At any industry conference, trade show, or other large-scale events, there’s a chance you've received some kind of gift bag upon arrival or at the end. Attendees can use their event swag bag to collect items from expo booths like branded pens and water bottles. Or, event organizers can give attendee gift bags upon arrival or departure as a thank you for attending.

At many events the goodie bags include useful and fun items and it’s a delight for attendees. Other times, they might get tossed as soon as your attendees get home. As an event planner looking to organize a great event, it’s important to be thoughtful of what you include in the swag bag and source swag that people will love in 2021.

Selfcare is in for swag in 2021. Sleep mask image from swag.com.

With the pivot to virtual you don’t have to say goodbye to event gift bags. Instead, it’s an opportunity to think creatively about what and how you send the bag to your attendees. Swag bags can make a virtual event that much more engaging, and there are a number of creative ways to incorporate swag into your virtual event, such as t-shirts, hats, wristband, and coffee mugs.

A little product placement goes a long way...

The virtual event bag is also a great value add for exhibitors who want to share something with event attendees in the gift bag as part of their sponsorship.

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So, how exactly do virtual event bags work, what's included in them, and how can event organizers deliver them to attendees? Read on to find out more about using virtual event bags for your next event and how they can benefit you and your attendees. 

A (Remote) Physical Gift Bag

First, instead of a virtual event bag many organizers still create a physical attendee gift bag that gets mailed in advance. One example we saw at an event hosted on Hopin was a calming tea ceremony to kick off an event, and each attendee was sent a box of teas in advance. These types of gifts create a unifying experience amongst attendees and are details that will have your guests talking about the event well after it wraps.

To send the gift bags, you can add custom registration fields to collect mailing addresses to send the event bags in advance. A best practice is incorporating things attendees can wear or use for the digital event, like a t-shirt, coffee mug, or water bottle. 

Win a spreadsheet tshirt at the Google Sheets conference happening tomorrow on Hopin #swag #SheetsCon2020 https://t.co/PuvwLd55hC

— Hopin (@hopinofficial) March 10, 2020

Another best practice is collecting attendee mailing information via a form hyperlinked on the Reception page of the event. If attendees need to actively sign up to receive their swag bags (and have to seek it out versus part of their registration), it guarantees the event bags will only be sent to active participants. 

Enjoying the excellent @csteachersorg Leadership summit and got some great swag today and @hopinofficial is an excellent platform. Breakout with @teachmecs @TeachingIsSTEM #2020csta pic.twitter.com/4LlgcLFKbH

— Evonne Hackett (@ehlmstech) July 10, 2020

What Is a Virtual Event Bag?

A virtual event bag is the same swag bag that attendees are used to receiving at in-person events, but in a digital format. If you’re using Hopin’s all-in-one platform to execute your event, you can offer your swag bags in the digital Reception lobby where you’ll be showcasing your sponsors, displaying the event schedule, and preparing your attendees for a great time.

This kind of event bag could also take the form of a landing page, an email sent to attendees before, during or after an event, or even via a smartphone app from which attendees can download the goods. 

The goal of a virtual event bag is the same as that of a physical bag: to give attendees small gifts or goodies to help the attendee remember the event and its sponsors, drive marketing efforts after the event is over, and make a lasting, positive impression on attendees. 

You're probably wondering what a virtual event bag looks like. Since event planners can't include physical goods such as a branded water bottle or a refrigerator magnet in their digital swag bags, what exactly does a virtual event bag include?  

What to Include in a Virtual Event Bag

Check out these ideas for some inspiration:

  • Digital swag. SmashingConf gave attendees a virtual swag bag that paired creative assets with their event information. The digital swag bag included obvious welcome materials including the schedule, an overview of where to go, and what information an attendee would need to successfully navigate the event. But inside, they also offered cool extras like a black and white coloring page for attendees to print out and color at home, and digital stickers they could download and use on Slack. This is an opportunity to flex your creativity!

