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September 3, 2008 3:10 PM   Subscribe

I have volunteered to help my university procure gifts for speakers and alumni who come to campus to recruit students. What are some good commemorative gifts you have received?

The recipients of these gifts will range from billionaire CEOs to middle managers. Due to budgetary constraints, I am imagining gifts under $25. However, I would like to find gifts that are useful and appreciated, so t-shirts and ceramic mugs are not what I had in mind. I was thinking of products along the lines of mini-Leatherman, LL Bean tote bags, or travel mugs.

What are some good gifts you have received and enjoyed that fit this criteria?
posted by Andy's Gross Wart to Work & Money (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I spoke at an industry conference, and they gave me a really solid pen- refillable, silver metal, with the name of the organiztion on it. I love to use it. I would think alumni or those otherwise affiliated with the college would like something like that.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:25 PM on September 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

I have gotten good pens in the past and I like them. I have always asked for and never received a library card at the place where I spoke [I am a librarian, library cards often give you access to databases, I desire these badly and am sad to always be thwarted]. My big caveat here is that your speakers may be travelling and may be restricted in what they can bring on the plane depending on how they decided to travel ( I would love a leatherman, for exmple but it would mean I'd have to check a bag). You may also want to think about whether these people travel and speak a lot or whether it's newish territory for them. If they don't do it much, a mug is nice. If they do it all the time, it might be less special.

So, without naming names here are some good and bad speakers' gifts I have received

- bottle of wine - I don't drink wine and couldn't bring this on the plane in my only bag which was a carryon. for other people this might have been perfect.
- coffee mugs - love them, breakable. an unbreakable travel mug might be nice.
- giant coffee table book of scenic views of region - heavy. I like having it at home, sucked to carry in my backpack
- local snacks - loved this, simple for walking around with, easy to pack, local stuff is fun, variety enough so that if one part was bad, another was good, easy to give away
- key drive with name of library on them - got two in heart shaped, gave one to boyfriend, awesome gift
- tote bags - love them, have maybe thirty of them? I am not exaggerating. There is no tote bag you could give me that I would want unless maybe it had my name embroidered on it
- little local flower thing - when I went to Kansas they gave me this little sort of woven grass ring with a little sunflower attached to it. It's their local flower and the thing was 1. small 2. cute 3. purposeless. I have always loved it, no idea why.
- giant plastic branded calculator - don't even bother. On the other hand, they were hilarious for photo ops.
- bookmarks - thoughtful but I am full-up on bookmarks
- post-it notes or other branded paper items - I am full-up on paper
- pretty weird little soapstone box - I loved this but it was heavy to carry
- giant candle - I loved this but YMMV for sure on anything with too much design or scent
posted by jessamyn at 3:57 PM on September 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

The only corporate gifts I've had that I still keep around are a keyring-sized maglite and a good quality plastic mechanical pencil.

I also once had a pen with a cap that took a lot of force to remove, and that made an extremely satisfying snap when successfully removed. I kept it by my desk and took the lid on and off for about a year, until it wore down and stopped being such a satisfying tactile experience. I doubt, however, that you could intentionally replicate my experience with that pen for your speakers.
posted by Mike1024 at 4:00 PM on September 3, 2008

I still use the letter opener I got for speaking at an industry conference ten years ago. I have also received a glossy hardback history of the University at which I spoke, a small framed print of another University's administration building (but it's in a very historic city, so it was ok!) , and a branded memory stick.

As an academic, coffee mugs (as already mentioned) are good value for common room kudos, especially if you're at a prestigious institution!
posted by gene_machine at 4:34 PM on September 3, 2008

I'll tell you what I never like: the fruit basket. No cheese, jelly, jam etc. No maple syrup. I've never kept the bottle of wine, they didn't seem to be that good and I travel light. I always keep the gimmick calculators but they're never that great. I tend to dislike anything overly branded.

