Fruit and Chocolate
Perhaps the only comestible gift more popular than chocolate is homemade jam. Emily G's offers a "Sweet Treat" gift box with brownie mix, sipping chocolate and your choice of jam, from flavors such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Jalapeno Raspberry, Pear Honey and Triple Berry. The Sweet Treat costs $37.99. Companies also can private-label a 5-ounce jar of jam, starting at $3.95. (770) 712-5298; emilygs.com
Each of the chocolates from Christophe Artisan Chocolatier-Patissier is hand-painted with a different jewel tone, making an assortment look like a collection of precious gems. A nine-piece assortment costs $18.95; four-piece assortments, $9.95. (843) 297-8674; christophechocolatier.com
Chocolatier Truffle Truffle has made a name for itself with wacky flavors like apple pie, chili, wasabi and blackberry thyme. A new tool on its website lets corporate buyers customize their orders from a list of treats and packaging. Logos and messages can be added, too. Prices are based on selections. (312) 860-2772; truffletruffle.com
Sew three large T-shirts together to make one big one with three heads, and invite three outgoing participants to wear it. Invite the audience to ask industry-related questions; the "three-headed expert" must alternate heads, one word at a time, to answer. People will be laughing out of their chairs. Thanks to motivational speaker Silvana Clark (silvanaclark.com) for the idea.
To integrate Twitter into your conference, start by assigning it a hashtag -- a word that begins with a # that will bring all the conference-related tweets together. If everyone's tweets contain the hashtag, then a Twitter search for it will compile all of them. You don't need to register a hashtag -- just inform your attendees a few weeks or months in advance to add it to their tweets. (Note: Before notifying attendees of the hashtag, run a search on Twitter to make sure no one else is using it!) Thanks to Danielle Leitch, executive vice president of client strategy for MoreVisibility, an interactive marketing company, for the idea.
QR Codes, those matrix bar codes that have begun appearing on advertisements, can help you market your meeting. Include a QR Code on your conference collateral, and any attendee with a smartphone (and a QR Code reader app) can scan the code to be directly linked to your meeting's website. Codes also can be put on signage outside breakout rooms to link attendees to a description of each session. They also work well on business cards. Create them for free at qrcode.kaywa.com. Thanks to Sydney Wolf, a student in the Hospitality College at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, for the idea.
Consider hosting a mixology competition at your next conference. If you're meeting near Miami Beach or Cleveland, one company -- Red, The Steakhouse -- organizes such events, where teams compete against each other to concoct the perfect infused cocktail. The winning libation is included on the bar menu for a week, and proceeds go to the winning team's charity of choice. Winners also take home a free bottle of the drink. The event costs $45 per person, plus $150 for a master mixologist to oversee things. Similar events can be arranged at your hotel or bar/restaurant where your event is taking place. Be sure to offer a nonalcoholic option for those who don't drink. redthesteakhouse.com
Instead of viewing a presentation on a flat-panel television, visitors to trade-show booths can have an IMAX-like experience in front of a domed screen. VR-MAX has produced these immersive presentations using video and/or animation for companies including Starwood Hotels and Ecolab. Cost, from $75,000. (866) 518-3663; vr-max.com
In response to increasing demand, banquet chefs are getting better at creating vegan meals. The Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles, for example, offers dishes including beet carpaccio, macadamia caprese salad and chanterelle-dusted Gardein Chick'n (a meat substitute). But be warned: eliminating the meat doesn't always make meals less expensive.
Upload a logo or photo at jyoulry.com, and the company will seal it onto all sorts of gifts: business-card cases, cuff links, purse hangers and many types of jewelry. The business-card cases cost $20 each, or $15 for large orders. (239) 247-5354; jyoulry.com
Tag, You're It
R. Nichols sells imaginatively illustrated luggage tags themed to various major cities: London, Paris, New York, Chicago, etc. The tags cost $6 each, or $3 with a minimum order of 35 tags. Customization is possible for orders of at least 250 tags. (407) 896-3232; r-nichols.com
Passion for Location
A GPS scavenger hunt can turn a traditional city tour into a fun team-building activity. Teams are given an orienteering map with GPS coordinates and must locate local landmarks. The tours can be customized to the interest of the group or tied to the conference theme. CBST Adventures (970-668-8900; cbstadventures.com) leads GPS scavenger hunts in Breckenridge, Colo.