Case Study: Transforming A Conference Giveaway Into An Interactive Event Feature

event management Jun 06, 2020

My absolute favorite type of event to produce is a large-scale conference. Counselor Magazine asked me about a time when I transformed a standard conference giveaway into an interactive event feature. Here’s our Q&A:

What was the event, and why did you choose to offer a live printing experience there?

DataWorks Summit was a premier event that attracted more than 4,500 attendees of business and technical audiences who wanted to learn how data transformed business and the underlying technologies that drove that change. 

Like many “developer-heavy” tech conferences, historically every attendee received an event branded t-shirt with their badge at registration. When I came on board as the Event Producer in 2017, I wanted to add a little “Mel-Factor” to this much-loved collectible so instead of following the model of years past, I turned it into an interactive experience. 

When attendees collected their badge they received a ticket that could later be redeemed for a customized live screen-printed t-shirt at any of the stations located on the exhibition floor. I also changed up the design so that the event logo, location and year had been pre-printed on the back so that information wasn’t lost in all of the fun. 

Rather than go with graphic-based designs, I decided to play on song lyrics, which was a huge hit! Attendees could select from:

  • Ice Ice Data
  • You Know I’m All About That Data ‘Bout The Data No Treble
  • I Like Big Data And I Cannot Lie
  • Talk Data To Me 

How did you go about arranging the printing? Did you hire a local screen printer, book a service that specializes in living printing events, work with a promotional products company?

I sourced a local provider who specialized in live event screen printing. They needed to get through a lot of attendees, in short periods of time (primarily meal breaks and  between sessions), so I needed an experienced crew. 

How did the logistics work out on the day of the event? Did it run smoothly? 

I had the vendor set up the day prior so they were ready for the onslaught as soon as the exhibition doors opened the next day. While there were lines, they moved fast and served double duty by attracting attention and on-the-floor buzz. We also kept everyone entertained and ‘in the moment’ by playing the songs we based our designs on. 

What lessons did you learn?

The activity ran like clockwork, but I ensured I had a very experienced vendor and worked with them very closely to determine how many stations we needed to deliver a seamless experience. I am a huge believer in the phrase “do it well, or don’t do it at all,” so if budget is an issue and you can’t afford the number of stations you need to serve your attendees well, save the idea for your next event and offer a more affordable approach like pre-printing several different designed t-shirts and having your attendees select which one they’d like. 

How did customers/guests react? Were they excited to help customize their own garment? 

The attendees absolutely loved it! The energy around the stations was electric and the design options made for the perfect ice-breaker while they were waiting in line. As I made my way around the site, I overheard many conversations where attendees were commenting how cool the activation was, and asking one another which design they selected. 

How did this activation help accomplish your goal for the event? 

DataWorks Summit was a community-based event. This activity and specifically, the way in which it was delivered, provided the perfect ice-breaker for even the most introverted of attendees. It enabled me to deliver a product we would have anyway, in a fun, high-energy and memorable way. 

How can you adapt this concept to your hybrid and virtual events? 

Now I’m not a negative person BUT I have watched so many poorly executed, incredibly boring virtual events over the last few months. If you’re thinking about producing an online event, just like your live events, produce from the perspective of your attendee.

Here are three super simple, high-impact ideas that will get pre-registered attendees to log into your event AND make your brand stand out in a sea of digital noise.

A Pre-Event Mailer

One week prior to the event, send all pre-registered attendees a cute branded package consisting of:

  • A badge and lanyard (yes, I know it’s cheesy as they are watching it in their living room but it’s fun)
  • A t-shirt or socks or something your attendees can wear, and
  • Some branded snacks they can enjoy during your event

A Photo Opp Within Your Online Portal

Make sure that you have a virtual photo booth opportunity with customized event backgrounds and have your MC encourage attendees to pop on their badge and item of clothing and take a picture using the app.

Then ask them post it to social media using the event hashtag. To encourage participation, share these images throughout any breaks or transitions so attendees feel like they are part of the event and there with you.

A Post-Event Postcard

While your attendees were not able to visit your physical event destination, they visited your virtual one so mark the trip with a postcard.

For the cover, create a tiny tile collage using the attendee images that were uploaded using your event hashtag. 

Have a printer mailmerge your attendee details onto the back of the card to make a generic message seem personalized. 

Send this postcard to every attendee a day or two after the event thanking them for attending and inviting them to contact the appropriate team member to arrange a demo or discuss your product in further detail. 


Tell me about the coolest event feature you've ever created. 



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