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Everything You Need to Know About Gifts for Your Event’s Speaker

Your event speaker is a hired vendor, a seasoned professional, someone who throws their expertise into a crowd to educate and inspire. They’re also human beings who are putting aside time from their schedules to connect with you and your team. They’re usually, of course, doing it for a fee, but it’s always a good idea to give a speaker gifts or a token of appreciation.

Consider the fact you tip your bartender or pizza delivery person with a quick calculation and without pause. Gift-giving for a virtual stranger in a professional setting, on the other hand, might be daunting. Take a look at some pitfalls to avoid when giving speaker gifts, as well as several suggestions for winning gifts that the recipient will appreciate and put to good use.

Common gift-giving pitfalls:

It’s too personal

It’s not a birthday gift and, as congenial as the relationship may be, they aren’t your friend. Steer away from jewelry, clothing (unless it’s a special circumstance — see below!), or grooming products, as well as anything overtly political or religious — unless, of course, that item specifically relates to your industry or the speaker’s topic.

It’s too impersonal

Conversely, don’t make the gift an afterthought! Read the speaker’s bio and follow their social media pages to see who they are. Take some time to select a unique, thoughtful gift. Office supplies, candles, a plaque, or generic award certificate — just, please, don’t.

It’s too expensive

Let your event budget determine your gift budget. For example, if you’re serving Dom Pérignon, don’t give your speaker a bottle of Boone’s Farm. If you have a cash bar at your event, perhaps treat them to a classy drink that won’t break the bank.

It’s difficult to transport

Give speaker gifts that can fit in a carry-on bag. Flying is hard enough as it is! If you must select something large — which we really caution against — have it shipped for them. Make it as simple as possible for your speaker to transport it.

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It’s perishable

Flowers, pets, or food items that need to be kept cool are huge no-nos. On occasion, flowers and food are a nice gesture to have sent to the speaker’s office a few days after they return home. However, avoid giving someone a living creature as a gift. You know we wouldn’t mention it if it had never happened, right?

Other words of advice

Steer clear from gifts that can be perceived as crass, rude, culturally insensitive (no matter what the intent), vulgar, or otherwise objectionable. Imagine that you’re buying a gift for one of your parents’ friends.

Instead, try these gift options for your event speaker:

Local gifts

Are you in a college town? Gift your speaker a wearable logo item — t-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, hats, and gloves are practical and fun. The same applies to a famous sports team, venue, or musician. Has an author been inspired by the town in which you live and work? Share the publication! Please don’t hand your speaker a large, hardcover coffee table book as a present. Instead, gift them a paperback of short stories or essays.

Local foods are tempting but, as we mentioned above, are often too hard to transport. On the other hand, if the speaker is staying overnight, leave a basket of ready-to-eat local foods as an amenity gift in their hotel room. If you know they imbibe, add a couple of bottles of local microbrew or a split of wine from a local winery.

Journal and pen

Everyone can use a journal and a pen, especially creatives! A quick Google search brings up a variety of ways for you to express your gratitude. Check out Moleskin, Rite in the Rain, or a long list of options on Moo.com. Get them a great pen that is practical without being too fussy. Caution: do not buy your speaker a day planner. That’s almost as personal as a pair of socks.

Trinkets and toys

Bring out the inner child and provide an opportunity for stress relief with a small drone or Lego architecture set. Step it up with a paintbrush stylus for electronics or a digital drawing tablet. Tiny tokens can be a Cubebot, a mini zen garden, or throwback to the ’80s with an updated Newton’s Cradle — they come in a light-up variety, now!

Road snacks

We’re not talking about a gift basket. Instead, as a part of the larger gift, provide them with a small bag of salty/crunchy, sweet/chewy bites for the trip home. Hard candies, fruit and nut mixes, flavored popcorn, and retro flavors of gum can also work. Be sure the packaging is of appropriate size for flying. Again, local is always best!

Travel seasoning

Some speakers are on the road 50 weeks of the year. Eating out at restaurants can become incredibly boring after a while. Uncommon Goods and World Market offer a variety of salt and spice kits designed for travelers. If you know your speaker’s into it, hot sauce can be a winner! Sriracha, Cholula, and Tabasco are readily available in mini sizes — sometimes you can even find them in keychain variety! HotSauce.com has dozens of varieties of mini hot sauce.

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Travel aids

Neck pillows are ridiculous-looking, but once you’ve used one, you’ll never go back! Also great for frequent travelers: a sleep mask, ear plugs, a pair of good noise-canceling headphones, a great portable charger, or travel-friendly Bluetooth speaker. Bigger gifts could include packing cubes by Eagle Creek or an e-reader loaded with a couple of bestsellers.

A charitable donation

Pay attention to your speaker’s bio and interests. There are those who request a donation of money or resources to a favorite charity rather than direct payment or gifts. Be generous in your donation and put it in the speaker’s name, then present them with a token note or card to describe the donation.

Lest this task becomes too daunting, try not to overthink it. Speaker gifts are a way to show people how we feel about them, so be considerate, kind, and thoughtful.

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