Five Innovative Gifting ideas for Attendees and Staff

Five Innovative Gifting ideas for Attendees and Staff

Swag bags and logoed promotional products have long been a staple of corporate events and gifting. This last year has undoubtedly changed the environment of corporate live meetings and altered the state of corporate gifting.

For one, it has made customized ordering (each person can order what they want) and direct shipping much more accessible and user-friendly than ever before. It has also placed a value on higher-end gifts. This type of gift is one-way corporations reinvested conference expenses previously spent on live events back into the participants or staff. While name-brand goods cost 25% – 75% more than generic, it hits home when staff or clients receive a recognizable brand.

Participants at live events have grown accustomed to receiving their welcome packet, name badge, and swag bag. This last year of virtual meetings brought us creative unboxing parties, and this year, as hybrid meetings become the new normal, we expect to see the innovation grow.

“Use a professional to navigate quantity pricing. They also make sure your gift achieves the intended impact without being gaudy. Logo size, color, and positioning all need to be thought through and done well.”

– Michael Lumpkin, Thread Logo Co-Founder

As we move into this next stage, we wanted to inspire you with these five curated gifts by our American Meetings Network Prime Member, Thread Logo, with high quality, name-brand value, and without the bank-breaking price tag. The key to this is using a professional who can deliver value.

Charging Pads and Devices

We are all plugged in and needing power. These charging pads make it easy, allowing recipients to leave all the cords behind and charge phones, watches, earbuds, or anything electronic and rechargeable. Ideal for travel or home, these are helpful to both the tech-savvy and not.

Sherpa Blankets

Blankets and throws are a great unisex gift for indoor or outdoor cuddling year-round. Neutral colors match home or office décor or can easily be thrown into the car for a road trip, camping, or picnic after the event.

Fine Leather Goods

High quality and hand-made in the USA, these luxury gifts will become a staple for the receiver. Padfolios for event notetaking, totes, briefcases for conference materials, or hauling paperwork from client meetings to networking groups are a perfect gift.

Ring Lights

Videos, Zoom meetings, and even profile pictures look better with good lighting. With a variety of warmth, brightness, sizes, and adjustability, ring lights make your participants look great. Whether live streaming content at the event, capturing an afterparty shout-out or uploading the next viral TikTok, you will equate your team with screen confidence.


Bose is a household name when it comes to sound quality, which makes these highly valued gifts. Speakers, headphones, and earbuds with the Bose name ensure crisp sound in anyway your recipient wants to experience it.

The goal of gifting has always been to help people be pulled into the fold of the sponsor – to help them feel like they are part of something bigger. Whether this is a company purchasing wearables to demonstrate unity at an event, or attendees receiving swag to welcome them and invite them into the experience, corporate gifting accomplishes this.

Your professional meeting planner can help source and distribute these items on your behalf. Just ask AMI!

AMI Provides Talented Certified Suppliers Through Its Industry Leading Tier 2 Supplier Program

AMI Provides Talented Certified Suppliers Through Its Industry Leading Tier 2 Supplier Program

Learn more in this Out Entrepreneur interview with CEO and Founder of AMI Andy McNeill on his advice for the next generation of Out Bosses.

For over 25 years, Andy and his husband and business partner Todd have witnessed a number of ups and downs in the travel and event industry but believe the recent pandemic has changed the industry for good. Andy said the pandemic had driven the “largest, most jarring shift” they’ve experienced, and forced what AMI did to GROW during this challenging time.

In this interview, Andy also shares the philosophy of AMI’s Supplier Diversity Program and how it is successfully positioning minority businesses to pitch to large corporations and win bids. He gives tips on how to be more effective, as just being able to pitch doesn’t simply seal the deal. (Even though AMI’s suppliers have received millions of dollars in contracts because of the program.)

And finally, Andy shares how his LGBTQ life experience and the experiences of others in the community have allowed him to be MORE successful. He advises the next generation of Out Bosses to use their platform to offer themselves as beacons of safe space, education, and connection.

“If you aren’t your whole self at work, people can feel the un-authenticity. And when people aren’t comfortable with who I am or our philosophies, we are fine not working together because it won’t be successful for either party.”

Check out the podcast, The Out Entrepreneur here (@outentrepreneur), and be inspired today!

How Corporate Event Planners are Transitioning into Hybrid Meetings

How Corporate Event Planners are Transitioning into Hybrid Meetings

Restrictions on travel and in-person meetings are lifting, but uncertainty still exists for the event industry. For much of 2020, and even in 2021, corporate meeting planners had to quickly pivot to virtual meeting platforms, if not cancel long-planned events. Hybrid meetings will likely bring large gatherings back into the public space and may become the new normal for the corporate meetings industry.

