By Jim Cathcart, CSP, CPAE – April 29, 2008
In 31 years of full-time speaking, I’ve accumulated hundreds of hats, T-shirts, vinyl folders, carry bags, pens, and luggage tags. Like many convention goers, I often give these to friends, coworkers, charities and relatives as they accumulate.

Meeting planners spend thousands of dollars at each meeting on these specialty items in hopes of:
• Pleasing the recipients
• Driving home their theme (“team work”, “quality”, “doing fine in 2009”, etc…)
• Building loyalty and gratitude among the recipients

Trouble is … it rarely works.

Out of over 2,600 conventions I’ve attended, I’ve received a book or recording of the featured speaker on less than 20 occasions (that’s under 1% of the time). Yet in each case I have read and kept the book or listened to the recording. On some occasions I’ve played the recording for my family! In other words, I continued to learn from the author/speaker on my own time, long after the meeting was over. So, which message reached me better and influenced my performance more: the giveaway items or the learning materials?

If you are paying thousands dollars to bring in a speaker, let’s make sure the message hits home. Encourage all your colleagues to acquire a book or audio tape for every attendee, every time!

The benefits of books, instead of hats, carry bags or T-shirts, etc. are many:

1. Audience members love to get autographed books (and speakers love to sign them!).
2. The meeting chair is a hero for getting them all a book.
3. Books build celebrity value for your speakers and audiences listen better.
4. The learning continues (for about the same price as the other giveaways).
5. Quantity discounts save you a lot of money.
6. The speech goes better from the start and the announcement of the free books builds enthusiasm in the audience.
7. People keep the book for years and often share them with their family.
8. Fewer notes need be taken.
9. You can honor your sponsors or host organization with a sticker or custom cover on the book.

You can easily do a special sticker for the book, “Courtesy of XYZ Company”, which the author can sign in advance, or even print a special edition if you wish with a foreword from your Chairman or President.

Tell all your colleagues about this. Let’s make it a standard part of every convention! Conventions ought to be the beginning of a learning process, not just a one-time celebration or gathering.

Just ask, “What are we giving attendees as a reminder of this meeting? How about an autographed book or CD?”

To see learn more about Jim Cathcart, contact Midwest Speakers Bureau, Inc.

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