Speaker Gifts that Shine with Gratitude

Meeting pros take time out to share memorable ways to thank event speakers, clients and VIPs

Most professional event planners agree finding a memorable way to thank speakers, clients and promote your brand is challenging and ever-evolving. Ignite polled experienced meeting and conference organizers to share a few of their best corporate gift ideas for speaker gifts, parting gifts and promos. Here are a few expert suggestions.

Picture it

"One year at a large conference I was organizing, we had a large number of speakers over the three days, and we wanted to give them something special. We decided to have an illustrator draw a 'caricature' of each speaker. Since we had the speaker photos beforehand for our marketing brochure, we had the photos ahead of time to send to the illustrator. At the conference we had the framed caricatures of the speakers presenting that day and called it: The Speaker's Gallery. Each speaker received his or her personal caricature with the conference name to take away as a memento. They loved it and so did the delegates!" - Ingrid Norrish, owner, Creative Meeting & Marketing Services, Toronto,

Give when it's appropriate

"Speakers get so many gifts that we rarely give them anymore. We tend to feel that if they are being paid, why give them a gift too? If you do give - if the speaker was free or exceptional - it should be valuable or practical, not another paper weight. What tends to always be successful is an Inuit sculpture or other art that can increase in value. But make sure you ship it to the speaker rather than present on stage because they don't travel well. If you have a photographer or you record the speaker they always appreciate a photo CD of their presentation or DVD copy of their presentation. It's always useful to them and rarely thought of as a gift." - Taras Shipowick, creative producer, Showmakers Inc., Toronto.

Charity of choice

"The MPI Atlantic Canada Chapter has stopped giving speaker gifts, but instead offer to make a donation to a charity of his or her choice, in their own or their child's name. This has gone over very well with the speakers and we don't have to worry about providing another potential toss-in-the-garbage item." - Alana Hirtle, CMP, president, Atlantic Canada Chapter, Meeting Professionals International, White Point Beach Resort, Queens County, N.S.

Give local flavours

"One of the most loved gift ideas for us has always been something artistic that represents the cultural and local flavour of a destination. Silver and pewter from Mexico, for example, or wine in personalized bottles from Napa-always loved and enjoyed!" - Audrey Esar, vice-president, meetings and events, Vision 2000 Travel Group, Montreal.

Gift cards rule

"I'm not a huge believer in items with logos on them as gifts unless it is really something useful. Starbucks and Tim Hortons gift cards in various denominations are always appreciated and easy to buy, mail or transport when I'm travelling. And you can tweak the message. To my out-of-town clients, for example, I can send a card saying "Wish we could have coffee together-here's the next best thing." Or the message can be seasonal: hot chocolate in winter, Iced Cap in summer. I sometimes include them with a good book when I know my client well enough. I've had good success with a magazine subscription. It's a gift that gives every month for a year, keeps you top-of-mind with your customers and shows them you appreciate their business and the relationship on an ongoing basis-but the trick is to send the right magazine." - Laura Holliwell, co-owner, HelmsBriscoe, Markham, Ont.

THE LAST WORD: Small gifts need big thinking

"You can never go wrong with artistic, one-of-a-kind products. And what you must always keep in mind is the concept of perceived value," says Giovinella Gonthier, owner of Gonthier's Selections and Protocol, which specializes in dignitary management, international business development and executive gift selection. "What people don't want anymore is generic, mass-produced things. In this technological age, we have come to appreciate what is made by hand, creative and original." Gonthier says it's crucial to give these seemingly trivial gifts a lot of thought. "Do your research and look for creative, uncommon gifts. And make gift-giving a priority in your business strategy," she says. "Remember that gifts to employees and coworkers are just as important as gifts to VIPs."

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