The weighty task of converting in-person town halls into virtual meetings is a challenge for many reasons— from maintaining engagement to learning the digital process, with plenty of hurdles in-between.

Along the way, one question that sometimes doesn’t get much attention (in favor of, to be fair, more vital details) is simply: “If we can’t shower our employees in the usual all-hands meeting tchotchkes like company sweatshirts and charcuterie boards… what kind of virtual event gifts can we ship or email to them so that this virtual event doesn’t feel like a downgrade?”

You’re not the only company who’s wondered about that… so here are the pros and cons of four popular options you could look into.

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1. THE ALWAYS-EASY MEAL VOUCHER

Pros: People can take their pick from restaurants they prefer, and have a nice hot meal delivered through Door Dash or Uber Eats.

Cons: These virtual event gifts technically also will take some time on the day of your event, so that your recipients can decide on their food and order (hopefully on time to enjoy their meal with everybody else). Double that time if your voucher requires an app they don’t have. Plus, even though vouchers are appreciated, sometimes they might seem like a little bit of a cop-out because they don’t require much thought to send.

2. INGREDIENTS FOR A CUSTOM MOCKTAIL, COCKTAIL OR BAKED GOOD

Pros: These virtual event gifts exhibit more thought from you (the sender) and they’re a great way for employees to share a sensory experience from a distance. Some examples include:

    • A drink mix based on the company brand or values or meeting theme
    • A classic gift basket of popcorn, truffles, and/or cheeses
    • Ingredients for fun new international or even seasonal recipe like Greek honey spice cookies, or Dutch Banketstaaf

Cons: Cons include the challenge of sending any fresh, liquid, or perishable items to complete these packages. It may be trickier to take into account any associates who have dietary restrictions, or who may be refraining from consuming alcohol for personal reasons. In most cases, these gifts may also require for your team members to prepare the food items themselves, which not only could take time but also could be a struggle if any of them don’t own the necessary utensils–– be they a cocktail shaker, a lemon zester, or a muffin tin. Additionally, this option can be a bit more on the expensive side–– but it CERTAINLY is a valuable and appreciated gesture.

3. BRANDED COMPANY MERCHANDISE

Pros: This will harken your team back to the days of canvas bags full of trade show goodies more than anything else. From an essential oil diffuser, to those smooth gliding gel pens, to a standard YETI® tumbler, the options here are pretty endless. You can especially send items that might be extra-helpful for remote workers, such as a laptop mount to convert any table into a standing desk.

Some thoughtful examples that probably won’t end up in the trash include:

    • Durable Satchels/Laptop Case (an alternative to canvas bags)
    • Bluetooth Speakers or Ring Lights (an alternative to cheap USBs)
    • Massage Balls or Massage Guns (an alternative to the less-used stress balls)
    • Multi-Tools/Swiss Army Knives
    • Cozy Socks (an alternative to branded t-shirts that may never get worn)
    • An Ice Scraper (You may laugh, especially if you’re in a warmer climate… but sometimes cheap tchotchke ice scrapers last longer than any other souvenir from the same event.)

Cons: It might be easy to get lost in the weeds looking for affordable-yet-considerate virtual event gifts that could fit every single one of your employees.

4. A MENTAL HEALTH DAY

Pros: This gift comes with a pretty different sort of price point–– but it’s also virtually guaranteed (no pun intended) to boost morale more than any other ‘package’ you could be sending to your associates.

As we’ve mentioned before when discussing the budget benefits and eco-friendly factors of virtual events, going digital often means reducing what used to be multi-day events into a single hour or two. Given that your company may have already been used to paying for your staff-members to spend a full day traveling to attend in-person conferences, it probably wouldn’t be a very big budgetary change to simply convert that to a half-day or a full day of paid time off.

If you’re worried about anybody skipping your virtual meeting in its entirety, you can easily balance out that temptation by establishing with employees that the day’s PTO will only be counted gratis for individuals who are logged in for the town hall. Either way, gifting your teams with a free day to prioritize a better work-life balance is definitely going to be a major incentive, and a clear gesture that your organization cares about the mental health of all its members.

Cons: Coordinating, enforcing, and just generally setting up this somewhat unorthodox “gift” is going to be very different from the process involved with sending your employees a box of candied orange peels or some cocoa-dusted truffles. But in the end, the price point and time invested is arguably equitable to any other virtual event gifts you might try sending… without the hassle of trying to customize virtual event gifts to take in mind allergies and other physical limitations of your employees.

In a world where companies are perpetually stuck between the rock of their bottom line and the hard place of associate well-being, it can be a challenge to “virtualize” annual or quarterly get-togethers without losing the warmth and personalization that on-site gatherings usually bring.

Fortunately, compared to the boatload of traveling expenses that your company can save by taking their town halls online, you should have enough budget remaining to remind each of your individual employees that you still care about them.

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