If you are no stranger to the events industry, you’re probably well aware of how valuable event contests can be for engaging your attendees. They give guests activities to participate in, ways to engage with your brand, and possibly your sponsors’ brands; and also creates content for different types of online and offline media. And you’ll also be familiar with how difficult it is to come up with prize ideas on a budget. Depending on the size or scale of your business, event, or campaign, sometimes it can be hard to offer lavish incentives when planning your giveaways. It can be stressful planning an event contest because you need the prize to be desirable enough to promote participation but you don’t want to spend your entire event budget on a single prize. Being creative and maximizing your event budget is vital to ensure you’ve covered off all of your mandatories. Here is our list for some great prize ideas that cost next to nothing for your next event.
1. One-on-one consulting (or similar)
Depending on the nature of your event, and whether or not you are a B2B or B2C targeted audience, offering a free one or two-hour consulting session (or service) with you, or one of your key vendors or sponsors can be very enticing to guests. Business coaching is always desirable because it is generally a very expensive service to pay for, as is any sort of creative services (like business card design or logo design). Donating time is typically less expensive than donating money, so this option is a great incentive that won’t completely break the bank. It’s also useful for expanding word-of-mouth marketing and referral; if your “winner” finds a lot of value in the service they receive, they are likely to bring you up to their friends, colleagues and social network. And chances are, in the events-world, someone owes you a favour – so there’s no time like the present to call it in.
2. Free VIP all-access pass to next year’s event
You’re the company putting on the event, right? And chances are, you want to make your event as exciting or interesting as possible to sell tickets and get people to fill seats – so of course people are going to want to come again, if you give them what you promise. Since you are setting the ticket prices and controlling pre-sale and the amount of tickets given away, it’s also very inexpensive to give away free VIP access to next year’s event. Up the ante on a simple “free pair of tickets” by adding in early entry, free coat check, free lunch voucher and an opportunity to briefly meet key sponsors or speakers backstage. Chances are, if you’ve done your job as an event planner, your attendees will start to get excited for next year’s event partway through this year’s, so having an upgraded experience offered at next year’s show is one of many inexpensive great prize ideas for next year because it will be top of mind and very desirable.
3. Prize ideas? Try (sponsor or vendor) prize packs!
Perhaps your type of business does not make sense for an offering of a one or two hour business coaching or consulting session, but you still need a sweet prize to entice attendees into contest participation. Another option for you is to offer a sponsor or vendor prize pack. This option is also low-cost because you can build it into the vendor or sponsor fees associated with being featured at your event. Most event sponsors are enthusiastic to give out additional freebies because it increases their brand recognition and awareness with your event attendees. A prize pack of this variety can be simple and include some samples from 5-10 different vendors, or can be more complicated, and include gift cards, personalized product, sponsor consulting services and other branded swag.
4. Free product
Do you run a company that sells really cool things, like t-shirts, personalized shoes, furniture or electronics? Inexpensive prize ideas are right under your nose. If people are invested enough in your brand or your company to attend your event, then a great way to further attract them is to offer up some of your own product as a prize. People are not ashamed of brands they love, and this kind of brand advocacy or indirect word-of-mouth is incredibly valuable. Prizes in kind are typically more cost-effective because your selling price (with mark-up) is rarely the actual value of the product, which is way cheaper than spending actual cash on a prize; and you get to say “prize pack valued at approximately $X” which also triggers people’s competitive natures and makes them want to participate so they have a chance to win!
5. Online or print feature
It’s 2018 so unless there’s a very strategic reason not to, your brand probably has a website. If you are large enough to have an event where people spend money on tickets to attend, it probably also means you have a certain amount of credibility. Smart like-minded individuals and small businesses want to be aligned with you so offering up an event prize that allows them to do that can be very valuable. If your event is B2B, you, and your guest’s reputation is everything; and if you are a reputable, credible company, no matter your size, it’s valuable for your attendees to get a double page write up in a magazine, or an interview-style online blog all about them. It also scores you more bang for your buck when they share it online. In marketing, content is king, and with events or sponsorship opportunities, it’s no different. It’s a win-win for them because they get to feel important about being featured and highlighted in some way, and you get content created for you that you didn’t have to pay to curate (technically).
Bonus: give them the spotlight
Another virtually free contest prize idea is to offer up a spot as a speaker at next year’s event – people that will be excited about this prize will be extra motivated and put together a really good presentation. It doesn’t even have to be that long. If your typical speakers get 30 minute windows, you can offer up a 15 minute filler spot as a prize. Your speakers and seminars are about adding value and getting their names out there, and someone who wouldn’t normally be honoured with an ask to speak is an excellent person to take a chance on because it’s about their personal integrity, their professional or business reputation and getting exposure. You’ll be surprised with what they present to your attendees, and like offering an online or print feature, you’ll also get additional re-purpose-able content from it.
Though it’s very nice to offer attendees and fans of your brand lavish vacations or brand new cars, not all event prize ideas need to be expensive to be appealing. Working your network and utilizing resources you already have at your disposal could prove to be a better incentive to some than a gaming console or a gift card. The person who has it all sometimes values experiences more than physical “things”.
Ashley Saunders, Matriarch, Strategist & Live Social Coordinator