Get physical: Crazy effective custom virtual event giveaway boxes that never fail

If you’re not getting physical, you’re doing it wrong!  The biggest detractor for a virtual conference is that memorable facetime, arguably the most important part of any event, is next to impossible to get.  What most people don’t realize is that distance, instead of being an obstacle, can actually be a huge opportunity. Find out how with my definitive guide to virtual conference swag for 2020.

If you’re not getting physical, you’re doing it wrong!

At a conference, a company’s physical presence is everything.  You can see it now: the table full of lanyards, the long hallway, and finally, the convention center floor with row upon row of colorful booths, team members in customized branded polos, and the custom swag (aka promotional products) laid out all around.  Everyone in the hall buzzes with excitement as they move from booth to booth trying to get as much face time as possible, a chance they wait all year for.  

All these components come together to send a single message as your prospects walk in the door: We’re here to make a personal, memorable connection with you. However, it’s super hard to reproduce that feeling, and make those connections, sitting in front of a webcam in your living room.  

That’s where we come in.

Let’s face it, everyone loves swag!  We all love to make fun of Michael Scott, but the truth is we’ve all been this guy at one point or another:

The Office's Michael Scott, at a conference, getting excited about conference swag.
Source: GIPHY

Conferences in person are, well, personal.  And while there are certain workarounds for conferences in the COVID-19 age, none of the networking, the breakout sessions, or the personal touchpoints feel quite the same from the confines of your bedroom.  

It feels distant because it is distant.  In an interview with USA Today, John Capano, senior vice president of client development at Impact XM agreed, saying that “You lose the randomness of in-person events.  You don’t have the natural human experience.”

The team at 6Connex agrees there’s no substitute for an old fashioned one-on-one.  “In a world where we spend so much time online, sitting in front of our laptops or staring down at our mobile phones, it’s nice (even special) to look someone else in the eyes when you say hello. Meeting people in person that you’ve only ever spoken to on the phone or via email adds an important layer to the relationship, allowing for a different kind of communication.”

 The biggest detractor for a virtual conference is that memorable facetime, arguably the most important part of any event, is next to impossible to get.  What most people don’t realize is that distance, instead of being an obstacle, can actually be a huge opportunity. That is if your company is willing to go the extra mile to make an impression.

With so many new competitors entering the market, why wouldn’t you?

In this post I talk about:

  1. What makes a great custom virtual event giveaway item 🤩
  2. Strategies to generate engagement for your brand 💸
  3. The virtual event advantages you can’t get in person 💻
  4. My top 10 favorite virtual event giveaway items that never get thrown out 🏆

Sending out direct mail custom swag boxes for virtual events is a creative way to make that physical connection in the virtual world!  You may not be able to bring home your bag of swag like Michael, but you can send home a box of swag with your new prospects, connections, and partners.  

Bring yourself into their physical space, take that initiative, and it will make a lasting impression. We like to call it surprise and delight!

The ultimate guide to custom virtual conference swag boxes in 2020

  • What are the advantages of swag for virtual events vs. in-person conferences?
  • What does a great custom virtual event giveaway box look like?
  • What are the best strategies for custom virtual event giveaway boxes?
  • Inspiration!
  • What are some guaranteed greatest hits swag items?

Source: Pixabay

What are the advantages of swag for virtual events vs. in-person conferences?

According to Brook Salomon, director at Dell Global Alliance Events, the “average for time spent in a {trade show} booth is about seven minutes.” Not enough time to build a relationship, let alone make a sale.

At in-person conferences, your carefully selected swag will likely get about 10 seconds of attention when people first pick it up, only to end up at the bottom of a tote bag, forgotten. Everyone is handing out swag at those things, and your pen is one of about 5 million other pens they’ll receive that day.

It’s hard to make an impact in a space like that.

With a virtual event, giveaways become an individual experience.  Direct mail custom swag kits give you a unique opportunity to plan swag experiences curated for each person. Instead of random people walking past your booth who are already drowning in swag from 10,000 different companies, you’re targeting specific people with intention, and you can actually measure the ROI a particular item earns. 

What does a great custom virtual event giveaway box look like?

With custom virtual event giveaway boxes, you can take your brand from your tradeshow table to your client’s pocket, desk, and hand. But how do you ensure your investment isn’t going to waste?  For your custom swag to make the biggest impact possible, it must meet all of the following criteria:

  • A great custom virtual event giveaway box is creative and exciting.  You want to send swag that will jump out of the box and make the recipient think, “I have to know more about the company who sent me this.” 
Source: GIPHY
  • A great custom virtual event giveaway box is on-brand/on-message.  What is unique about your brand?  What do you want people to know about who your company is?  You want to make sure that whatever items you send answer these questions.  You likely won’t be getting that opportunity in person anytime soon.According to Finance Digest, “Once an emotional connection is established, consumers are motivated to increase their spend with a brand; this connection has been reported to double a customer’s lifetime to a business.”  This can also be a great time to tie-in to your company’s core mission and values.  Check out this example, in which the company created a 100% environmentally friendly, recyclable kit:

