One of the most frequently recommended speaker gift ideas is unfortunately also one of the most misguided.
Please…Please don’t give speakers gift cards.
You’re much better off giving speakers nothing and simply sending a sincere, well-crafted thank you note (which you should be doing in any case).
But a gift card? Bad idea.
Nobody Remembers Anything: Including You and Me
It’s the thought that counts.
But if no one remembers the product of your thought—let alone the thought itself—it doesn’t count for much.
The speaker gift card advocates tend to overlook one almost universal fact: most people would be hard-pressed to remember anything anyone gave them—whether it’s last Christmas, or their last birthday (wedding gifts, especially the bad ones, are notable exceptions).
Giving someone a gift card represents, well, very little thought at all. You’re effectively conceding to your speaker that you were unwilling to devote the time and effort to give something meaningful.
But here’s my real problem with gift cards as a speaker gift idea. Given current weather patterns, if your speaker is anything like me, he or she will promptly blow the, say, Target gift card, on thermal socks and “D” batteries—or something else equally mundane; and however favorably disposed I might be toward you and your organization while standing at the checkout line at Target, cradling my PEZ dispensers and extension cords, am I really going to remember you, your event, your organization, or any of this in a week…let alone a month or two?
What’s Your Speaker Gift Trying to Achieve?
Any speaker gift idea should be measured against your essential goal. Yes, obviously you want to show gratitude; but beyond that, your gift should also reinforce the speaker’s connection to you, your event, and organization— and not to some big-box store or retailer. Your gift card, like your hotel fruit basket—however generous—will likely be forgotten almost immediately.
Your speaker gift doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, but it should have enough lasting value to justify your speaker holding on to it—maybe even giving it a place of prominence in his or her home or office. With that in mind, think of how often your speaker might look at it and reflect on your event; and how often other people might take note of the gift and ask the speaker about it—either learning of your organization or event for the first time, or further reinforcing your organization or event’s prestige—and, importantly, in the speaker’s mind aswell.
A number of vendors can provide great speaker gift ideas—both off-the-shelf and customized. Your goal here should be to establish or solidify a relationship—and not to some big-box retailer.
David Parry is the Director of Digital Strategy at The Corporate Presence, a designer and manufacturer of custom awards and recognition gifts, including those for speakers.