Finding the Right Swag for Your Event

I'm planning to write this blog post for a long time already. Actually since I relaunched this website. I collected a few topics, that I want to publish and this was one of it. Now Kai Brach is asking for #madswag, asking people for good ideas for useful, great swag for events. I took this as trigger to finally write about swag, finding the right swag and speaking to your partners (this is how I like to call sponsors) about what you think “good” swag is.

When I started beyond tellerrand, my idea was to run an event, that I’d like to attend as well. That was meant concerning the mix of topics I choose, the way I’d like to set up the event and schedule, but also which kind of swag I’d love to get. Let me say it upfront: some of the partners won’t learn about relevant swag or aren’t able to change how things run in their company, meaning that big agencies or companies have a pool of things they are using and from which they have to choose their swag for events from. Important, in my opinion, is, that you at least try to change something and how they think about swag. In the end it’s up to you of course, but let me show how I see things …

Partner Briefing

Usually, if it’s not a small company or agency, where decisions don’t need ages to be made and ways are short, teams, responsible for events have a planned budget and often a fixed set of things they want to give out at events. Sometimes they haven’t and then they’re looking for examples what other partners do at other events. This is your chance to step in and maybe change something.

Every time a partner agrees to be part of beyond tellerrand, I send out a partner briefing explaining which assets I need and what the deadline is. In addition I give information like which format I need logos in, which size certain assets can be and so forth. I also, if needed, give a few ideas and explain what is possible to be done. Don’t forget that you know your event and attendees/audience better than anyone else does, which should give you a good view on what people like to have. This is part of what I write, when it comes to swag:

Please send items for 500+ attendees of anything you want to include into the attendee bags. Remember that something memorable and relevant is always better than plain advertisement on postcards or flyers. Please let us know if we can help finding the right swag. Also let us know if you plan to give out any kind of hardware as we have to take this in concern for choosing the bags.

Sometimes I get an email afterwards asking for a Skype chat or phone call to talk about what relevant or memorable swag is. In this case I explain that anything that is just meant to advertise something and then to be thrown away is wasted. It doesn’t help selling and also not remembering the service, software or agency as – you read it – they throw it away. Wouldn’t it be better to give out something they use on their daily basis or love to take with them for any other reason? I know that this is not easy, but the only proof that this works for me at least is a lot of comments I get for my swag.

I normally don’t wear conference swag except @btconf, which looks and feels good.


l loved #btconf swag! Beanie, mug, socks, shirt, notepads.. Love, love it!!!!

Just to give to examples by Julie and Suzan. I know that there is still a lot of work to do, or better said, ongoing work to be done that has to be done for each and every event over and over again. But if this results in less waste, more relevant swag, and happy people who like to take the partners stuff with them, I think it is the right way.

Surely you can’t hit everyone’s taste and you can’t meet everybody’s needs with the swag. This is why I started to place a box at my events that states something like ”If you don’t need or want something out of your goodie bag, please place it in here”. And people use it …

awesome idea to provide a box to drop unwanted swag

… as Kristina pointed out. What I do with this unused swag afterwards? Some of it is re-usable at later events. Some, I use in other ways. E. g. I give refillable bottles to the football (what some of you call soccer) team of my 10-year old son and his friends or other teams. Or I give left-over bags to ancestors and friends to be used as shopping bags. But that obviously is just a few examples

T-Shirts or no T-Shirts

When I first thought about shirts, I thought that there are already enough events putting out shirts with logos on them. I think it’s cool to have some, sometimes even only for remembering that you have been there. But as someone, attending many events, I have boxes full of t-shirts, which I don’t wear as they have company logos or simply an events logo on them. So I thought, what can I do to make people like to wear my shirts? With knowing that also here I can’t his everybody’s taste. But – again – at least I try something.

beyond tellerrand t-shirt examples by Gio Proietto, Holger Lamers, James Paterson, Jon Burgerman, and Martina Flor

I invited friends and people I admire the work of to create designs for my event shirts. Not only do I ask them to design something in their style, but also, when being asked for a logo to be put on the shirt, I tell them to not use any logo, but only place “beyond tellerrand” somewhere small. As said it is not important for me to get my thing advertised through the shirts, I want people to wear them and like this. So far it paid back quite well in terms of feedback.

Probably one of the few conference t-shirts that will not end up being a sleeping t-shirt #btconf


I really liked the @btconf t-shirt this year.

Again: not every shirt always meets everybody’s taste and expectations. It obviously is hard to guess which design will be liked by at least the majority of people. I invite also to give shirts back, if they’re not the shirt someone likes. Some shirt’s given back go into an online shop or I sell them onsite of an event. The money directly goes back into following events … mostly behind the bar or similar, anything where also small money helps. If I have more shirts to give away, I find other possible options like giving them to refugees or clothing collections where they might make use for other people.

What’s Next?

I – and also Kai – as well as many other people who run events, I’m sure, would love to hear suggestions and ideas what #madswag could be. If you don’t want or can’t use twitter, please use my email to send your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions. I’m happy to forward this to anyone interested and publish this as updates to this post here. As I said earlier: this might all not be the only way or perfect solution, but maybe a start or my try to do better. Thanks.

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