Guest Column - November/December 2014

Turning a Gift Into an Experience

By Brian Rivolta, IP


During my childhood one thing I could always count on before guests arrived to my birthday party was my parents reminding me that it's not just the gift that matters it's the thought that counts. Back then that expression was used to prepare me for the inevitable disappointment that was about to take place when opening gifts from certain family members and served as a reminder not to hurt anyone's feelings with my reaction.

While none of us need to be reminded of that anymore, we can take that same sentiment and apply it to the gifting portion of our sales meetings and incentive trips. You most likely have spent a significant budget to bring your attendees to one location. Be they employees, customers or vendors, you made the investment to bring the attendees together for a reason—they are important to you and your business, and you want them to know that.

During most of these meetings and trips, at some point your attendees are given gifts. It may be a smaller gift each night or it could be one larger gift upon arrival or departure. In any case, the gift they receive from you is the only tangible item they will have after the trip has been completed. It's the one thing that they will be able to utilize in their daily lives that will remind them of where they got it and who gave it to them. Yet in most cases it's one of the last things you work on.

There are two important things to consider when selecting gifts for your attendees: desirability and delivery. Are you giving your attendees something they will want? Will it be something that they will use that will become a reminder of the trip or meeting where they received it? Is it something they will view as having a high perceived value? And how will you give it to them? Will you give it in an evening room drop? Will it be in a welcome bag upon arrival? These are important questions to think about when selecting your attendee gifts.

One of the challenges in selecting attendee gifts is that not everyone will like the same thing. People have different tastes and lifestyles, and one gift is not going to suit everyone. To combat this challenge, many meeting planners have turned to on-site gifting programs that allow attendees to make a choice and select their own gift.

One of the challenges in selecting attendee gifts is that not everyone will like the same thing. People have different tastes and lifestyles, and one gift is not going to suit everyone. This challenge is one of the reasons that attendee gifts get pushed to the last phase of planning. To combat this challenge, many meeting planners have turned to on-site gifting programs that allow attendees to make a choice and select their own gift. The concept has been very successful and well received, and is growing in popularity. It is a great concept, but one that must be approached cautiously and thoughtfully to get the desired effect.

Many programs have begun offering several brands that basically turn into a shopping spree. The thought of offering attendees a wide array of choices is very appealing. The problem is that it really does feel like shopping. You have all these items from several different brands, and the value of those brands can be lost and diluted in that "mall" environment.

You also run the risk of sensory overload. Think about what happens when a 7-year-old stands in the cereal aisle at the supermarket. They become mesmerized by the abundance of choices and would stand there for hours if you let them. This can become a major problem in an incentive program when you need to get 300 attendees to make a choice, and you have four hours in which to do it.

So, you want to give your attendees a choice, but you want it to be impactful and mean something. What's the solution?

We have found that the programs that have the most successful impact with regard to gifting are those that offer multiple items from a singular brand. By offering one brand you can turn a gift into an experience. The presentation that the right brand can offer when they have the full attention of the attendees can be powerful. It also can offer the opportunity to tie that brand into your program in a way that's bigger than just being "the gift."

Imagine your attendees walking into a reception on the evening of arrival. As they walk in, they can hear music playing that ties into the theme of the event. Inside they find that the music is playing through a Bose sound system, and oh, by the way, there is a demonstration area set up where they can listen to various headphones, consult with a Bose professional, and choose the pair that best fits their lifestyle. Now you've taken their gift and turned it into an experience that they will likely remember every time that they use their gift.

There are many brands that offer this type of experience, and if done properly it leaves a lasting impression. But make sure you do your homework.

When selecting a partner do not be afraid to ask for references from previous programs or ask your counterparts who may have used that supplier in the past. Single brand experiences can be dynamic when done properly. You want to make sure you are working with someone who can offer flawless execution of a gifting experience that your attendees will remember long after the program has been completed.

Not only will they love the gift that they chose for themselves, but they will remember that it's the thought that counts.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brian Rivolta, IP, is the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Incentive Concepts, a St. Louis-based National Marketing Group. For more information on Incentive Concepts, visit www.theboseeventexperience.com.