Only a few days until SmashingConf Live and we can’t be more excited. The badges are almost ready, so is our colourful handbook and swag bag. DJ @baldower can’t wait to mix his tunes, live! You can still join, since it’s all online!
🌸 🎠🌛 https://t.co/OvnQjkQ4VW 🎷🐛🐞 pic.twitter.com/szWJlnlsO2

— SmashingConf (@smashingconf) August 18, 2020
  • Gift cards or discount cards. You can support local businesses and delight your attendees at the same time when you include a gift card or discount code for a perk or product.
  • Food delivery. We do this often at Hopin -- send your attendees promo codes to order lunch or a treat via Uber Eats, DoorDash, GrubHub, or any food delivery service.
  • Prize drawing. If you have an especially cool prize, your digital swag bag could include the opportunity for attendees to enter a giveaway or prize drawing.
  • Links to relevant content. A virtual event bag is also a great place to include digital content like eBooks or whitepapers. This is also a great way to provide measurable results for sponsors and increase attendee engagement with the organizations that have backed your virtual event financially. And with an average of 60.6% of attendees navigating to the Expo area on Hopin events, your sponsors will already be feeling like their investment was worth it.

What Are the Benefits of Virtual Event Bags? 

We've seen that virtual event bags can take several different forms and that what's included in them can vary by event. But no matter the type or structure of a virtual goodie bag, they all have various benefits, both for the event hosts and the attendees. 

They're fully customizable and easy to set up. 

A virtual event bag is completely customizable to your needs. You're in complete control over what's included in it and how your attendees interact with the bag and its contents. And you decide when your audience members get their event bag — you can give your attendees access to the bag before the event, during the proceedings, or afterward. 

When you use Hopin, you’re already used to full branding customization on your event page. The swag bags should be no different. 

Event organizers will love that it's far less cumbersome to design branded digital swag than it is to source, organize, and distribute thousands of pens, water bottles, lanyards, and other physical gifts. And there's no worrying about running out of gifts or having to deal with a surplus of goodies that you didn't end up using.

They're convenient for attendees. 

Let's face it — it's never convenient to lug around a physical event bag all day when you attend a conference. They can get heavy, and it's one more thing to keep track of during what is probably a busy day already.

A digital gift bag, on the other hand, is perfectly convenient for your attendees. They don't have to carry around anything at all, and accessing the bag is as simple as opening up an email or visiting a webpage. 

They're environmentally friendly.

One important benefit to using a virtual event platform is sustainability. In-person events are significant contributors to CO2 emissions, pollution, and wasted food and water. The average conference attendee produces over 375lbs of CO2 emissions per day. And a three-day conference for 1,000 people creates 12,500lbs of waste (about the weight of four compact cars). When you eliminate the flights from across the globe, printed handouts, food waste, and tradeshow rubbish the environmental impact is significant.

In the same way, virtual swag bags are a step in the right direction when it comes to sustainability. Attendees won’t toss their swag into the trash when they get home and when you eliminate the carbon emissions from shipping and transporting the many pounds of physical gifts your event’s carbon footprint is even further reduced.

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They provide trackable data.

If you’re already following the tips in our free whitepaper, “How to Deliver 6-Figure Value to Virtual Event Sponsors,” you know that moving an event online amplifies its value for sponsors due to granular and nuanced attendee data. A digital swag bag gives you even more data to share with them.

Since attendees are interacting with the bag's contents online, these interactions can be tracked — and that's important for revising marketing efforts and outreach moving forward. Event hosts and sponsors can find out when digital bags were opened, what was purchased with discount coupons or virtual gift cards, which discount codes were used most often, and much more. That kind of data can prove invaluable for the next event. 

Read the whitepaper

Use Virtual Event Bags to Your Advantage

Swag bags may have gone digital, but it doesn't mean they're any less effective. In fact, as we saw above, virtual event bags have several advantages over the traditional physical goodie bag — ease of production, convenience for attendees, and a smaller environmental footprint, just to name a few. 

Use your next event's virtual swag bag as an opportunity to make your event even more remarkable and creative and delight your attendees. They’ll appreciate it!

Are you planning a virtual event? Want to add a virtual event bag? Hopin can make your event feel interactive and personal and as close to in-person as possible. Our platform is designed for hosting virtual events of every shape and size up to 100,000+ people, and we make it easy to pull it all off without a hitch. 

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