A virtual event giveaway comprised entirely of recyclable materials

  • A great custom virtual event giveaway box is intentional. You should have a plan behind any swag you send.  Is there a specific sales funnel you’re trying to push them towards?  What do you want their next move to be after receiving your gift?  Use your virtual event giveaway to bring them to you after the event is over.
  • A great custom virtual event giveaway box is high-perceived value. This is a golden rule for promotional products in general, no matter what it’s for: Swag with high perceived value sticks around.  If you give a client something useful, something nice, something they actually want, they’re going to hold onto that item (and your branding) for a long time after the conference is over.
  • A great custom virtual event giveaway box sparks joy. Dr. Maya Angelou said it best: “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  Swag should make the person receiving it feel appreciated, special, thought of.  In short, it should make them feel good.  That’s the memory you want them to have of you and your company.
Source: GIPHY
  • A great custom virtual event giveaway box is memorable and engaging. This is the most essential part of any gifting experience, especially virtual conference swag.  Lucky for you, if you’ve done the first 5 things on this list, then your swag should already be both memorable and engaging.  

The purpose of swag is ALWAYS to engage your prospects, get them interested, and make sure they remember you later when they need something!  It’s even more important for your swag to achieve that goal when it’s the only in-person opportunity you’re going to get.  Memorable engaging swag = memorable engaging company, period.

What are the best strategies for custom virtual event giveaway boxes?

Another advantage virtual event giveaways have over swag at an in-person conference is that presentation and delivery can happen a million different ways.  Finance Digest’s Richard LeCount shares, “The way in which you choose to distribute the items to your audience will have a significant bearing on how successful the campaign is.” This is a perfect time to be creative and grab their attention right off the bat.

  • Early registration prizes: If this is your conference, get people excited about registering with an exclusive swag incentive.  For instance, you could offer swag kits to the first 100 people to register for the conference.
    A picture of Skucon at Home virtual event giveaways on a bedside table
    Source: Commonsku

    Commonsku used this strategy to a T during registration for Skucon (at home) 2020, and ended up with over 800 participants and a ton of post-conference social media engagement surrounding the swag.   They promoted their campaign in the days leading up to registration:

    The Skucon at Home 2020 virtual event giveaways boxed up
    Source: Commonsku

    “The first 500 registrants for skucon at home will receive an exclusive gift set,” their teaser post read, “mailed right to their home. Hit the link below to learn more and to register for the event, May 21st, 2020! Tickets are only $20 with proceeds going to charity.”


    A skucon at home virtual event giveaway mug being used for morning coffee on a sunny day
    Source: Commonsku

    Tony Robbins also knocked it out of the park using this strategy for his 2020 “Unleash the Power Within” virtual seminar, in which over 22,000 people joined him from their homes for a 3 1/2 day workshop (That’s a lot of computers!).  He sent a swag box to all attendees that signed up before a certain date.  This traffic ended up comprising over 95% of his attendees, and he sent out over 20,000 swag boxes!

    Speaker Tony Robbins hosting a webinar with thousands of people
    Source: Tony Robbins

    Pro tip: Overdeliver by sending swag kits to all participants!

  • Personalized swag:  Having a list of individual prospects vs. a room full of random people gives you a distinct advantage, because you now have the opportunity to custom curate giveaway boxes specifically for each person.  Does Mark enjoy biking?  Send him a custom bike pump with your branding.  He will never throw it away, and the next time he needs something?  Guaranteed you’re the first person he calls.  Show people you care and they’ll care about you.
  • The ultimate incentive:
    Another strategy for conference hosts is to have swag prize drawings at the end of workshops and breakout sessions.  In order to be included in the drawing, participants have to stick around until the end.  Make sure your drawing includes swag with high perceived value for maximum motivation.
Joey Tribiani from Friends at a dinner with Rachel, very excited. The caption reads,
Source: GIPHY
  • Include a personalized letter:
    Using variable data printing, a process by which certain elements of a print job are changed from one copy to the next, you can include an individual message for each person in their swag kit.  These messages can be customized with their names, company, and any other details you want to include.  If you have the manpower, handwritten notes are even more special.
A picture of a winter wear swag kit which includes a handwritten note.
Source: Commonsku


  • Surprise and delight!:
    You can also go the other way and make your swag kit a surprise.  Everyone loves getting packages, but they lose their minds when the package is a complete surprise filled with really cool free stuff!  Focusing on delight is a surefire way to become their new favorite vendor in no time.
Kristin Wiig on Saturday Night Live getting surprised. Caption reads,
Source: GIPHY
  • Spotlight on Sponsorships: Use swag as a way to get your sponsors in front of attendees!  If you were at an in-person conference these sponsors would be all over attendees’ lanyards.  With virtual conference swag, you can print the sponsors on the box, on the swag inside, on an included card.  This also works with co-branding if you’re teaming up with another brand for your custom virtual conference swag promotion. The only limit is your imagination!
  • Give your prospects some options: Give attendees their pick of the litter with a mini e-commerce store just for your event.  With a code you’ll provide, they can go and pick out a set number of items from a collection exclusive to the conference.  They do all the work of personalizing their kit, and you get to know that you’re sending them swag they actually want!

