What's the Strangest Event Gift You've Ever Given?

From betta fish to apple peelers, planners share the most unique gifts they've ever given to event attendees.

By Jenny Berg February 19, 2014, 7:00 AM EST

Rockit Ranch Productions in Chicago sent miniature thrift-shop coats as a gift with the invite for an upcoming event.

Photo: Courtesy of Rockit Ranch Productions

“Computer software gift certificates were rolled up and placed in bags of fresh oregano. The clients wanted it to look like marijuana.”
Sandra Aaron, corporate travel and meeting specialist, CTC Travel Group

“Replica bobble heads. Senior executives came to a dinner for a tech company and received a replica android bobble head on the way out.”
Mary Pallattella, creative director of events, Capital C

“Passersby to the NewVoiceMedia trade show booth at Dreamforce in San Francisco were given an augmented reality shirt that was activated by downloading a free app on their smartphone or tablet to allow them to ‘see inside their customers.’ They were able to select from five fun, interactive experiences [that] included watching the devil/angel that sits on your shoulder fight, revealing your inner superhero, getting X-ray vision, meeting the cute alien that lives inside you, and putting your name on interactive I heart Dreamforce event logos.” (Watch a video here.)
Georgia Thomas, partner marketing manager, NewVoiceMedia

“Our event awards are definitely very unique. We always aim to create awards that give a hint to the industry [the award is recognizing] but have some kitsch that make them fun to display. The Racked Golden Turban Awards, Eater Tomato Can Award, and Curbed Paint Can Award definitely fit into this category. We've also given away some fun things to guests, like giant gallon jugs of Tabasco during our Eater and Tabasco Game Day Cook-Off. At this year's Eater Awards we also gave out Eater-branded koozies to fit in with our Southern theme.”
Jen Leibow, marketing and events director, Curbed Network

“Gilded, edible gold leaf [Oscars] statuettes. These were for an Oscar winner's intimate dinner celebration, in a private residence, post-Oscar victory.”
Debi Lilly, chief eventeur, A Perfect Event

Normally I’ll research gifts for our annual meeting based on the focus and the theme we’re covering on our agenda. In 2012, our firm’s founder suggested a tabletop apple peeler he’d seen in France. He always comes up with amazing ways to tie in his gifts to a speech he gives at one of our dinners. An apple peeler removes the layers of the apple, slowly, like our due diligence process and getting to the core of the issues. And yes, the pun was intentional.”
Kristin Canterbury, event coordinator, HarbourVest Partners L.L.C.

“We're giving away a fish bowl and a betta fish to every guest at a bar mitzvah we're producing. For another bar mitzvah with a 'through the decades' theme, we created a miniature thrift-shop coat that went out with the invite as a keepsake for guests.”
Nicole Salerno, events director, Rockit Ranch Productions

“I supply airbrushed art swag for events. By far the most unique and popular thing we have ever presented at an event was custom airbrushed shoes. We have done this twice—once with Toms and once with Vans—and the response was crazy. It requires much more work from the planner, including getting and matching [guests' shoe] sizes, but apparently the guests were wearing their shoes until they wore out completely.”
Rich Diltz, owner, The People Painters

”[The most unique gift I ever gave was] I gave away an imprinted box, similar to one that would contain a bracelet, wrapped in silver paper with a pink bow. Each guest had one at their place setting before dinner. They were asked to open the boxes all together. In the box was a personalized postcard showing a variety of glassware. The attendees could chose their favorite style, from four or five options. They provided their initials and picked the font for engraving. The card was postage-paid and they could mail it in at their convenience. No hassle with the transport home. Plus, this allowed guests to choose a style that fit their taste.”
Jennifer Schwartz, marketing manager, Marco Promotional Products

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