20+ Ideas for Conference in a Box

Black woman smiling with a cardboard box in her lap as she types on a laptop

20+ Ideas for Conference in a Box

 

Who said a virtual meeting only has to be experienced through screens?

A conference in a box (or conference-in-an-envelope) is a fantastic way of bringing the energy of a meeting to participants’ homes. These special deliveries might contain a range of items related to the topics you’re covering, or hands-on activities for interactive parts of the agenda.

And these don’t have to be big boxes! An envelope with key items can be just as effective.

Important things to consider when designing a conference in a box:

 

Your Audience

 

Who is attending your conference and what matters to them? What items will delight and surprise, and what will deepen their experience of the conference?

Start by understanding your audience in order to design the ultimate conference in a box. Keep in mind the environment when putting together these boxes – avoid items that are throw away or gimmicky. (Check out the master list of conference box items at the bottom of this post!)

Items from a circus themed conference in a box, including candy, conference program, popcorn, cookies, and a clown nose

Items from a circus themed conference in a box

 

Agenda

 

Ideally, the conference in a box should align with your agenda so it isn’t just a random box of goodies. The items should facilitate dialogue and fit in with the flow of the day.

Some of our favourite items that line up well with most agendas:

 Coffee / tea samplers: in-person conferences usually start with coffee & tea, so throw in a couple coffee/tea samplers, and invite people to start the meeting with a fresh cup.

Conference handbook with pages for notes or prompt questions that line up with each part of the agenda. This can be a simple staple-bound booklet, or a hardcover keepsake.

Printed visual templates: for group work, consider printing visual templates for people to work on individually and present back to the group by snapping a quick photo of their work

Visual template for groups to map out their ideas by writing in different sections labelled Strategies, Barriers, and Outcomes

Movement or mindfulness breaks: if you’ve built in a movement break, throw in a pair of athletic socks for people to wear. The more colourful, the better!

Vouchers for food delivery or catering (local to each person’s area) in place of the catering you would have provided during an in-person conference. Local catering and restaurants have taken a huge hit during the pandemic, so show your support!

Secret envelopes with “do not open until instructed” for people to unseal at a specific time during the conference. This envelope might contain:

    • Random questions for a breakout group to tackle
    • If a group is working through a fictional scenario or “case study,” the envelope might contain valuable clues or surprise twists for the group to problem solve
    • Icebreaker questions for paired conversations
    • A “where’s Waldo” card given to one participant with instructions for them to hold it up during a specific time in the agenda. Other participants must keep an eagle-eye out for the Waldo card throughout the conference, and whoever spots it wins a prize.
    • At multi-day events, the secret envelope might contain a reflection question for people to mull over between the sessions.
 

→ Sampling from the host city: for cross-country or international audiences, include samplings from your city, such as candies, magnets, stickers, and anything that brings the flavour of your location.

→ Augmented reality posters or booklets: if you have reference material or a poster to send out ahead of the conference, consider enabling it with augmented reality so people can scan their phone across and see an additional layer of images, videos, or information. These AR posters can be updated remotely over time to show changes in a program, updates on goals, or a timeline.

 

 

Post conference mail out

 

Smaller packages or envelopes can also be sent out after a meeting, and they might include:

  • Printed copies of the graphic recordings
  • Group photo from the Zoom gallery

Zoom gallery selfie with faces and names blurred for privacy

  • Thank you treats (such as candies, cookies, etc)
 
 

Do-it-yourself vs. use a service

 

There are service providers that will put together gift boxes and mail them out for you. This works fine for very large events or when you don’t have the time or a team to handle it yourself.

However, putting together these boxes yourself means they’ll be more memorable and better facilitate dialogue if aligned to your agenda.

Ultimate list of conference-in-a-box items

 

Keep in mind the usefulness of these items and the environment – avoid including objects that are gimmicky or single-use.

  • Conference handbook
  • Coffee / Tea samplers
  • Samplings unique to the host city
      • candies, cookies, sodas (in good packaging!), stickers, magnets, popcorn, hot chocolate, drink mixes, etc.
  • Background materials / pre-reading
  • Posters or booklets enabled with augmented reality
  • Agenda so people have a hard copy they can follow along
  • Visual templates for individual and group work (and a fancy pen or pencil to mark them up!)
  • Secret envelopes to open at specific times. This envelope might contain:
      • Random questions for a breakout group to tackle
      • If a group is working through a fictional scenario or “case study,” the envelope might contain valuable clues or surprise twists for the group to problem solve
      • Icebreaker questions for paired conversations
      • A “where’s Waldo” card given to one participant with instructions for them to hold it up during a specific time in the agenda. Other participants must keep an eagle-eye out for the Waldo card throughout the conference, and whoever spots it wins a prize.
      • At multi-day events, the secret envelope might contain a reflection question for people to mull over between the sessions.
  • Vouchers for local food
  • Items for movement & mindfulness breaks
      • athletic socks, stress ball, exercise band, mindfulness cards, small pillow
  • Useful office items
      • themed coffee mug, post-it notes, pens, etc.
  • A little gift for participants’ children, partners, or pets
      • This is a way to acknowledge we’re all working in different environments, often sharing space with family members
  • Items specific to your industry or work
      • For example, a circus conference we attended sent out clown noses to all participants. An asthma conference sent out flashcards on breathing techniques
  • Good deed items; for example:
      • Include a small compostable bag in the conference box and ask that participants pick up a couple pieces of trash at their local park.
      • A coffee card and ask that participants give it to someone in need
  • And lastly, get creative and inject playfulness into your conference box, no matter how small!
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