Sweet Swag for Your Virtual Conference

Photo by Sharad kachhi on Pexels.com

I don’t know about you but I loved the anticipation of planning to attend an industry Conference or Trade Show. My excitement grows as I track the countdown to the date on my calendar before every conference.

The promise of networking with like-minded professionals in my industry, new products, new ideas, seeing old friends… the SWAG!

With Live Events in disarray, not only did all of the Conferences and Trade Shows cancel that Markit4Events provided SWAG for, but all of the Conferences I planned to personally attend cancelled too. No trips to Vegas, NYC or Dallas are on my calendar this year. No countdown of anticipation. No SWAG!

Sure, I can attend a Virtual Conference (and I reluctantly have) but there’s a lot missing from the experience…

Can you hear me now?

The Virtual Conference feels like more of a chore while I sit at my desk totally distracted by my phone, email and other things I’d rather be doing.

The learning sessions still provide me with useful information but, unlike an actual classroom, my phone is not silenced and my emails keep coming. It’s not the speaker’s fault, they’re still delivering the knowledge.

I’m just not engaged. The virtual background on the screen is distracting and feels inauthentic. I find myself checking out, while I hear the speaker but I’m not listening.

I have very distinct memories of past conferences I have attended but I guarantee that by the following week, the Virtual Conference will be long gone from my ability to recall it.

Elevate the anticipation

Social media, emails and text messages are great for reminding attendees that the conference is ‘coming soon’ but do these tools really create anticipation and excitement for the event?

Virtual messages are like bumper stickers on the super highway of digital information we are bombarded with every day.

Pre-Engage your Virtual Attendees with a Gift

Build anticipation and excitement for your Virtual Meetings by sending your pre-registered attendees a Virtual Conference Gift Set. We have not only created Standard Kits to make your selection easy, but we can print, build, package and send custom kits made up with any items on our site.

Physical SWAG Kits build a sense of engagement with Virtual Conference Attendees. This is a win for sponsors too. The purpose of sponsoring an event is to engage the attendees. Virtual Conferences without the SWAG can only offer digital banners and follow up emails. Sponsors want a leave-behind physical item like a Water Bottle, a T-Shirt, or a Tote Bag that will display their logo for months after the event.

Earbuds are one of our favorite gifts for Virtual Conferences because the attendees will tune-out the distractions at the office or at home during the Meeting.

Engage your Speakers to Engage your Attendees

Without the sites, sounds and energy of a physical Conference, not only are your attendees missing out on the excitement but your speakers will be too. Selecting the right speakers for your sessions will be paramount to keep your attendees engaged.

Although a speaker may have the information you want to provide in the session, they may not be polished in a Virtual Conference setting. Face it, sessions about Finance or Government regulations can even be dry and boring in person, even though the information is important. Especially after the lunch break!

Virtual interviews with your Speakers will give you a feel for what it will be like for your attendees. Consider a moderator, a second voice, in the session that can add some color-commentating (like we see in all sports broadcasts) to raise the energy level.

Provide your Speakers with feedback about their on-screen energy level and the quality of their virtual meeting technology. They’re not always professional speakers and will appreciate the guidance. You can also provide them with the tools to create a better environment with Graphic Back Walls branded for your event and Wireless Earbuds for a better connection without being tethered to their screen.

Don’t consider these tools as Speaker Gifts. Give them a special thank you gift that they’ll keep forever to show your appreciation for their extra effort. Some of our favorites include Wireless Headphones, BBQ Grilling Accessories and Bluetooth Speakers.

Lifestyle gifts, things they’ll use at home, add a personal touch to your gratitude.

Keep the energy level high to keep your attendees engaged. Trivia, contests and rewards during your virtual conference can help keep your attendees engaged…And Awake at their desk!

Improve Your Virtual Meetings

FaceTime, Zoom and other video apps have become the ‘norm’ for staying connected with our family and friends during the unexpected Covid quarantine. Even the ‘Old Dogs’ have learned new tricks to keep in touch. Birthday Parties, Happy Hours, and even Family Dinners have been shared so that we can still feel connected to the people we love.

With the spike in Virtual Meetings over the last few months, businesses have been forced into a sudden paradigm shift in their connectivity as well.

While employers focus on training their workforce to utilize the digital tools, little, if any, guidance has been provided about the visual presence for their employees during the meetings.

Communication skills that work well in a conference room in-person may not translate seamlessly to the ‘Brady Bunch’ – style quadrants on a computer screen.