    A dog walking through a supermarket on its hind legs. Text reads,
    Source: GIPHY

Inspiration, please!

Now that you know how to get the most out of your virtual event giveaways, it’s time to get out there and make some swag of your own!  Here are some ideas for creative, effective virtual event giveaway kits to get you started:

  • Microsoft:
    In a case study done by ASI, attendees of Microsoft’s annual “Build” conference received direct mail swag packages containing “everything from socks to a bamboo lunchbox” after registration. The swag was particularly exciting for attendees because registration was free that year.

A picture of the swag kit from Microsoft's 2020 Build conference

  • Kit it up: Swag kits are always a great choice for direct mail swag.  Choose 3 or 4 items that go together, and pack them up neatly in a custom box to really make an impression.  Pro tip: a note, especially a handwritten one, goes a long way!
  • Choose a themed item: Everyone loves a good joke, and swag that’s on-theme in a fun way is guaranteed to be memorable.  For example, if the conference’s theme is “Lighting the Future” you could send out candles or flashlights with your branding as a tie-in.
  • WFH Theme: You can even send attendees items that they can use while stuck at home, either in their home office or during a fun night in.  See our upcoming blog post on 7 WFH swag kit ideas for more inspiration. 

What are some guaranteed greatest hit custom virtual conference swag items?

Thinking about doing a custom virtual conference swag box for your next online event, but not sure what to put in it?  Here’s a list of items that are guaranteed to get your prospects hyped about doing business with you:

  • Coasters: A stylish, durable coaster is a great elegant gift for prospects.  First, give them peace of mind about their hardwood surfaces, then give them peace of mind about your services.A picture of two branded concrete coasters on a table with a mug
  • Laser-engraved drinkware: Make a lasting impression with intricate laser-engraved designs on drinkware that will take your client from their house to the office and everywhere in-between.

A collection of laser-engraved white drinkware

  • Stainless steel water bottles: On average, 1,460 plastic water bottles are saved for every one reusable water bottle in use.  This is a great gift for companies who value environmental wellness, plus it’s stylish and durable.

Two stainless steep water bottles, one white and one chrome, lying in the sand

  • Moleskine: Talk about high-percieved value!  These leather-bound journals are elegant, practical, and guaranteed to become a permanent part of your prospect’s office.

A leather notebook with a Hulu paper band across the front

  • Idea tablet: More fun than a whiteboard, longer-lasting than a pack of sticky notes, prospects will use this tool anytime they have to make a list, generate ideas, or just want a 5-minute doodle break.

A writing tablet for taking notes, black, standing up on top of another writing tablet, laying down

  • Whiteboard grip: These handy dandy desk add ons are a great, sustainable alternative to sticky notes for when you just need a short reminder.  Grips to any surface for a solid office presence.A picture of a branded tiny white board desk attachment with a phone stand
  • Webcam cover: Keep your prospects safe with this metal webcam cover.  With your logo restricting access to their Livestream, you’ll be first in their thoughts because you’ll be first in their eye line too!
    A picture of a black brandable webcam cover
  • Custom PopSockets Instant fun!  This cool accessory will attach your brand to the item your client, statistically speaking, thinks about the most: their phone.

A picture of a blank Popsocket on a phone being held by a male hand

  • Portable cell phone light: Make sure your brand shines!  This light clips on to the top of your cell phone, acting as a reading light, flashlight, photo lighting, the possibilities are endless!  Comes with 3 different brightness settings for any lighting need your prospects might have.
    A picture of an attachable phone light attached to a smart phone
  • Chipolo: Your clients will never have to worry about losing their keys again.  This chip comes equipped with a GPS locator that beeps whenever your item goes missing.A picture of a red Chipolo with a Tesla logo printed in white on the front
  • Custom molded tech accessories kit: Shape their perception of you with a kit full of custom-molded tech pieces all tied into your brand.  Guaranteed to make a lasting impression.  Here’s an example of one of these kits custom made for Heineken which includes a power bank, a flash drive, and an adaptor.
    A picture of a set comprised of a power bank, a USB drive, and a cord adaptor, all of which are shaped like bottles of Heineken beer

Custom swag that gets their attention

Attention is the biggest commodity out there.

Without it, you have no prospects, no revenue, no business.  Swag has always been utilized to grab that attention for your company.  Now, with virtual events becoming more and more common, it’s beyond important to have a swag strategy nailed down going in.

When you can’t be present, make sure your brand is.

Do you have a virtual event coming up? Are you ready to get physical?  Set up an appointment with me
here to talk strategy!

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