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Happy hour in a box from Signature Group Events

Can a Gift Offset Virtual Meeting Overload?

To fight the “not another online meeting” groan, a well-considered goodie might grab attendees’ attention.

Useful content, engaging speakers, and high production values are the cornerstones of good virtual meetings—in fact, of all meetings. But virtual meetings have the unenviable task of competing with email, deadlines, kids, and every other distraction in attendees’ home offices.

The most engaging virtual events may layer on polling, small-group discussion breakouts, and of course live question-and-answer sessions, but some planners are using gifting strategies to further the connections between attendees and the host organization, especially when the virtual event involves recognition or high-value customers. The gifts may not keep attendees from multitasking, but they could give organizations the chance to differentiate themselves from the current flood of virtual events. Consider these four ideas.

• Sending out branded business swag to arrive in conjunction with a virtual event is great, but consider gearing the gifts to the home-office environment. Customized notebooks, cozy socks, thermal cups, webcam covers, and earbuds all fit the bill. Depending on the size of the group, you could include personal notes or a letter to the whole team that sets the stage for the meeting.

• New gifting solutions are popping up to serve the virtual meetings market, including those of Signature Group Events out of San Diego, which launched its Meeting in a Box service in mid-June. “There has been a permanent shift in how we do business, and how we engage with each other. It’s a real change that’s here to stay,” says company co-founder Laura Smith, who see gifts as a way to bring back the personal touch that can get lost in virtual meetings. While the company has a number of pre-set boxes—Happy Hour Box, Fitness Fanatic Box, Game Night Box—the Meeting in a Box is customizable depending on theme and budget, typically including snacks, gifts, and comfort items.

• Gordon Murray, founder of Flash PhotoVideo, an event photography business based in Tempe, Ariz., recently announced a “COVID-safe” virtual-group photo process. Meeting participants shoot and upload their own photos; Murray then creates a composite picture of the group, which can be as large as 25 people. While any kind of photo can work, he encourages work-from-home fun, where participants send in a picture of themselves wearing something dressy on top and casual on the bottom (think neckties and pajama pants).

• Food-delivery company Grubhub has launched an enterprise product allowing meeting planners to provide virtual-meeting attendees with an e-voucher toward a meal delivery. Attendees can order from any nearby Grubhub-affiliated restaurant and the planner can control the cost (and only pay for what’s actually delivered).

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