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15 Ideas of Conference Gift Bags that People won't Hate (and Throw Away)

Ally Nelson |

Like many corporations, businesses, and entrepreneurs know, conference gift bags( goodie bags, swag bags, or however you name them) account for billions worth of business worldwide. Unfortunately, most people hate them and their contents, throwing them away as soon as the conference/event is over. The ones with a heart take them home only to stash them somewhere in a dark corner of their closets.

Today, we will take a look at 15 conference bag ideas that are desirable, memorable, and useful. A smart conference/swag bag can propel your brand like no other as long as you pick both the containers and their contents mindfully.  

To Toss or Not to Toss, This is The Question! 

The first thing people toss when it comes to conference bags is everything paper printed. Stop wasting your money on flyers and leaflets because they will not make it past the conference venue or the hotel where the attendees stay during the event. In the "Toss it" garbage pile, you will also find:

  • Cheap plastic mass-production keychains with your logo; if you don't wear other companies' logos on your keys, your attendees won't do it either. And nobody needs that many keychains;
  • Branded clothes that nobody wears, mainly because corporations pick one-size-fit-all (usually huge) t-shirts filled with oversized logos and messages. The same goes for baseball caps;
  • Cheap items in general;
  • Branded mugs, pens, or – the worst – paper notebooks. Seriously, who uses paper notebooks anymore when the cheapest smartphone has everything one needs?
  • Anything that will not pass airport security;
  • Anything so massive, it won't make it to an attendee's travel roller bag or duffel bag.

What Do People Enjoy Taking Home in their Swag Conference Bags?

Simply put, your attendees will take home anything they will use. If they do not use the items, they may give them to someone who will find the stuff appealing and practical. So here are some suggestions we will elaborate on in a moment.

  • Small, high-quality electronics;
  • Attractive, wearable clothing;
  • Wearable, whimsical, novelty and high-end accessories;
  • Attendee-specific items (check out our guide on best gifts for gamers or corporate gifts for employees and business partners)
  • Gifts for their children at home;
  • Luxury foods and delights (with the amendment, they all have to pass airport security and have extended shelf lives).

We have talked about some of the best goodie bag ideas corporations and event planners can think about when they want to impress the audience truly, and those suggestions still stand. As we said before, you have to treat the bag and its contents as a whole. The entire ensemble has to become the epitome of business storytelling done right.

What most people forget is that conference bags and their contents depend on what type of event you are planning and who your audience is. The swag bags dedicated to a group of young, rebellious, tech-savvy start-up disrupters will differ tremendously from the goodie bags you prepare for middle-aged seasoned financiers. They probably have at least one Ferrari at home already and won't even bat an eyelash while throwing your goodie bag content.

On the one hand, it is hard to please everyone. On the other, there are some golden rules of thumb when you pick the best conference bag gifts that will most likely appeal to all the attendees. So let's see the next 30 conference gift bags for inspiration. Of course, you can adapt these ideas to future goodie bags you want to offer as corporate gifts for your employees or business partners.

15 Fun and Practical Conference Bag Ideas Your Attendees will Love

Before anything else, make sure the high-end gifts come in high-end reusable branded gift bags. Pick luxury reusable cotton or canvas convention bags personalized with an elegant and discrete logo of your company or carrying an uplifting and whimsical message. Reusable tote bags are all the rage right now as they also speak to the global environmental protection efforts.

1. Luxury Products in Luxury Bags

If you organize an event for 2,000 people, you won't probably have the budget for 2,000 luxury swag conference bags. However, here are some ideas:

  • Prepare a limited number of swag bags or pouches containing truly luxury items along the lines of high-end tech products, tickets to sports events and shows, holiday and travel tickets and vouchers, gift cards and vouchers from luxury brands or high-end stores, etc.
  • Offer this limited number of bags to the first couple of hundreds of people who register in the early-bird phase.
  • Alternatively, offer them random drawn prizes for those attendees who make a significant contribution to the conference (complete surveys; bring another attendee with them, etc.)
  • Use such bags as corporate gifts or "thank you" swag bags for a charity event.

2. Headphones

As long as the headphones are high-quality, headphones will go to the "take it" pile. Either you pick wireless headphones, wired earbuds, or classic over-the-head headphones, everyone can put a pair of them to good use or give them forward to someone who will enjoy them at their full potential.

3. Sports Garments and Accessories

Buying clothes is not a good idea when it comes to conference/event participants, but sports garments seem to have a universal flair to them. Before you go down this road, remember that the one-size-fits-all is a terrible idea. Here are some suggestions:

  • Pick high-end cotton polo shirts for men who are likely to wear them on a golf course or a fun day outdoors. Keep branding to a minimum.
  • Yoga leggings or yoga socks for women;
  • Floor mats for Yoga, Pilates, aerobic practice, and other indoor sports;
  • Branded sports backpacks or gym/fitness duffle bags – with very discreet branding.

4. Wearable Gadgets

Few people would throw away a smartwatch or a fitness wearable gadget packed in a little luxurious gift pouch. And even if they won't wear such items, they will gift them forward to family members or friends. Wearable gadgets are the perfect hybrid between technology and sportswear.

5. E-Book Readers

Such items, while expensive, work best for those corporate attendees who lack the time of reading printed books or who travel a lot and don't find room in their luggage for paperbacks. An e-book reader is also an ideal blend of technology with culture, encouraging people to read more. You don't need to offer one to all your attendees, but it can make an early-bird registration gift that is indeed memorable.