What I HAVE liked is:
Bags-- cloth bags, messenger bags, always seem to get used at some point.
Seconding pens. A good pen is an awesome gift.
Notebooks, especially if small.
RPI gave me a pint glass when I spoke there with a beautiful red fat R P I on it. I love that glass.
I haven't gotten a usb key drive yet, but man I'd love one...
posted by asavage at 5:59 PM on September 3, 2008

For $25 or so each you could get a leather portfolio in the small memo size and probably even the 8.5x11" size. You can get your logo debossed on it and they have a pad of paper inside and usually room for business cards. Looks really classy even if not the best quality leather. Throw a fairly inexpensive pen inside that also has your logo and you are set. We give these at my company at internal events and also clients and speakers love them.
posted by Miastar at 7:25 PM on September 3, 2008

Oh, oh Miastar reminded me of a thing I got once that I really liked. Modofly makes engraved moleskines. They have a lot of neat looking small sketchbooks at your pricepoint or if their aesthetic is not yours, they do custom work. Might be worth getting some nice pieces with some good looking piece of art or architecture from your institution on the outside. A nice keepsake as well as being very lightly "branded." I had a weird order blip when I got something from them and they were incredibly courteous and helpful to deal with while fixing it. And could also be combined with pen/business cards/thank you note/whatever.
posted by jessamyn at 7:45 PM on September 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Things I've gotten from school that I like:
-package of seeds of flowers in the school colors (I live in an apartment, but my mom likes them)
-invitations to the bigger donor dinners
-parking passes for evening lectures, etc (for locals)
-thank you letters
posted by milkrate at 9:01 PM on September 3, 2008

Anything from Levenger- They do high quality stationary and I particularly like the idea of a folio or leather flip notebook. I'm pretty sure they will emboss their items and do bulk orders.

What I've disliked: anything cheap/overly crappy. Much rather receive heartfelt thanks than a crappy pen or something, which I receive distressingly often.
posted by arnicae at 9:11 PM on September 3, 2008

Pens are safe. You can find some really nice umbrellas in that price range. I have also seen people give a university paperweight or other crystal-type item. USB drives are nice too. At once place I worked we used to give out plaques commemorating visits from international dignitaries (we gave them TO the dignitaries no less - a little strange in that situation since we were a private company but as an alum of somewhere I might appreciate it a fair amount). A logo-d shirt, especially if embroidered, is really nice too.
posted by ml98tu at 9:35 PM on September 3, 2008

I see a lot of people saying 'pens' here. I'd like to say: Sample the pens before you order a bunch.

I've received a lot of vendor junk in my time. Branded pens all too often fall into the category of "cheap pen" or "cheap pen designer's idea of an expensive pen" - which is to say, a cheap pen's innards and mechanism in a chunky body with a metal pocket clip.

So yeah, if you're ordering pens make sure you get samples and check their quality before you go with them for certain.
posted by Mike1024 at 1:43 AM on September 4, 2008

Stainless steel water bottle.
posted by mecran01 at 5:30 AM on September 4, 2008

Sample the pens before you order a bunch.
This is a good point. I would extend it to: sample anything before you order a bunch. I never order a product without a sample and most places will send one for free.
posted by ml98tu at 6:20 AM on September 4, 2008

Ick on pens. Yawn. Plus some people frown on leather and even on paper.

Of the above suggestions, I like glass paperweights and engraved maglights the best. However, I think the nicest thing to give is a framed photograph of your speaker at the podium or from the event, in a black frame with a cream matting. When the matting is embossed with your university or organisation's logo, it's very classy - although this bit is obviously optional.

Framed photos are professional, office wall keepsakes. They are also convenient as the photo and frame has to be shipped to them afterwards anyway. With, of course, a thank you note.

IMHO, this is miles better than "Here's a flash light. Thanks for coming!"
posted by DarlingBri at 8:15 AM on September 4, 2008

Response by poster: Great answers. Thank you all!
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 11:22 AM on September 4, 2008

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