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Think Outside the Event Bag

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Have you ever attended an event and received a bag filled with some cool stuff? Or did you immediately throw out the items the minute you left the event?

A swag bag or event bag is a goody bag that is given to attendees at an event, usually by event organizers or sponsors. Sometimes they are given to attendees at registration or check in, containing items that they can use over the course of the event. Other times, they are distributed at the end of the event as a gift to take home. Regardless of when these bags are distributed, they should be filled with fun, functional items.

When it comes to swag bags, I have been both on the giving and receiving end.  In college, I was part of the marketing team for our in house television station.  We organized a Spring concert called the “Spring Weekend Special” featuring performances by university talent. We thought, what better way to kick off a huge party weekend while promoting the station than a concert swag bag? Part of my job was to come up with the items that would be handed out to students like branded bottle openers, coozys, sunglasses, t-shirts and of course mixtapes of the songs that were performed during the concert. We put the items in a Nalgene bottle instead of your typical bag and it turned out to be a big hit!  Why were they such a hit?  The answer is simple, they contained useful items in a fun way – not to mention they promoted the TV station in an easy way.

So what makes a good swag bag? What determines whether or not the guest will take it with them or toss it out? Lets go through six tips for swag bag success.

1. What would you want to receive at a particular event?

I always like to think like the consumer no matter what I am doing.  I put out content that I would want to read, I provide the customer service that I would want to receive. In order to find out what is best for your attendee, step in their shoes when you are planning. What will give them a good experience?  When organizing an event, you have to think as an attendee in all aspects to guarantee their satisfaction.  So when issuing an event bag, try and provide giveaways that you would want to receive.  What kind of items would you take?  Whats types of items would you toss?

2. Make it fun and functional

Having a meeting or a conference? Why not include paper and pens for attendees to take notes, maybe even provide different colored post it notes to add fun to the functionality.  Having an outdoor event? Include some shades or baseball caps.  Instead of giving an attendee a bunch of papers or pieces of collateral, give them a flash-drive with all this information digitally.  You can take any basic item and make it something more fun.  For example, at the concert I mentioned in the beginning we also gave out plastic sunglasses in different colors that were branded with the station name. This was my favorite item – functional for the outside concert, but at the same time FUN and funky.

3. Be kid friendly

As an event planner you have to think outside the box.  Although your event may not include children, most of your attendees may have kids who they are away from because they are at your event.  Include a kid friendly item such as slinkies or coloring books so your attendees will have a little souvenir for their kids when they get home, as they will most likely be asking “mommy/daddy what did you bring me?”

4. Steer clear of food allergies

It’s always nice to have something to munch on in between meals or breakout sessions.  Include some snacks for attendees in your bag, but remember some people have food allergies so steer clear of items like nuts or diary and clearly have all ingredients labeled.  Most programs at events are complex and back to back, so choose some healthier food options – lay off the sugar. Crackers, natural fruit snacks or apples are good examples of quick and easy bites that you can include. The sweet and salty components wont weigh down your guests or make them sick.

5. The outside is just as important as what’s on the inside 

It’s not just the items on the inside that matter when creating swag bags – get creative with that you put your items in.  Sometimes an actual bag isn’t the best bet,  maybe put your items in a basket, caddy or even a book bag depending on the theme of your event.  The branded large water bottle worked at our college concert event because it was easy to carry and people could use it immediately!

You don’t have to give your attendees all the same bag either. If you have the budget, consider making your swag bag in different colors, styles or designs, so  your attendee can choose the one that appeals most to them. This makes the bag more personal and less likely to be tossed away.

6. Go Virtual

Something new and exciting in the market are virtual event bags.  I like to describe this tool as the Groupon or Living Social of event bags. Virtual Event Bags provides creation, distribution and reporting for event bags.  These types of bags include things such as free music or movies to free software trials to coupons for clothing or restaurants.  This type of bag also gives your sponsors complete control of the content they share with your attendees.  Your event guests can access this bag before, during or after the event via email invitations, your event mobile app, social media, event website, and even QR codes. Another plus factor to this option is you are going green!  This is an eco-friendly option because your aren’t using potentially imperishable items that can be destructive to the environment.  This is definitely a cool new technology that will cover all of my points above.

In Conclusion

Swag bags can have a lasting affect on attendees at an event, so make your bag impressionable.  Whether it’s the outside of the bag or the contents inside of it, make it matter.  Remember what you distribute reflects closely on your organization and your brand so include quality items that increase attendee engagement.  Think outside of the “bag” in this case and make your items stand out, so your bag is less likely to be tossed out!

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