Conference merch – getting it right

Conferences get a bad rap in popular culture. Homer Simpson snoozes through his meetings, the fathers of TV families are always dragged away on boring conferences. But the reality isn’t so grim — these events can be hotbeds of ideas and vital places for networking.

A conference is one of the best places to expand the horizons of your business, but that also means competition. In order to stand out from the crowd, offering promotional merchandise to visitors is one of the easiest ways to be visible and memorable. Here are some of the key questions to consider before going ahead and printing conference merch.

What are you trying to communicate?

You’re one business amongst many at a big event. If attendees go away remembering just one thing about you, what should it be? The obvious answer is brand visibility: send your logo out into the world and watch recognition of your company grow. However there’s another reason people give out ‘swag’ at conferences: so people associate your brand with goodwill and generosity. It gives your reputation a polish in the public domain, especially among the people who matter.

What’s the tone of the conference?

How serious is your event? If it’s an economics forum, you’re not going to want to be giving out Technicolour beach shorts. On the other hand, if it’s a more casual event, like something relating to start-ups, don’t be afraid to be fun and casual. People will associate your brand with an easygoing, likeable vibe that could build your brand and your profits.

What kind of design should you use?

Is it just a question of getting your brand out into the world, or do you have something specific to say? If your merch is all about brand building, then make sure your logo is strong and stamp away to your heart’s content. But maybe you have something to say that will let people know a little more about your business: an ethical comment, something about your ecological stance, the politics or values associated with your company. Plus, if you use a strong, eye-catching design, you’ll end up with merch that people will want to show off outside the home, bringing your brand to more people’s attention.

What kind of merch do you really need?

Start off practical: tote bags are a no-brainer, and can be used by anyone at a conference. You can also be practical while being a little different — might someone need an attractive notebook? How about a phone charger? By being a little thoughtful and showing that you cater to conference-goers’ needs, you’ll build a positive image for your business. T-shirts are a good choice, particularly if you have a younger crowd or are working a student event, but might not be suitable for more serious conferences. Otherwise just think about what people genuinely use in their lives, which they’ll be happy to receive: umbrellas, mugs, reusable bottles, even socks. But remember to avoid anything large or superfluous: by this point, everyone has enough company pens. 

How much should you order?

Obviously you don’t want to have too little merch: the whole strategy is to leverage generosity to improve perception of your brand, so you don’t want to seem stingy. On the other hand, you don’t want to spend unnecessary money on more merch than you need. Something worth taking into account is whether your merch is time-sensitive: if it refers specifically to the date then order less, as unused stock will be useless afterwards. However if it’s a simple logo or design, you can always save merch for next time. While it may seem like a big investment at the start, particularly since you’ll be giving these items away for free, a strong merch strategy can bring back an amazing return in how people think about your company.

Printing merch for a conference or corporate event? At ICON Printing we offer fast turnaround printing and embroidery with a wide-ranging catalogue from t-shirts to caps to bagsGet a quote in 2 minutes online