Tips for Successful Virtual Engagement

Eliminate Distractions – Find a quiet place in your home or office for your meetings. This is an easier task at the office, but Work-from-Home employees may struggle with finding a space that suitable for a professional meeting. You can create workspace for your Work-from-Home employees that will eliminate visual distractions in the background by providing them with a graphic back wall.

The wall creates a workspace and allows you, the employer, to manage the visual content of the meeting. Custom design the graphics to include the company brand.

Look at the Lens, not the people on the screen –

Our natural instinct is to look people in the eye when we’re having a conversation. Our training to do so doesn’t work in virtual meetings at all and it’s distracting to the other people in the meeting. It’s a new trick that requires a lot of practice to get it right. The webcam is where the recipient’s eyes are not on the screen.

Practice, practice, practice with your virtual meeting team until they get it right. It’s not easy.

Speak with a strong voice –

They don’t need to yell or over-enunciate but depending on where the microphone is, it may be difficult to be understood. We’ve experienced how distracting it is over the last few months while watching television programs where virtual interviews go wrong because of poor sound quality.

Once again, practice with your virtual meeting employees while they are in their workspace, using their computer so you can provide valuable feedback.

Put your phone away –

You don’t need it! Even if your phone is in silent mode, pop up notifications for texts or emails will distract you for a moment. Recommend that they put the phone in silent mode and leave it in the other room.

Our phones follow us everywhere but we know better than to take it into an in-person meeting with us. Do the same during virtual meetings.

Dress appropriately, at least from the waist up –

One of the advantages of working from home is that you can dress very casually. It may be obvious to dress appropriately but it should certainly be included on your list of recommendations during your virtual meeting training.

If they do dress for the meeting from the waist up only. Remind them not to reach for something on the shelf above them to expose their Roy Rogers pajama bottoms, or worse. The video of that mishap might go viral on YouTube.

Our recommendations to Employers

You can still manage your Work-from Home employees during their virtual meetings to ensure that they are representing your organizational brand as intended by you. Consider implementing the following recommendations.

  • Create some simple guidelines for them to follow.
  • Provide equipment with quality microphone and webcam.
  • Train for and practice with your team for virtual meetings.
  • Manage your brand by providing them with background graphics, company apparel and even drinkware with your company logo to remind the people on the screen of who you are.

The Grand Re-Opening (Post-COVID)

In the movie Forrest Gump, while all of the other shrimp boats were tied up in the harbor to weather the looming storm, the unaware Forrest stayed out in the high seas to continue shrimping. He and Lieutenant Dan battled to stay afloat and stay alive.

When they returned after the storm they found that all of the other shrimp boats that were tightly tied up in the harbor to survive the storm had all been destroyed because of the efforts to save them. Only the ‘JENNY’ had survived the storm because they kept their boat out on the water – staying FLUID in the situation.

There’s a great lesson for all of us business owners in that scene. BE FLUID in the midst of a crisis to stay afloat.

The COVID-19 storm left many of us in uncharted, turbulent waters that very few of us had ever considered in our Emergency Preparedness Planning.

Rapid Crisis Planning

When the crisis reared its ugly head, we all switched gears into Rapid Crisis Planning mode. Many businesses were forced to close because they were deemed not ‘Essential’, while some stayed open but were required to keep their employees and customers safe. On the other hand, others saw an exponential increase in demand for their products and services that they were scrambling to provide.

The moment that threw me into the fire of Rapid Crisis Planning came after my first phone call from a Conference, that Markit provides products for, to say they were cancelling the event.

It forced us to define what was Essential within our own businesses to come out on the other side of the unknown after an uncertain period of time. We had to Assess the Threats to our businesses by realizing the things we could control as well as the potential threats we had no control over.

I did an immediate Inventory of my Resources

  • Cash on hand
  • Payables/ Receivables
  • Employee Retention Possibilities
  • Available Credit
  • Government Relief Options
  • Analyze Large Customer’s future ordering potential

This probably sounds very familiar to the leadership of every company in this country.

Planning for a Grand Re-Opening

Many states are beginning the process of re-opening by cautiously relaxing or ending the stay at home mandates and allowing some companies to resume business. However, re-opening your business is not as simple as unlocking the doors and turning on the lights. There’s a lot to consider…

In planning for your Grand Re-Opening Post-COVID, you’re going to need to forget your January mentality because, at the very least, it’s not going to be business as usual in the short-term.

A little Empathy will serve you well in your marketing efforts and in the re-engagement with your employees. Everyone is going to have a story about their experience, some may be heart-breaking.

Plan as much as you can for the short-term and consider the contingencies for the long-term. We’re not through this yet but there is a lot to be learned from this experience.

Be FLUID in the moment and your ship will have a better chance of staying afloat.

