Should we ditch the conference swag bags?

Conference swag bags no longer feel like a welcome gift, and instead tend to feel like a waste of resources and effort. Here are some tips to improve them.

Conference swag bags, or goodie bags, are usually the first thing you receive after you’ve checked in at a conference or major event. In times gone by they were filled with mostly interesting items. Today, as budgets shrink, I either refuse it at source or leave the contents in the waste bin of my hotel room for someone else to sort through for recycling. The alternative is to squeeze it into my luggage and bin it at home.

I get that conference marketers want to make a lasting impact. They want to enhance their branding by displaying their logo and the logos of their sponsors.  But rather than handfuls of plastic and paper, they should ensure that the gifts stand out for the right reasons. It shouldn’t be about collecting all the old PR junk from the vendors. Instead, event organisers need to get more sustainable about their swag bags. The bag itself should also be recyclable, or at the very least reusable. I personally wouldn’t thank you for some cheap backpack.

If they can’t – they should ditch the swag bag altogether. Maybe they have had their time and we need to rethink the concept.

conference swag bags

3 tips for conference swag bags

There are many who want to go down that path and suggest that swag bags should be abandoned altogether. However, if you insist I ask organisers to take into account some of these suggestions:

  • Give good quality gifts – Give fewer items and make them decent. One super present is far better than a bagful of tat.
  • Make sustainability a priority – Conference swag bags are usually full of paper and plastic frequently combined, which are time-consuming to recycle.
  • Remember transport – Many of your participants will travel to your event. It’s important that the contents can go through airport security (no liquids) and are easy to transport.

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Try these ideas

  • Professional headshots – Give participants an opportunity to have a professional headshot taken at your event. 3Plus did that for all their Mini-Mentoring events in different international locations. It is always well received.
  • Provide some treats – Offer the possibility to have a manicure, colour assessment, styling consult, make-up session or massage at the event.
  • Gift an experience or service – Give vouchers for discounts or free services to businesses in the areas of your event. This could be at a gym, spa, cinema or restaurant.
  • Healthy snacks – Offering healthy snacks to keep energy levels up during the conference is always welcome.
  • Sports bottles – Cut back on single-use plastic by providing water bottles that guests can refill from water coolers.
  • Chargers or battery banks – These are always a lifesaver as participants fight for power outlets when they start to get low signals on their devices.
  • A USB drive of contributions – Many presenters will not want their entire presentation given out to participants, especially before a session. But loading a PDF with summaries of the main sessions is always a helpful reminder, especially to anyone who will be blogging about it or reporting back to their companies.

Or maybe the idea of swag bags are outdated. What do you think? Take our poll and let us know.

Are conference swag bags outdated? 

3Plus welcomes any writers to join 3Plus as a Staff Writer. If you are an expert in Leadership and Competence Building or just want to share your experiences, contact us! We would love to give you a voice!

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