When In-Person is Impossible: How Event Swag Will Bring Life to Your Virtual Conference

Virtual events are cheaper and logistically easier to produce, but they lack the physical connection that draws many attendees to in-person conferences.

When face-to-face interactions aren’t possible, event swag becomes the only tactile, physical connection between the event, brand sponsors, and attendees.

With a little creativity, marketers and organizers can use swag to foster the camaraderie and excitement of in-person events—increasing attendance rates, improving engagement, and even making events much more memorable.

Whip up pre-event buzz

Around 35% of people who register for a virtual event don’t attend. You can use event swag—and a touch of psychology—to boost registrations and attendance.

Hold a raffle

Just the promise of a reward gives people a hit of dopamine (the feel-good hormone). Offer people a chance to win giveaways and get them feeling good about attending your event.

Start by clearly announcing the raffle as new people register. Then promote it a few times before the event through email.

If budget allows, hold one or two raffle drawings each day of the conference, making attendance a requirement for winning. That’ll give people a constant incentive to stay tuned.

A raffle is a time to bring out your swag “A” game. The prize should be something people are excited to win. One idea is a coffee/tea lover’s gift box built around the popular YETI beverage tumbler.

Yeti drink tumbler with Ferrari logo

Add a national coffee shop gift card or a monthly tea delivery subscription, then a few details like some chocolate-covered coffee beans and a coffee cake recipe.

Send a Swag survey

The mere act of completing a survey can increase the likelihood that someone will take an action, like attending your event. Leverage that effect and send a survey that gives people a choice in which type of swag you provide.

Just pick a handful of swag ideas you’re considering, and send it out to your list of email subscribers. They’ll feel like part of the process and get a sneak preview of the gifts people get when they attend.

A swag survey could also increase registration by improving the open rate of your event marketing emails. Email is the single most effective channel for registrations, and email experts Constant Contact say adding a question to your subject line like “What swag would you choose?” is a solid tactic to get more people to click.

You can go full meta swag and give a gift to everyone who fills out the survey during registration. Something small like a keychain would work well.
Keychain with Brooklyn House logo

Keychains are having a new moment as collector's items. So, even though it's a cost-effective gift, a well-designed keychain is sought-after swag.

Create engaging experiences during the event

Virtual event organizers say that getting an audience to engage is the biggest challenge of running a virtual event. Swag can help you create shared experiences during remote conferences that turn attendees into active, engaged participants.

Host a virtual game show

Organize a virtual trivia contest that encourages people to gather information from each session. Use promotional products to incentivize participation and raise the stakes.

Work with each presenter to gather key points they want attendees to remember. Turn those points into a list of questions for your game show.

To produce your game show, use a platform like My Quiz or Sporcle. Then, during a break or cocktail hour, invite participants to join your virtual contest. People with the highest score get the swag. Consider giving clues throughout your event to keep people curious.

You may have several winners, so a medium-priced prize would be great, such as a branded hoodie.
Hooded sweatshirt swag

A cozy hoodie is a bit more valuable than a t-shirt but affordable enough to give to several game show winners.

Hold a virtual scavenger hunt

In-person events often offer event swag for attendees who visit every booth or attend every session. Replicate that motivational strategy with a virtual event scavenger hunt.

Create a list of the things you want attendees to do (visit a sponsor, listen to a speaker). You could also make it visual with a list of screenshots each person needs to gather.

Give attendees a virtual “punch card” they fill out as they gather each item. You can gamify this even further and make it a bingo card.

Everyone who completes the punch card, or gets “bingo,” gets some swag. Consider creating a customer challenge coin as the prize.
Challenge coins have a lot of history as tokens of appreciation and camaraderie. Plus, they tie into the “finding a treasure” theme of a scavenger hunt.

Create a shared swag experience

Personal connection is an important part of in-person gatherings but not so easy to replicate during digital conferences. You can bring human interaction back to your online event by creating a shared experience around your swag.

One way to do it is by sending out a cocktail kit ahead of the event, then organizing a virtual “happy hour.” For the kit, include a custom bottle opener, coaster, drinkware, mixers for cocktails, and/or cocktail recipes.

challenge coin event swag

To get everyone in on the action, add recipes and mixers for alcohol-free “mocktails.”

Once everyone has a communal “cheers” with their branded drinkware, stoke conversation on fun topics like movies, travel, and food.

Incentivize post-event actions

Even though the event is over, there are still a few things you may want from attendees, like filling out a feedback form, sharing with friends, or just remembering their experience so they’ll register next year. Promotional items can help achieve them all.

Get shared on social media

Having people share their experiences on social media using a common hashtag is a great way to make more people aware of how awesome your event is. Unfortunately, virtual events aren’t as Instagrammable as their in-person counterparts. Event swag gives attendees something physical to share with their followers.

This is what Shopify did during their virtual employee conference [link to case study]. Every attendee got a swag box sent to their house. It was the one aspect of the event employees shared on their social media feeds.

Shopify’s swag box included sundry items like a notebook, coffee cup, and beautifully designed custom enamel pin.

Shopify enamel pin event swag
Shopify created the design in-house, which WizardPins translated into pin form.

Swap swag for reviews

Feedback is critical for event organizers who want to improve the attendee experience. Use swag to incentivize people to complete your post-event survey.

Make sure to publicize what people get for filling out the survey, so they're excited when the survey request shows up.

Socks with a clever motto or brand are a good fit here.

Logo socks event swag

Socks have universal appeal, aren’t an overused swag gift, and are cost-effective.

For event swag, think ahead and think small

Without the costs of space rental and travel, virtual events can be much less expensive to produce than in-person corporate events. Choosing the wrong swag items and waiting too long to order can eat into those savings.

To keep your financial balance sheet balanced, choose smaller swag [link to why pins are perfect swag] and plan well ahead of your event. That way, you’ll avoid paying to send large items and the extra cost of expedited shipping.
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