6. USB Memory Sticks

Brand their casings with your logo, pick them in various colors, order some in unusual or thematic designs and models, and fill them with the conference materials and documents, etc. One can never have enough USB memory sticks (high capacity ones are the best). It also makes an excellent gift for others in case the attendee wants to pay this one forward to a friend or family member.

7. Power Banks

All new phones consume batteries like crazy, and one can never have enough power. Pick USB-style power banks for smartphones. Events' attendees are always on the go and quite busy, so they will enjoy wasting less time charging their phones every time they get a chance.

They come in handy for those traveling from other countries and need to carry outlet and voltage adaptors with them. You can also brand their casings or at least the gift bags you use to offer them. If you buy them in bulk, you will get good deals from distributors as well.

8. External Hard Drives

More expensive than memory sticks, external hard drives are still in fashion, even if most people use cloud services. However, in some industries, external storage is a must, and most event attendees will love branded hard drives to use at home or the office. These are corporate gifts for events coming with big marketing budgets and huge sponsors attached, but they are, nonetheless, memorable.

9. Food and Drinks

While all participants love a sweet snack, make sure you pack them, so they make it through airport security. Forget about full-size bottles of wine or boxes of chocolates that will most likely melt in a few days. Little artisanal snacks provided by your local producers give the goodie bag an impressive touch. Think about branded boxes of homemade cookies, tiny marmalade or honey jars, small bites of hard cheeses, or dry/smoked samples of cured meats.

Keep in mind dietary restrictions when you consider such gift bags and make sure all the products come with explanatory and comprehensive labels. Other than that, high-end gift bags with a clear window for a touch of originality will make things look and feel truly luxurious.

10. Toys and Games for Kids at Home

This gift is the answer to all children's "what did you bring me from the trip" question. Get some promotional tote bags and fill them with toys, board games, card games, and so on. For those who don't have children, prepare some game store vouchers, as adults also love to play a board game from time to time or use the discount to buy gifts for someone else.

11. Everyday Toiletry Items

Pick clear vinyl travel-size cosmetic bags.

They are a godsend for those traveling by plane a lot.

Fill them up with daily toiletries that appeal to both sexes: hand sanitizer (a must-have item this year), Kleenex, wet wipes, travel-size deodorant stick, travel-size hair gel, travel-size toothpaste and toothbrush, a small bottle of sunscreen, etc. Even the attendees will not use these items now; they will use them when they pack for their next business or holiday trip. Make sure you do not buy scented items of perfumes, as this is a question of both taste and potential allergies.

12. Charitable Donations

Discuss with a charity about making donations in your attendees' names in exchange for a certificate that acknowledges the contribution. This is an excellent gift for NGO people and corporations as donations are the best way to cherish and praise your shared values. As long as you do not select a charity that comes with a conflict of interest or interferes with people's political affiliations or religious beliefs, you should be fine.

13. Gift Cards to Luxury Retailers

Either you cater to a female, male, or mixed demographic, you cannot go wrong with gift cards. As we said in the beginning, pick vouchers that sit well with your audience and vary the options depending on your attendees' profiles. Gift cards can range from luxury clothes shops to perfume brands to high-end tech manufacturers to boutique book or antiquities stores.

Keep in mind to offer cards to brands and retailers with a global presence. Your attendees should also be able to pay in different currencies, especially if you have an international audience who might want to use their gift cards in their own countries.

14. Lunch and Cooler Bags

A bag within a bag? This is pretty meta, but hear us out: lunch and cooler bags are excellent choices for attendees, especially if you organize the event during the summer. Lunch bags and cooler bags will most likely go home with your participants. Such items make fantastic additions to a beach day, a picnic, or the next business trip.

15. Eco-Friendly Recycled Duffle Bag

You can use a recycled duffle bag as the gift or the bag to put the swag in for a lasting effect. This idea works best with a young demographic that travels a lot and is eco-conscious at the same time. These days, you can boost your event or company as an environmentally friendly one if you use boutique upcycled tote bags, promotional bags, organic cotton ones, or even sports bags made of recycled materials.

How to Create the Ideal Conference Gift Bag for Attendees

Picking the perfect gift bags for conference attendees, employees, or corporate business partners is not easy. However, let's make a quick roundup of the things you always have to keep in mind:

  • Allow people to choose – ahead of registration – their favorite color, design, print, and message combination of the gift bag. Chances are they will indeed love them and take them home;
  • Don't make assumptions about colors and genders. Instead, offer a wide range of gift bag colors and models.
  • Do not print or embroider the date on the gift bags and keep the logo and branding to a minimum. If you can choose, embroider your initials instead of using a large printed logo.
  • Think about the bags' style, post-event utility, print, fabric, and eco-friendliness. It is one thing to offer drawstring backpacks at a fitness/wellness event and a whole other deal to provide cheap plastic-made handbags to a conference dedicated to lawyers.
  • All your gift bags should be ergonomic, comfortable to pack, and easy to use after the event.
  • If you want to make the best of your CSR power, use upcycled and recycled items, get products from eco-friendly companies, use locally produced items to encourage the local business communities, and so on.

So what are your favorite conference bag gift ideas? What did you receive in such a gift bag that made a memorable impression?