True to our indelible human spirit, we look for ways to adapt and thrive when faced with adversity. While in-person-only events fall away for now, leveraging virtual technology has become the new way forward for both hosting and attending large events such as conferences, trade shows, and exhibitions.
As with all adaptation strategies, success relies on identifying limitations and converting them into opportunities. It’s no different in the corporate event arena. One concern with pivoting to a virtual event platform is the absent tangible moments of connection.
You’ve been to trade shows. And if we’re being honest, sometimes the giveaways are the best part! But beyond the fun of freebies, exhibitors rely on swag to:
- Attract people to their booth
- Start conversations that can lead to demos or an exchange of information
- Serve as branded reminders for future opportunities
What may seem like limitations on virtual platforms can become new opportunities. Thoughtful giveaways are a great way to combat the isolation attendees may feel at a virtual event and let your brand be a part of an engaging experience from beginning to end. Just as with a live event, virtual giveaways can make good first impressions, invite involvement, and be valuable follow-ups for additional sales and marketing efforts.
In May of this year, Microsoft hosted its annual tech conference, and this time it was virtual. So no one had to miss out on sweet swag, Microsoft mailed early registrants a branded merchandise package complete with a welcome card, lunch box, socks, sticker sheets, a lanyard, and a badge. This type of pre-event promo helps the audience feel a greater connection and sense of occasion, increasing anticipation for the upcoming event.
Depending on your budget, a pre-event gift may be the perfect way to build excitement. Make a great first impression with a similar swag bag that is mailed right to a registrant’s door (assuming you will collect an address as a part of registration). Here are some giveaway ideas to help participants get excited about an upcoming virtual event:
- Journal & pen
- Water bottle
- Coffee/tea & mug
- Mouse pad
- Stress ball
- Screen cleaner
- Afternoon refresh snack
- Name tag
- Welcome reading material
Another pre-event swag idea comes from the Red Company, a full-service meeting/event and promotional items company. They offer cool swag kits that work well as giveaways, all of which can all be branded with company colors and logos. Various work-from-home and “couch conference” kits includes items such as:
- Cloth lunch bag
- Mini diffuser
- Fun snacks & brain food
- Air plant
- Stainless steel thermos
- Blue-light blocking glasses
- Hand sanitizer
- Door hanger sign
Branded kits such can get people pumped for an upcoming virtual event in the comfort (and safety) of home.
If obtaining a physical address for registrants is not possible, consider a virtual swag bag! Either way, giving out swag beforehand sends a clear message: You are excited about your event and want to share this enthusiasm with participants by making them feel welcome, prepared, and included.
Don’t Just Give ‘Em Something to Talk About. Get ‘Em Involved!
The competition to stand out in live events is now a factor for virtual events, especially those with many exhibits. But don’t be tempted to follow the “bigger is better” narrative. Flashy, expensive giveaways may not only burst the budget, but they may be a messaging-miss for your audience.
Perhaps accelerated by Covid-19, consumer trust continues to wane. In response, advocacy marketing is on the rise. A scroll through your own Instagram feed demonstrates how brands are connecting with social media influencers to obtain recognition or stay relevant. These influential folks provide seemingly authentic endorsements, promo codes, discount alerts, and chances to win prizes if you follow, like, and share posts.
This tactic can be successful in terms of engagement and loyalty, both for the influencer and for the brand they have partnered with. If the shoe fits, why not bring this idea to your next digital affair? Partner up with an on-brand influencer to collect user generated content in a low barrier contest before the event for a chance to win prizes during the event.
Such contests help tease interest, drive traffic, and keeps your event top-of-mind. It is also a great opportunity for your brand to build lasting relationships with influencers and sponsors. These partnerships can be especially advantageous if you can split the bill!
If the legwork of collecting user generated content prior to an event is not feasible, get folks involved during the event. ReedPop, the organizers behind many mega conventions, decided not to let the pandemic cancel their Star Wars Convention to celebrate Star Wars Day, May the 4th. To increase engagement, fans were invited to take part in trivia quizzes and prize giveaways throughout the entire online convention.
To tune in and participate, ReedPop asked that everyone use specific hashtags and follow recommended social media accounts. They stayed true to their brand’s purpose and rewarded participants with exactly what they wanted – a chance to geek out over Star Wars trivia and get prizes for it.
Prizes can also be rewarded to competing vendors during a virtual event. For example, at Salesforce’s World Tour Sydney Reimagined virtual event planners implemented a live "battle of the apps" competition between exhibitors, complete with audience voting.
During this session, Salesforce AppExchange partners were given three minutes each to do a live demo demonstrating their apps. The audience was then asked to vote for their favorite using a dedicated link that was accessible for 24 hours following the session, and the winner was announced on Twitter the next day.
Featuring sponsors and exhibitors through this kind of competition is a creative way to provide engaging demos while also getting the audience involved. Keeping the demos short and to-the-point is also beneficial considering that many attendees of virtual events will be facing more distractions while viewing at home, Plus, this kind of activity will have people checking back to and engaging with the event's social media pages to see who won.
Coveted prizes could include:
- E-gift cards
- Free products or services from your brand
- One-on-one online sessions with influential or high-profile industry leaders
- Branded merchandise (that can be selected in a virtual store)
- Gift baskets
- Back-to-work kits
- Free online courses, downloads, or trials
- Pre-launch product giveaways
- Collectible, autographed memorabilia
Whatever engagement giveaway tactic you choose, make sure the prize:
- Fits the budget
- Stays true to your brand’s mission and message
- Rewards authentic participation
- Is valuable to your audience
A Friendly Follow-Up Gift
Don’t let the end of an event be the end of the brand experience. When participants leave, or in this case log out, have a follow-up strategy. Most virtual event platforms like Meeting Play offers event technology tools and solutions to collect attendance data. Use this information to reach out afterwards. Share out event highlights on social media and recapture the attention of potential prospects by sending:
- A thank you card for attending
- Content summaries
- Event recordings
- Product demos
- Videos and other visual representations
- A book, booklet, or brochure
- Virtual platforms for Q&A, discussion, networking, and feedback
- Additional branded swag (reusable tote bag, magnets, office supplies, etc.)
- Discount to next year’s conference or show
Even if it is just a “thank you for participating” card, follow up giveaways are the finishing touch to the event experience. It not only expresses sincere gratitude for a participant’s time and engagement, but it also refreshes key takeaways and provides a segue into additional sales and marketing efforts such as a lead nurture or similar email marketing campaigns.
Navigating a post-coronavirus world can be challenging, especially in our corner of the event world. But that’s not to say it’s impossible. In fact, as we move to a “new normal,” some doors may shut but windows of opportunity open. Technology solutions and virtual event platforms let the show to go on. And the show is not complete without goodies! Remember to:
- Boost excitement with useful, branded swag in preparation for the event.
- Invite audience involvement with low barrier to entry contests, quizzes, or competitions so people can engage with your brand and be rewarded.
- Reengage your audience after your event with follow-up giveaways to keep your products and services relevant while opening the door to a lasting relationship.
Despite the challenges of a digital world, continue to utilize promotional products for your virtual occasions. Match your brand’s strategy to your giveaways before, during and after your event, paying close attention to what your audience values. Making swag part of the user experience is an innovative way to bridge the gap that exists between in-person and virtual events, while prompting a sense of fun, creativity, and personality.
Looking for creative ideas to tie gamification with virtual event giveaways? Contact MeetingPlay.