Markit with Power

Tuscany Power bank & Wireless Speaker

Keeping our technology powered up during the day has become a challenge as our lives become more mobile and disconnected from the nearest outlet. Our biggest surge in sales last year was in ACCESSORIES to our technology that allows us our connected, productive days at work or home.

We tax our devices with our demand on them for remote power and connectivity access. Even at our not-so-mobile desk devices we wish we had just one more USB port to plug into.

Customers are grateful for the gift of power and connectivity, and marking these useful products with your brand will energize your image and create a buzz around their office.

Simple items like USB AC Adapters can save the day in a pinch while Solar Chargers add an extra sense of comfort knowing that power is available when no outlets are near.

Even at the office where power is abundant, you can leave your mark on a USB HUB that will be permanently attached to the laptop your customer stares at all day long.

These powerful accessories can be colorful as well as useful, supporting your brand as a helpful partner in their day.


Design From the Heart


Why do your customers buy from you? Is it because your company provides the Best Price, Quality & Service? Blah, blah, blah…snooze.

Every amateur marketer or salesperson relies on these points to sell their services, but that’s not what we buy.

We buy the intangibles

We don’t buy the sweater. We buy the feeling of the fit, the energy of the color, and the experience of the texture. We invest in who we feel we become in the sweater.

We purchase pride and prestige

We pay for the feeling of belonging to something bigger, something popular, current or trendy. Bang wagon Superbowl fans understand this. Not unlike last minute Valentine’s Day cards, team gear flies off the shelves the days leading up to the Superbowl – Not to mention all the Skittles in Seattle. We don’t want to feel left behind. Wanting to be a part of the fun.

Think beyond Price, Quality and Service. Aren’t those expected anyway?

Have you ever seen an ad for a dental office touting they are the cheapest dentists in town, using the highest quality fillings while they drill into your tooth faster than any other dentist within 100 miles? Of course not, that would be ridiculous. And a little frightening.

Design From the Heart

Choose your words carefully and get to the point with your copy. Period. Just because you write it, doesn’t mean they’ll read it.

Use authentic adjectives to describe the products you’re selling (Luxurious Ride, Painless Fillings, Current Styles, etc.).

Don’t go overboard with the over-promising adjectives or you’ll sound like an infomercial (Amazing Offer, Spectacular Savings, Unbelievable Quality, etc.).

Use pictures to provoke a thought or evoke a feeling. Prospects are more likely to remember your story if they figure it out themselves and Photos are a great tool to create a perception of your company in their minds.

Focus on the feeling and speak to the senses. You’ve heard it before “Sell the Sizzle, NOT the Steak”.

Details about Price, Quality & Service are important in preventing buyer’s remorse, so be sure to reinforce these attributes after the sale. This reinforces your customer’s excellent decision and creates confidence. Stay in touch and you’ll likely land a repeat customer.


Agua Fria Freddie 2020 – Arizona’s Groundhog


While onlookers in Pennsylvania are bundled up anxious to see what Punxsutawney Phil forecasts on February 2nd, here in Arizona, we have our own weather prognosticator.

Agua Fria Freddie, the legendary rattlesnake comes out every year to predict the coming of spring. Whether you care or not,  his accuracy is way better than his Pennsylvania counterpart. Freddie’s East Coast Weather Peer is only correct in his predictions 39% of the time since his first showing in 1887.

The legendary, yet lesser-known, Agua Fria Freddie lives right here in Arizona with a 98.8% accuracy rate.

Locals know him as Agua Fria Freddie, a shadow-seeking rattlesnake that comes out every year on February 2nd to predict the coming of Spring to us desert-dwellers.

This event is actually a non-event, as we cannot find record of any gathering to watch this legend search for his shadow. There are some legitimate reasons for not having an actual event to celebrate his findings this year.

  • Tourists are already in shorts and t-shirts so they don’t care.
  • Bill Murray was not available this year for the event.
  • Nobody ever volunteers to get close enough to look for the shadow of a rattlesnake.
  • The big party is at the Phoenix Open Golf Tournament
  • Football fans are busy watching Super Bowl LIV

Rustler’s Rooste got to Freddie first and he’s an appetizer

It’s not difficult to predict when Spring will arrive in Arizona when the sun shines 300+ days a year, but it is comforting to know that Agua Fria Freddie is watching out for us.

Just watch out for him the other 364 days a year when you’re hiking around South Mountain in Phoenix.

If you’re planning an event that will be attended,  check out Markit4Events.com to make it a memorable one.

