5 Take-Home Gifts That Will Extend Your Meeting's Life

Creative takeaways like these will ensure attendees remember your event long after it's over

Human beings are obsessed with longer life. If there were an elixir they could consume to cheat death, they'd drink it. If there were a fountain they could bathe in to trick time, they'd swim in it. And if there were a cream they could apply to erase their age, they'd slather it on in abundance. Unfortunately, there's no such thing as immortality. At least, not for people. For meetings and events, however, there's something that comes awfully close: the take-home gift. Although it might not last forever, the right takeaway -- given at the right time, to the right person -- can create a memory that makes a meeting last for days, weeks, months, and even years after the last breakout session is over. Following are five such take-homes that will make you the Ponce de Léon of meeting planning.

A Proud Picture
Most meetings have a dedicated website where they post photos after the event. Meeting planners can turn photos into mementos, however, by organizing a photo opportunity with keynote speakers, suggests speakers bureau Big Speak. It suggests hiring a professional digital photographer to set up the proper lighting, backdrop, and camera angle, then inviting attendees to pose with the speaker after he or she speaks. Photo lineups like this give attendees a few personal moments with the speaker -- which is memorable in itself -- and a keepsake by which to remember the event. Photos can be emailed to attendees after the event or, in the case of a small group or VIPs, framed, engraved, and mailed to attendees at home. Every time an attendee looks at the photo, they'll think of your meeting and how wonderful it was to not only hear the speaker speak, but also to shake their hand afterwards.

An Emotional Event Video
If a picture is worth 1,000 words, imagine how many a video is worth. Like your favorite film, scenes and dialogue from which you still remember decades after the first time you saw it in the movie theater, a video of your meeting can leave a deep and lasting impression on attendees. After all, they're not just the audience for your video. They're also the stars of it. A film production company like Filmscape Productions can capture highlights from your event and turn them into a cinematic experience that tells the story of your meeting, including why it was created, who was there, and what was accomplished during it. Shared digitally with attendees after the event, or even mailed to them on a physical DVD or flash drive, it can transport them back to the meeting, remind them of the positive outcomes it created for them, and fill them with warm fuzzies that make them excited for your next conference.

Practical Promotional Products
Because many attendees will probably throw them away when they get home, gifting items like pens, T-shirts, and tote bags means the memory of your event is more likely to end up in the garbage than in attendees' heads. However, that doesn't mean that promotional products are bad. Rather, it means event planners have to think carefully and creatively to determine which promotional products are good. The answer: products that are so practical that attendees will use them every day at home. New York event venue 583 Park Ave., for example, recommends "gifts that help out in the kitchen (utensils, cookie cutters, etc.), or gifts that replace often lost items (lip balm, sunglasses)." Bloxstyle, for instance, offers cutting boards that can be customized with corporate logos while companies like Raining Rose offer customizable personal care products, including lip balm, hand sanitizer, and sunscreen. Fitness products like those offered by Staples Promotional Products -- including gym sacks, water bottles, and yoga mats -- also are a smart idea.

A Tasty Treat
Although food doesn't last, its memory often does. The Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison, WI, for example, offers handcrafted special-order cake pops that can be wrapped and tagged with a custom message for attendees to read when they get home. Thanks to companies like Candy's Cake Pops and 1-800-bakery.com, you could even brand sweets with your event logo and send them by mail weeks or months after the event to give attendees a sweet surprise that reminds them of how delicious your meeting was. Instead of something to eat, you could also send meeting attendees home with something to make. At The Ritz-Carlton Cancún in Mexico, for example, groups can take chef-led cooking classes during which participants learn to prepare Italian or Mexican dishes; afterwards, they receive printed copies of the recipes they learned, ensuring that attendees will remember the event every time they prepare the dishes at home. Although cooking classes make for a great teambuilding activity, meeting planners could just as easily offer a take-home recipe for a signature cocktail, main dish, or dessert that was served at their event.

A Virtual Swag Bag

Because meeting attendees may not have room for them in their luggage, physical gift bags often get left behind in hotel rooms. Virtual gift bags, however -- like those offered by Active Network company Virtual Event Bags -- can follow attendees wherever they go, including home, work, and even the mall. By stuffing digital bags with offers that can be redeemed after your event -- things like free movie or music downloads, free software trials, or coupons to preferred retailers and restaurants -- you give attendees an opportunity to feel gratitude for your meeting when they eventually redeem your sponsors' offers. The result is a value proposition that easily outlasts and outlives your meeting.