Asserting yourselfCommunication

Thank you gifts speakers won’t thank you for

By June 17, 2014December 19th, 2019No Comments

Do you plan conferences, retreats or meetings of some sort? Perhaps you bring in paid speakers and presenters. If so, you may relate to this story …

As a professional speaker, I have the honor and privilege to present to association conferences, corporate groups, and non-profit organizations across Canada and beyond. Really, this profession is so amazing — I actually get applause for doing my job. When was the last time you got applauded for your work, literally?

As if that weren’t enough, some clients go way beyond the expected and give me small gifts as tokens of their appreciation for my services. It’s a kind and incredibly thoughtful gesture. Unfortunately, it’s often flawed by misinformed perceptions of what makes for a great gift.

Do you know what to give or NOT give to presenters?

If you don’t travel much, I’m giving you a “free pass” on knowing the answer to that question. How on earth could you know what presenters who travel a lot would appreciate if you don’t travel much yourself? Allow me to fill you in on the not-so-glamorous side of professional speaking.

#1 INSIGHT: presenters travel light.

Many professional speakers I know, myself included, travel almost exclusively with carry-on luggage only. This is normally due to a combination of reasons, not the least of which is some heartbreaking story of lost luggage. Heaven forbid that the presentation, handouts and professional biz attire is all in the checked bag that’s lost. Ouch! It happens once and then you vow you’ll avoid checking baggage as much as possible.

Because carry-on is the way to go for most presenters, anything you may be considering giving them, must be:
lightweight (less than a pound)
tiny (their luggage is probably already stuffed)
not breakable (it’s going to get crammed into the bag)
OK if going across borders (avoid items Customs will not allow).

Here are some samples of thank you gifts to AVOID:

  • big, heavy books
  • a collection or series of big, heavy books (even more difficult, yikes!)
  • fragile artwork
  • items framed with glass
  • gift baskets or large items

Here are some items that might work:

  • beautiful pens (I recently lost my Cross pen and would LOVE to receive a great pen)
    coffee cards (e.g., for Tim Hortons or Starbucks)
  • gift cards (to some store that’s easy to access and you know they like. Office supply stores, like Staples, are a good choice)
  • money (add what you would spend on a thank you gift to the speaking fee, or if no fee, as an honorarium)
  • referrals (Better by far than a thank you gift is a personal introduction to a colleague who may consider the speaker’s services).

The thought of a thank you gift is gracious and appreciated. It will be valued even more when it’s something speakers can and will actually use … and fit in their suitcases. Otherwise, your well-intentioned gift may find itself being left behind in a hotel room with a note to the chambermaid reading, “I couldn’t fit it in my luggage. Please enjoy”.

Until next time,
Here’s to better communication, better business, better life,

Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Helping biz people find solutions to workplace communication challenges.
Better communication, better business, better life.
Recipient of APEX “Award for Leadership in Service Innovation”

© 2014-2016 Marion Grobb Finkelstein

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Communication consultant, author, professional speaker Marion Grobb Finkelstein assists individuals and organizations across Canada and beyond, to connect with clients, colleagues, employees, and bosses, and to handle workplace communication challenges to improve morale, confidence, and productivity. Chat with her at and sign up for her FREE weekly “Marion’s Communication Tips” at

Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Marion Grobb Finkelstein helps leaders use their natural communication strengths to build resilient teams that talk.

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