Thankfully, this last year has helped shorten the learning curve, improve the technology, and built a foundation for best practices in the virtual and hybrid meeting arena. Virtual and hybrid events will continue to be elevated in their capabilities and acceptance.

Finding Solutions

Event planners will need to rely on their never-ending resourcefulness and creativity, just as always, just in the new meeting normal. This means that understanding live, virtual and hybrid events is more critical than ever. Understanding the benefits of each event type to best match client needs is vital. From there, using the right tools becomes the foundation of the event.

In live events, this could look like having the right team and venue. In virtual and hybrid events, it is critical to have an effective digital platform. For example, Zoom, one of many AMI partners, offers meetings for under 1,000 participants and webinars for up to 50,000. They also integrate with marketing softwares like Hubspot, payment portals like PayPal, and even transcription services.

Being Creative and Engaging

Don’t shy away from virtual tradeshows, keynotes, live entertainment, or town-hall-style panels. Technology and production teams are dedicated to hosting nearly anything virtually or through combined live and virtual hybrid presentations.

Regardless of the type of event, creativity and a focus on participant engagement help the event be successful. Understanding the target audience, using good pacing and/or layout, an engaging master of ceremonies, event swag, and opportunities to connect are all part of this engagement piece.

(Read this interview with AMI Partner Jason Alpert on why and how to hire a master of ceremonies for virtual events.)

Promoting Wider

One benefit of virtual and hybrid events is the ability to market and promote them outside a specific location while not requiring participant (or speaker) travel. Utilize QR codes to drive those engaging with tangible marketing materials online for information and registration.

Seamlessly connect registration and attendance for security and valuable data gathering, such as surveys, polls, and feedback forms.

Event planners, if you need support in building your hybrid production skills and teams to better prepare for virtual and hybrid events, AMI can help. Contact us today for more information.

5 Benefits and Challenges of Combining Live and Virtual Experiences for a Hybrid Meeting Model

5 Benefits and Challenges of Combining Live and Virtual Experiences for a Hybrid Meeting Model

If 2020 was the year of virtual meetings, it looks like 2021 might be the year of hybrid solutions as we begin to reconnect in person. With this shift comes some challenges as well as exciting benefits of the virtual combination of live and digital meeting experiences.

Hybrid Meeting Benefit: Smaller Crowds, Larger Attendance

Large-scale live meetings will likely be slow to return this year. With hybrid meetings and events, however, smaller clusters of groups can meet in a variety of locations to boost attendance without the risk of travel or large gatherings that many are still leery of in a post-pandemic world.

In the case of our client Stratus, they used a hybrid model of combining virtual and live meeting components to support the need for in-person training. A 100% virtual option was not sufficient for their national sales meeting, so technology was used to stream the general sessions to sales teams located in six U.S. locations where their sales team could safely travel the short distance. Small groups of a dozen team members each were able to safely get together for team building, training, and product launch information sharing while social distancing.


Hybrid Meeting Challenge: IT & Security

A remote workforce interacting on virtual platforms can mean less control over client information, meeting access, and an increase in cyber threats. Creating processes for how information is accessed and shared across an organization is a priority in a hybrid meeting situation. Thankfully, the need has been presented and solutions created, often by the platform providers themselves.

Verifying users and participants can help control hacks and disruptions, and there must be a balance between attracting attendees and protecting data. With strong controls and systems in place, AMI has never had a data or security breach and neither should your organization.

Suggested reading: “How to Hack-Proof Your Virtual Event”

Hybrid Meeting Benefit: Built-in Technology

Because the demand for video conferencing and work-from-home platforms have dramatically increased in a short period of time, technology has been forced to improve. In the past, virtual meetings were often limited to corporate or business use, but now collaboration platforms like Zoom feature background noise reduction, appearance enhancement, low light adjustment, and high-fidelity music for almost any kind of meeting.

Large virtual events have also evolved to include more accessible technology that offers TV-quality production to increase engagement and interest. We’ve all learned in the last year how to use technology in new ways, and this comfort level is equipping us to take it to the next level in terms of registration, interactivity, production, and more.

Hybrid Meeting Challenge: Thinking Creatively

Tradeshows, demonstrations, swag… there are things we have come to expect from live events that will need to be managed more creatively. Again, services exist to support virtual and hybrid events, but it takes innovative solutions to garner attendee engagement.

Suggested reading: “7 Tips for Planning a Virtual or Live Tradeshow”

Pre-sending swag to meeting attendees helps build comradery even when distanced. Using break-out rooms and live streams can help facilitate demonstrations, networking, Q&A sessions, and more. Even delivering your attendees a delicious lunchtime meal enhances their virtual experience.  Best practices for bringing live and virtual components to hybrid events will continue to evolve through the next year and beyond.

