Work conference season is in full swing, which means ample opportunity to get your company’s brand front and center among both peers and (potential) clients. Meeting Professional International reports there are approximately 1.8 million meetings and professional events every year in the U.S.
When conference planning for the rest of the year (and into 2018), consider creating a checklist of what materials to pack, so you know the plan every time you go. If your company is a sponsor or vendor of the event, this is a prime opportunity to showcase your value and have one-on-one connections with decisions makers and others interested in your services or products. Make sure you have enough marketing collateral that will differentiate yourself from competitors to make the best impact before, during, and after the conference.
If you are just planning to attend a conference, you’ll still want to ensure you have what you need to market yourself and your company in the right way, especially during networking times. Work conferences are a good mix of learning and collaborating; consider what you can bring to the table. As a conference planner, vendor, attendee, or all three, don’t forget to take these 10 items on your next work conference trip.
Generally speaking, work conferences are like one big study session. There are thought leaders from every industry who come to speak to attendees about developments in the business, answer questions to frequently seen problems, and announce anything new and exciting upcoming within the industry. It is a lot of information at once, and in short, attendees will want to take notes. While it’s possible they’ll be taking notes on a laptop, sometimes pen to paper is still the best way to go to jot down a few memorable quotes or stats in a notebook.
Per one NPR article, note taking with a pen trumps laptops since most people who use their laptops try to take down the information verbatim. Those who use pen and paper process the information first, which helps with retention, in order to highlight what’s important and why it matters. Using branded notebooks for giveaways at your booth is an easy way to display your company’s name and make it visible amongst a sea of like-minded individuals.
Vendors or companies with a conference booth should consider having a customized banner to call attention to their setup. Most likely, there will be a limited space for a table, chairs, and marketing materials. The trick is to make your setup stand out from the rest on the conference room floor.
A banner that displays your logo, tagline, or something else eye catching in front of your work conference or tradeshow booth will make people pause an extra second before moving onto the next booth.
An additional bonus is that when packed well and preserved back in the office, you can get multiple uses for the banner to use at other work conferences or non-conference events, such as volunteer activities and outdoor outings
- Flash Drives
If you are the conference planner for your company, think about the type of conference you’re going to and what would be valued most as a giveaway item. A flash drive could be highly coveted among many industries – plus, it takes up very little space. Anyone who uses a laptop for their job can find use in having one. Even if they don’t use one at work, most likely they have use for it at home.
If you have brochures or a special promotion during the conference, save it to the flash drives you give out. That way, people can receive the information digitally, on their own time. It will help eliminate waste, and reduce the likelihood of your flyer or paper handout from being thrown away.
- Phone Chargers
In addition to taking notes, networking, and attending breakout sessions, it is likely those who attend a conference will be checking emails, texts, and social media channels on their phones. A phone charger is ideal to have in your bag when attending a work conference, since most sessions last an entire day and outlets and breaks could be few and far between.
A basic charger can be a fun, useful giveaway at your booth, but also having a couple on hand for those in your company attending the conference will make sure you are connected throughout the day. Nothing is worse than watching your battery charge go down with a good part of the day still left to go. Conserve your battery when at the work conference, but have backup ready too.
- Seasonal Swag
As a conference vendor, or when you send a sales team to represent you at a tradeshow, it can be challenging to stand out. One way to be more memorable with thoughtful conference planning is to match with the season and create clever collateral based on an upcoming holiday or even the work conference location itself.
As an example, if you’re headed to sunny California for a conference, a relevant swag bag item could be a pair of branded sunglasses to enjoy during their quick stop at the beach. Plan your conference attendance in advance and perform research to match your marketing materials with the conference theme and/or destination.
- Water Bottles
Water bottles are one of the most popular conference items because they’re convenient, useful, and keep people hydrated throughout the long days. The value of the water bottle is its resourcefulness, but what makes it a keeper? One idea is to add extra goodies in the bottle like a flash drive, pens, or candies. You can also slip in tickets in the bottles redeemable for a prize, discount, or free service at your booth.
- Hand Sanitizers
With so much networking when you attend a conference, there will be plenty of closed in spaces and hand shaking. It’s not a bad idea to carry hand sanitizer to fight off germs. Again, here’s your chance to get creative with branding personalization. Consider going a step further, and get your business card printed on the hand sanitizer. Your business information will surely be more recognizable in this way than battling an endless pile of business cards.
Earbuds are a more unexpected conference item that may be well received, as many people may have flown in for the event. According to a publication from the S. Travel Association, there were 457.4 million business trips in 2016 with 38% specifically for business and meetings. Research also shows 33% of all domestic business travelers are going by plane. A pair of foldable headphones doesn’t have to be costly, and can also make for a good raffle item, if you want to create a swag bag to give away to a lucky winner. Even as an attendee at a work conference, it is an easy opportunity to display your branding in a fun and functional way.
It is rare when someone turns down free candy. From mints to jelly beans to lollipops, the options for sweet goodies are endless and can be a great incentive for people to stop by your booth as they make their way through the conference floor. The sugary pick-me-up may be just what they need to get through the rest of their day, and they will surely remember and be grateful to the company that gave them a sweet treat for stopping by the booth.
Sounds too simple to be true, but how many times have you been in a situation without a pen when you need it most? Pens are not as commonly carried as one might think, so having extras doesn’t hurt, especially if it’s a quality one. Pens are also often passed around or loaned to a friend, spreading your message to a larger network. Keep the branding simple on the pen with an email or social media handle to make connecting with you easy.
Equip employees with collateral every time they attend a conference. Company t-shirts and branded office supplies are inexpensive, but can be effective. Consider the audience, the participation, and the goals of every conference you go to, because most likely, they will slightly differ. When it comes down to it, successful conference planning and execution involves engagement over everything. It is nice to have swag to help break the ice or use as an incentive, but it’s really the personal connection that will help form new professional relationships. Friendly interaction is the added unspoken “item” you don’t want to forget as you hit the work conference circuit this summer.