Giving Gifts that Matter

By Lain Ehmann

Gifts – they’re always on the meeting planner’s checklist, usually somewhere between order airport shuttles and double-check seating arrangements. After all, whether attendees are coming for a president’s circle celebration or a new-product launch they expect to get some kind of gift – a polo shirt, a new briefcase – something to reward them for setting aside their lives for the duration of the meeting.

But gift giving shouldn’t be automatic, and it shouldn’t be embarked on thoughtlessly, says Marty Bear, president of Fairfield, Connecticut-based Professional Marketing Services, Inc. Here are questions he says can help determine the right item to hand out to your meeting participants.

1. When and where is the meeting going to be held? A business summit in corporate headquarters will call for a different item than a casual get-together at the beach. And how much lead time you have affects what kinds of gifts you can order, says Bear.

2. Who is attending? If spouses and kids are included, gifts can be targeted to them or chosen with them in mind.

3. Does the meeting have a theme, slogan, tagline or color that’s being highlighted and should somehow tie in with the promotional item or gift?

4. What gifts were offered the past two years? Bear says his team sometimes comes up with what they think is the perfect recommendation, only to learn after the fact that it was done the year before.

5. What has the competition done? You may want to one-up them or move in a different direction altogether.

6. What are the decision makers’ pet peeves? Does your boss adore a particular shade of violet, or must you avoid alcohol or alcohol-related gifts?

7. How much do you have to spend? “Budgets are crucial,” says Bear. “There are three billion variables that make it impossible to show samples without knowing the cost parameters,” he explains. “You want to steer clear of the things that really are not feasible.”

8. What are the meeting’s goals? You likely will select a different product to reward your high performers than you would to kick off a strategic planning session. And if you want to let your team know you value them, you’re going to steer clear of the cheap items, says Bear. If you’re trying to boost morale, he says, you want the team to say look at all this great quality stuff, instead of taking one look at a polyester t-shirt and handing it over to the dog for a chew toy. “You don’t want to give out a crappy t-shirt for a major event,” he stresses. “Having nothing is better than having something of inferior quality, for your customers or your own people.”

9. Do you want the logo on it? Depending on the purpose of the item, logo placement may be prominent, hidden or non-existent, says Bear. Some companies let the label of a well-known brand – Coach, Rolex, Waterford – speak for itself.

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