Hybrid Meeting Benefit: Cost Effectiveness

Virtual events can help reduce the expense of large venues, travel, and staffing. Using budget spend on more powerful AV, production, and attendee swag is the way to successful hybrid meetings. Use less space, limit the need for on-site staff, and reach a broader audience by allowing guests to participate in-person or remotely.

Local events can now promote on a larger scale to attract attendees where travel may have prevented attendance in the past. For many organizations, a hybrid meeting model can allow for more cost-effective production, with just as much bang as a fully live event.

7 Tips for Planning a Successful Virtual or Live Tradeshow

7 Tips for Planning a Successful Virtual or Live Tradeshow

Tradeshows can be very beneficial – for event organizers to generate additional revenue and industry recognition; for vendors to receive more exposure, leads and sales; and for attendees to get inspired and make connections.

Our current climate has changed how tradeshows look and how they are conducted, but they are worth it, especially if set up and managed well.

Here are some tips to do exactly that:

Give It Time

Especially on a first-time tradeshow or expo, give your team plenty of time to brainstorm and plan. Consider the target audience, overall goals, and how to achieve the objectives. What needs and wants does the team have? Does it make the most sense to be virtual or live? What’s the overall budget? What traits will the ideal venue have (if live)? Who may sponsor? Who may want to have exhibits?

Don’t rush, instead, take the time to build a high-quality event that will build interest for years to come so you don’t have to reinvent year over year. Consider how the event may look now and how you’d like it to look in the future.

Plan a Theme

With a deep understanding of your objectives, target audience, and expected vendors, choose a theme that helps you clearly identify your message and reach out to prospects. The clearer you are, the easier it is to target the appropriate demographics and appeal to them. Do your research to create a tradeshow that meets the needs of both attendees and exhibitors.

In marketing and branding, use the theme – and have fun with it!

Get Sponsors

Whether exhibitors, product or service sponsors, get commitments on advertising. Advertisers can purchase recognition by sponsoring all print materials (if you use them), gifts/swag (whether shipped or in-person), catering (if applicable), awards, programs, entertainment, and more. Get creative and off-set costs with great sponsors.

Knowing your budget will help you determine how many and what types of sponsors you need. In the virtual meeting setting, you can still brand slides, gifts, awards, and more. Be creative with sponsorships and be sure to deliver value to both advertisers and attendees.

Book Your Venue or Determine Your Platform

Knowing your theme and expected attendance and exhibitors, choose a venue that can appropriately accommodate your expo. If you are doing a hybrid or virtual event, choose an online platform that can accommodate all your registration and tradeshow needs. Vendors may want to use online scheduling platforms to meet with participants in a one-to-one setting, virtually or in-person for demonstrations. Help to make this happen by determining needs and including them in your planning.

Breakout rooms – whether virtual or live, need to meet your goals and budget and be easy to navigate. Use clear communication to help participants know how to find what they need.

Book as early as possible to get the best location and rate and be sure to ask about cancellation policies in case of changes to local mandates. Use technology to increase engagement and safety wherever possible, such as creating digital maps and check-in.

Plan the Layout (If In-Person/Hybrid)

Once you have a venue chosen, plan a layout that includes premium booth spaces and standard spaces to offer to prospective vendors. Be sure to include information about outlets, drapes, booth set up/tear down, and more to communicate early and often.

Use signage to support safety measures and attendee flow. Manage occupancy guidelines with restricted and/or monitored entrances.

Understand the limitations and new protocols for safety including waiting areas, parking, registration, and amenities. The venue can offer suggestions for room set-up which you want to take into consideration for flow, especially if distancing rules are in place.

Plan the Flow (If Virtual)

Venue layout is exchanged for event flow in the digital space. Practice how participants will “travel” through the event, such as using waiting rooms and breakout rooms. Determine how attendees will participate and what needs to be in place to facilitate sessions and transitions.

Determine any backup plan in the case of technical issues.

Consider Entertainment

Relevant entertainment and fun can incise attendees into the show and keep them there longer. Determine what needs attendees may have and try to meet those needs (such as refreshments and beverages) to keep participants engaged and moving through the expo.

Whether virtual or live these components can be included and should be! Being distracted can happen more frequently when an attendee is virtual – so fight for their attention by inviting them to engage with gifts they open at specific intervals in the event or by using a fun MC and providing entertainment.

With live or hybrid events, entertainment should be booked early as well and used to help promote the fun of the event, and catering should be on par with the theme and overall flow.

Market, Market, Market

To make the event truly beneficial, attendance is critical. Encourage cross-promotion by having vendors invite attendees as well. Remember, you will be selling vendor spaces, advertising spots, and admission tickets almost simultaneously. Being clear about who will attend and who will exhibit will help you do this well.

To learn more about security in virtual meetings or other ways to make your next event the best it can be, contact AMI today.