Swag Bags for Association Events: Make Your Gifts Memorable and High Value

Swag Bags for Association Events: Make Your Gifts Memorable and High Value

Have your most recent event swag bags fallen short of expectations? Here’s how you can up your game at your next association conference, so attendees remember your gifts long after the meeting is over.

Understand Why Some Promotional Items Get Tossed

Before investing in swag for your next event, it’s wise to give some thought as to why the hotel trash bins might wind up full of your promo giveaways, even if they’re expensive ones. Conference goers tend to pitch the following:

  • Items that look cheap or fall apart quickly
  • Overly branded merchandise
  • Printed materials (give people a preloaded flash drive or free download access later instead)
  • Bulky items, especially those that won’t pass airport security
  • Things they already have plenty of at home


Remember, with travel being the challenge it is today, many people try to limit themselves to carry-on only. That makes gifts like wine or full-size beauty items tough to transport. Likewise, they’re not going to lug around heavy coffee mugs if they’re no better than the ones they already own. Water bottles take up a lot of space inside luggage, so if you’re going to give one out, make it ultra special and make sure it can be clipped to the exterior of a bag or purse.

Keep branding subtle. There’s nothing worse than getting a high-quality canvas tote bag that would be perfect for the beach…only to have it completely covered with an association’s logo and slogans.

Make the Most of Your Budget

Once you understand what turns people off about certain swag, you can maximize your budget to make sure the items you give away will be kept for a long time to remind recipients about your group. If you have a limited budget, it’s better to spend your funds on one or two extra nice items than on a dozen cheap ones.

If you’ve ever drooled over the swag bags you’ve seen at special events, you might be able to pull off something similar with a bit of legwork and some solid member connections. Not every one of those expensive items is purchased by the event hosts; instead, the items are donated by sponsors who want to get their merchandise in the hands of a key demographic, particularly if a product is just launching.

Who in your association could help bring in some sponsors? If you wind up with fewer highly desirable items than you need for everyone, consider making them “early bird specials” or raffling them off at the end of the event.

Don’t Forget About Remote Attendees

With the surge in virtual and hybrid events over the last few years, you may have people attending your event online. Don’t leave these folks out of your swag giveaway. Mail them something nice, and you can take advantage of the fact that they don’t have to deal with luggage and airport security.

Offer Choices When Possible

One way to ensure people get the swag they really want is to let them choose it. There are a couple of ways to do this:

  • Let people select items they want online and either have them mailed to them or allow attendees to pick them up at the event.
  • Have a gift table with a selection of clothing sizes or gift options in different categories.
  • Give away gift cards that attendees can use anywhere, whether on-site or at home.
  • Offer attendees a luxury extra at the meeting venue, such as a spa service or item from the gift shop.


Consider These Gift Options for Your Next Event

So, what are some good swag choices for your association’s next conference? Here are a few selections that are usually popular with event attendees:

  • High-end real clothing (not souvenir t-shirts), especially polo shirts, flip flops, hoodies, and jackets
  • Sunglasses and umbrellas
  • Headphones and ear buds
  • Wireless speakers
  • Phone chargers, cases, and battery banks
  • Sports gear, like golf balls or resistance band trainers
  • Bite-size gourmet food (consider common allergies)
  • Travel hooks for purses, book bags, etc.
  • Reusable straw sets
  • Sample size sunscreen or toiletries
  • External hard drives and USB sticks
  • Backpacks and gym bags
  • Travel blankets and throws
  • Kids’ toys to take home


Need Help Planning Your Next Association Event?

Jaffe Management offers event planning services for associations, so you can focus on your most important tasks and leave the legwork to us. We also offer assistance with membership administration, volunteer development, website design, and more. Reach out today to let us know how we can help make your next meeting a success, swag bags and all.