I ❤ Heart Shapes

Heart Pedometer

Next month’s Hallmark Holiday promotes an icon that we see throughout the year. Hospitals, Wellness Programs and Organizations who Care use this most recognizable symbol to promote their cause.

The first thought in promoting these organizations is to look for Heart-Shaped Products that can be imprinted with their logo, and we have plenty of said products to choose from in our catalog. At last count there were 1820 Heart-Shaped products to be exact.

Heart Shaped Products are probably the most requested shape that we get throughout the year because it’s so very effective. A Heart-Shaped anything with your logo on it says a lot without adding a lot of copy to read.

Heart-Shaped Stress Balls, Pill Boxes, Pedometers and Heart-Shaped Notebooks drive the point home every time your customer sees it or, better yet, holds it in their hand.

Embrace the Heart-Shapes. Connect with your customer’s emotions. Let them know you care.

And don’t forget to stop by your Hallmark Store on the way home tonight to get a jump on the crowds that appear at 4PM on February 14th every year.



Do Your Business Cards Measure Up?

Measuring Tape

This little seemingly insignificant 2″ x 3 1/2″ piece of paper can be the difference between a follow up or no follow up after a networking event like a Trade Show, or Conference.

There are really only 2 purposes for your business card, Establish your Brand and provide your Contact Information.

Here are some tips about what NOT to do with your card.

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

Font Frustration

Don’t make your font too small. Avoid light colors and distracting elements.

Your name, company and relevant contact information should be easy to read at arm’s length. Don’t make me get my readers out. It makes us both look bad.

Icon Overkill

Only include social icons if it is important to your company.

If you haven’t secured your vanity URL ( ie: www.Facebook.com/MarkitMotion ) then a Facebook icon is unhelpful. Facebook thanks you for the advertising though. You must list the full URL if you can’t be found by name.

Unless you have a purpose for showcasing your social presence, leave it off your card. If you don’t manage your social sites, it’s like inviting someone to your house when you’re out of town.

Information Overload

Your Business Card is not a brochure. Decide what’s important first, before you design it.

  • Do you need your address if no one ever comes to your business?
  • Do you use a fax anymore?

Inconsistent Branding

Is your logo the same as on your website or store front? Policing your brand is crucial to building trust. Be sure your logo is consistent and clear.

Don’t forget about the back of your card. This is a great place to share your brand message or logo. Reinforce a promise or give directions.


No Holidays, No Weekends…No Way!


Throughout history we’ve relied on our calendars to track and plan events. Without them we wouldn’t have weekends or Holidays. 45 BC was called “The year of confusion” because Julius Caesar added 80 days to the year to synchronize it with the solar year.

Our Western calendar has deep roots in the Roman calendar, so it’s no wonder the months come from Roman words. It gets confusing at the end because many of the later months are just numbers, but they are wrong according to our current calendar. The Roman Calendar started in March. It wasn’t until Julius Caesar named January as the first month of the year that we had 12 months as we know it now.

What’s in a name? Do you know the origin of the months of the year?

JanuaryJanus the Roman God of beginnings and endings

FebruaryFebrua a Roman festival of Purification

MarchMars the Roman God of war

AprilAphrodite the Greek Goddess of love

MayMaia the Italic Goddess of Spring

JuneJuno the Goddess of Marriage

JulyJulius Caesar named the month after himself

AugustAugustus Caesar also named a month after himself

September – Latin Septem “seven”

October – Latin Octo “eight”

November – Latin Novem “nine”

December – Latin Decem “ten”

Wall calendars, desk calendars, pocket calendars and journals are welcomed by all, rarely tossed in the recycling and looked at multiple times per day. Calendars are excellent for getting your brand in the hands of customers and prospects.

According to a 2018 study by the Advertising Specialty Institute, 64% of people in the workplace own a promotional calendar and they view it 850 times a year. A $3 investment in a calendar will cost only $0.003 per impression. Very Impressive!

Get your company name on one and they won’t forget you for an entire year.

8 Steps to Trade Show Exhibitor Success

Whether you’re a first time exhibitor, or a seasoned professional attending multiple trade shows every year, the experience can be both fun and exhausting. Attracting attendees to your booth, then sorting out the qualified prospects will ‘make or break’ the experience.

You’re making a significant investment in being a trade show exhibitor so be sure you manage the process effectively after the event. Even the best looking booth won’t bring in business unless you follow through and take action on the connections you make.

8 Steps to Trade Show Exhibitor Success

1) Pre-Show Marketing

Let the attendees know you’re there and where to find you. Obtain a list of the attendees weeks before the show from the trade show facilitator so you can communicate with them before they arrive. Some effective methods of reaching attendees are email, direct mail, social media, and mentions on your website.

