary in our lives that one extra can always be handy.
Try to make sure that the branded face masks you’re giving away meet health requirements and are of high quality.
Idea #22: Deck of Cards
A playful swag idea, a promotional deck of cards, will be a nice little surprise for the attendees.
I’m pretty sure that such a promotional item will show conference attendees that you think out of the box and you try to give them products that not only promote your business, but care about giving them moments of fun.
My tip would be to stay away from tacky, cheap printing options and design.
On the contrary, try to have your promotional deck of cards be well made, in terms of style, material, and the way the company logo is displayed.
Idea #23: Stationery
A very useful conference swag would be stationery.
Stationery includes a wide variety of office stuff, like pens, pencils, sticky notes, stickers, highlighters, scissors, staples, and so on and so forth.
This means that there’s a wide range of stationery that you can choose from and create a thoughtful and original box of office supplies.
Such a gift can be given in any type of conference.
Idea #24: Coasters
Coasters are a very popular swag idea because they can be customized to match your company’s color palette, font, etc.
Including them in a conference swag box shows attendees that you’re not only focusing on business swag, but you want them to have something nice for their home as well.
Idea #25: Hats
A hat is one of these cool conference swag items that you think you’re probably not going to use but you end up using when you’re on vacation, when you’re going jogging, or spending time with friends and family outdoors.
Hats can be fantastic promotional products that people will be happy to get for free as long as they don’t look cheap and lame with tasteless, huge logos printed on them.
In other words, it’s worth taking some extra time to create and distribute hats and other pieces of clothing that you give away.
You want them to look great on people so they’re more likely to keep them and wear them for longer.
Idea #26: Duffle Bag
A duffle bag is just very handy and can be used in so many cases that I think most people will love getting it for free at a conference.
My advice would be – as with other items in this list, I know! – to steer clear of enormous logos that cover the biggest part of the duffle bag.
No one likes such bags and they’ll most likely try to find a way to get rid of it as soon as they get home.
Making the duffle bag stylish and cool will increase the possibility of people actually using it, which is exactly what you want it to happen, right?
Idea #27: Stickers
It might sound old school, but everyones loves a smart, little sticker that goes on their laptop, desk, bicycle or car.
When giving away stickers, focus on making them as cool as possible by printing an inspirational quote or something funny on them.
Like Nike does!
Idea #28: Stress Ball
A stress ball is a malleable ball that can be printed with your company logo or motto.
Stress balls help decrease stress and tension, a fact that makes them a thoughtful piece of conference swag.
What’s great about stress balls is that they can be made in so many different colors which allows you to create different versions and make your swag bag more original.
Idea #29: Bath Salts
Another promotional product that can be included in a conference swag bag is a jar of bath salts.
You could consider working with smaller artisans from your local community that are making soap or bath salts.
This way, not only will you be advertising your business in an imaginative and original way, but you’ll also be promoting your local community and craftsmanship.
Plus, using the product will be much more rewarding and surprising for the attendees than using a product they’ve seen at the supermarket a thousand times before.
Idea #30: Diffusers
Last but not least, an essential oil diffuser can be a really nice conference branded gift for people coming to the event, whether they’ve traveled miles to attend or they’re attending from the warmth of their house.
There’s such a wide variety of scents and styles that you could even consider asking attendees which scent they’d prefer.
If you’re organizing a virtual event, you could send out a questionnaire prior to the event so you can make sure you’re giving the right scent to the right people.
In case your conference is one that attendees can physically join, you could have a designated place where diffusers are given out and people can actually smell the different scents before taking one for free.
Need Swag for Your Conference or Virtual Event?
We at PRG, have been working with all types of businesses for many years now, so we know we can help you find the best branded swag to promote your business and please your audience.
Don’t forget that promotional products can help you make your event one that attendees will happily remember for a long time.
With most events being called off due to the pandemic, we all need to be more inventive and imaginative in not only making events happen, but also in doing our best to create events that don’t feel like poor alternatives to the ones that were happening a year ago.
If you’re planning to host a conference or any other virtual event, don’t hesitate to contact us.
We’re here to support you and make sure you’re promoting your business in the best and most appropriate way.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
We’ve got the answers to some of your most frequently asked questions in relation to conference swag.
Here we go.
Q1. What can you give out at a conference?
Giving high quality and thoughtful swag at a conference is highly recommended.
There’s a wide range of promotional items that can be given out at a conference – both virtual and physical.
Some of the most popular options are: water bottles, chargers, power banks, t-shirts, tote bags, notebooks, stationery, gift cards, toiletries, stickers, duffle bags, and backpacks.
Q2. What is conference swag?
Conference swag is a set of cool promotional products that are given away at a conference or virtual event.
Conference swag might focus on tech branded items, sustainability, cosmetics, etc., depending on the topic of the event.
Q3. What does swag stand for?
The acronym SWAG, which basically refers to promotional and branded products, stands for the following four words:
Souvenirs, Wearables, Accessories, and Gifts.
Q4. What should you put in a gift bag?
Gift bags should include a variety of freebies, from a t-shirt and a hat to a notebook and office stuff.
Keep in mind that your gift bag should include promotional items that are actually useful and of good quality because people are more likely to keep such products.
Q5. What are the best giveaways for trade shows?
The best giveaways for trade shows are those that manage to impress event attendees and make them smile.
These are personalized, useful branded products, like a power bank, a duffle bag, a tote bag, a face mask, a sustainable plastic-free water bottle, a toiletry bag, and so on and so forth.
Q6. Is conference swag necessary for virtual events as well?
Conference swag is absolutely necessary for virtual events.
Given that now that the human touch is missing – due to COVID-19 – it’s more important than ever to establish an emotional connection with your audience.
Conference swag bags are part of the overall experience of attending an event, even if the experience is going to be physically and topically different for each attendee.
This’ll make the attendee feel far more engaged in actively attending with the conference.
Q7. What are some ideas for eco-friendly conference swag?
Some of the most common sustainable and eco friendly conference swag ideas are reusable water bottles, tumblers, organic cotton t-shirts, and tote bags.
The first two are usually made of metal instead of plastic, thus helping companies reduce plastic waste and promote a sustainable alternative.
Totes and pieces of clothing made out of recycled, upcycled, or ethically sourced materials are also great in terms of giving away environmentally friendly branded items.
Q8. How do you get a swag bag sponsor?
In order to get sponsorship for conference and event swag bags, you need to be able to answer the following question to the potential sponsor: What’s in it for them?
Sponsors will want to know how the event will benefit them.
Some ideas for in person and digital events would be:
- A banner or advertising space where the sponsor can advertise
- Video advertising
- Social media promotion