SWAG: We all get it (hence the acronym: stuff we all get). But do we really want all of the “it” that we get? We asked event planners and hospitality insiders to share with us their best and worst SWAG items—what they keep on hand and what gets tossed in the bin.

Best: Items that are useful, such as power banks, TSA liquids bags and thumb drives.
Worst: Toys/trinkets that end up in the waste; candy and snacks. (Don’t we get enough at the show?)

- Janis Ross, CMP, Vice President of Convention & Sports Marketing, Travel Lane County

Best: I love getting slippers for the room. 
Worst (or at least overdone): There’s nothing I hate, but I have enough cloth glass wipes!

- Tara Thomas, CMP, DMCP, Sales Manager, Ruth's Chris 

Best: A portable charging station. You can’t be on-site with a cell phone, mobile hot spot, etc., without a portable charging station. And of course, it is branded so everyone knows where you received such a gem.

And a key-chain box cutter. Sounds weird, but once you get on-site you need to open so many boxes, and it always comes in handy. Although I do not put it on my key chain, I do have it in my backpack. It’s TSA-friendly too!

- Dana Colwell, CMP Conference Manager, Washington State University 

Best: The piece of SWAG that I have loved the best and used for years is a Brighton lanyard. As an event planner, I am constantly wearing a badge and I get so many compliments when I wear it.  

Worst: Phone screen wipes. They get grimy, and I never use them to clean my phone. After a few months, I just throw them away.

- Lacey Hein, CMP, Senior Event Marketing Manager, Concur

The times they are a-changing, and that has never been truer than when it comes to selecting an A/V partner and deciding whether the in- house A/V vendor or an outside third-party provider is the right partner for you. Due to advancements in technology, lighting and other A/V equipment that has come down in price, planners are now finding op- portunities to use previously out of budget technology with a much more palatable price tag. 

 

Retreats and off-site meetings present wonderful opportunities for groups to collaborate, strategize and build relationships away from their normal office environments. With proper planning, these sessions can be highly effective and even pivotal in setting a new direction. However, off-sites may present some unforeseen challenges that can quickly deflate the energy in the room if not anticipated and addressed in advance.

 

Landing a big-name keynote speaker can be a significant part of your conference budget. That person should add credibility to the event and hopefully boost attendance. But if your speakers just deliver canned presentations before making a quick exit for the airport, you and your attendees are missing the full value they can bring to an event. With some extra planning, you can help set up the speaker and your event for success.