2) Set Goals

First you have to understand why you’re exhibiting. Most will say ‘to get sales’ but you need a more defined goal to make the goal actionable. Do you want to collect leads to pass on to your sales department for follow up? Do you want to make the sale on the spot? Maybe you’re there just for brand recognition in a specific industry.

3) Evaluate your Lead Collection Method

Simply displaying a fish bowl to collect business cards for a prize is not an effective lead collection method. All you learn is that they want a prize. Prizes are good, but be sure to have people fill out a short registration form to capture more information if that’s your draw. Not all attendees are prospects so focus on lead quality, not counts.

Ask for type of business, product interest, purchasing authority, contact info, etc.. Whether you’re using an electronic lead management system or a simple printed follow up form, include a limited number of qualifiers (hot lead, send salesperson, mail literature) to the form to get them in the correct follow up bucket.

4) Create a Winning Trade Show Booth

A free standing floor graphic wall provides an 8’ or 10’ backdrop to attract attention and tell your story. A less expensive option is to use 3 or 4 free standing retractable banners next to each other to create a similar affect. Tables are usually provided to exhibitors with a blank table throw. Use this 30” x 72” space to reinforce your brand with your own Custom Table Throw.

One note here – AVOID the temptation to place the table in front of your booth separating you from your prospects. Place it along the side of your booth to keep your space open and inviting.

5) Staff Training

Choose the employees that will staff your booth carefully. Representatives must be engaging, approachable and trained to understand the goals you set for the trade show. Not all of your staff needs to be trained for answering detailed questions about the product or service, but you should have at least one person available to field the detailed questions.

Provide your staff with qualifying questions to ask during training to avoid investing too much in the time-wasters that will show up just for the SWAG.

Also provide your staff with casual uniforms like a polo shirt with an embroidered company logo so the attendees can identify them. A visually cohesive team adds a level of professionalism and strength to your brand. Selecting a shirt color that reflects your brand adds to the booth appearance. It’s also great when your team is recognized walking through the convention because of your stand out company colors.

6) Booth Giveaways

Part of the fun of attending a trade show is gathering great giveaways from each booth. Use this to your advantage and provide thoughtful items that create a buzz at the show. You don’t need to spend a lot on these giveaways for them to be effective.

A simple Toy  can go physically viral at a show while attendees play with them and others ask, “where did you get that?” Imagine colorful toys flying around the show sporting your company logo. Items they display instead of tossing in their bag are great walking advertisements.

A simple 3” dia. button that reads “My Name is Jim” can created a buzz throughout the show. Everyone will be calling each other Jim and they want their own custom button to be part of the fun.

Invest in some nicer giveaways for people who give you information and qualify as a good lead. Corporate logo T-shirts, branded cell phone chargers and selfie sticks with your company logo can be the most successful gifts given to a qualified prospect.

Keep your printed handouts minimal. Attendees are walking around with an event tote bag full of business cards, branded giveaways and  brochures. Their totes are too heavy for your complete printed catalog.

7) Daily Staff Debriefing

A daily staff gathering after the exhibit hall closes provides instant insights into what worked and what didn’t. Take notes no matter how unimportant the observations might seem. Most attendee feedback is forgotten shortly after the dust settles. The feedback on what wasn’t successful will help you avoid the same mistakes next time.

Remember that you’re seeing the trade show as an exhibitor but it’s the attendee experience you want to know more about.

8) Lead Follow up System

Prepare your follow up system before you exhibit at a trade show. You need to act quickly while you’re still fresh in their minds. Remember, trade shows are exhausting and attendees visit hundreds of exhibits while at the show.  Make quick notes on the back of a business card to remind you of a discussion that will set you apart.  When you send out a speedy response with a personal note it will insure you are remembered.

  • If literature or samples were requested from your company, send a daily mailing list to the office to have that information mailed out the next day
  • If they requested a call from a salesperson make sure all follow up calls are made within one week of the show.
  • If the conversation was more detailed and an estimate was requested, prepare the estimating department for multiple requests and demand that they are expedited.

An email from your company thanking attendees for stopping at your booth and reminding them that you are acting on their request will continue the relationship. This reconnection is also an opportunity to include clickable links to your website for more information.

Following these 8 Steps to Trade Show Exhibitor Success to assist in your Preparation, Execution & Lead Follow up to assure that you realize a substantial return on your investment.

Rick Garrett

 Rick Garrett is the CEO and Founder of Markit Motion providing event and  corporate branded products to businesses. He has written over 100 Markit-in-a-Minute articles drawing from his 25 years in the industry.