Charging Your Gadgets During a Conference

Conference delegates, especially in tech events, are nowadays armed with at least one of the following: a mobile phone or smartphone, a laptop, a digital photo or video-camera and – soon soon enough- a tablet (welcome iPad!). The elevated number of gadgets per capita in use at an these events makes it a common scene that many people will be desperately looking for a power socket to recharge her almost dead phone/computer/videocamera (any iPhone owners might find themselves well represented). Unfortunately most venues haven’t yet coped with the gap of an infrastructure created without considering easily available electrical power for the attendees. It just wasn’t needed a few years ago.

South by Southwest (SXSW) 2010 edition attracted thousands of visitors which often carried several of the gadgets listed above. SXSW Interactive in particular raved with hordes power-hungry geeks (I count myself amongst them) and you know what? It was very easy to find an available power socket and even an “energy-locker” where you could leave your mobile phone to charge without having to worry from it being stolen.

Paradoxically, the only places where power sockets weren’t readily accessible were in the middle of the bigger conference rooms (there were only a few electric outlets at the back of the room and on the sides, but the rooms where just too big for it to be practical).

If you’re managing a tech event -but not only- providing plenty of ways for getting electrical power and wireless Internet access is now a must, part of the basic service, and not an extra anymore. Venues, particularly older ones, will take some time to adapt but there are several things you can do to improve the situation and maybe offer some brand exposure to sponsors (see photos below for inspiration).

Access to electrical power during SXSW Interactive
Belkin power strip to multiply the sockets offered by the venue
Access to electrical power during SXSW Interactive

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Eco-Minded Promotional Gadgets

Recycled conference bag
Recycled conference bag

Recently one of the spotters of Springwise published the eco-minded products of Fairware, which sells “promotional products for your conscience” that could be used as sustainable gadgets and giveaways for your event.

As a rule of thumb, better not to give away a crappy gadget that will have a negative effect on the environment (and taints your brand with a negative aura). If you need to use a lanyard, give away a conference bag or a t-shirt, at least minimize their impact by using sustainable products made of reused or recycled materials.

Take promotional goods—a category often dominated by cheap, throw-away and plastic products. Eco-minded options have traditionally been few and far between, but now Canadian Fairware focuses on providing a wide range of sustainable alternatives.

All products offered by Fairware reflect a commitment to social and environmental responsibility. Custom imprinted and branded products, trade show give-aways and retail shopping totes are all among them, chosen from suppliers that abide by a code of conduct modeled after that used by the Fair Labor Association. Specifically, Fairware actively seeks out businesses that embrace ethical sourcing and environmental commitment, among other goals. Eco-minded clothes, books, electronics, stationery and umbrellas are among the goods offered in its online store, featuring a variety of organic, sustainable and recycled components. Source: Springwise

Reinventing the Gadgets of Your Conference Using 3D Printing

Photo by makerbot
Photo by makerbot

Many events have the habit of  distributing crappy & useless gadgets, often provided by the sponsors. It gets even worse when attendees get to fight for them (I’ve seen men in suits which -directly or indirectly- had payed more than 2.000 USD for a ticket fighting over who got a cheap cap with the BMW brand on it).

Such a practice greatly hurts the experience of your conference, it says “I don’t care” or “I was to lazy to make something innovative” and in the end transmits a negative -mediocre- feeling. In a way, the only [physical] things that the event leaves you is a cheap one (apart from the memories in your head). Plus in many cases it’s not green nor ethical: many of those gadgets are hardly recyclable, have a short lifespan and a very low cost because they are being produced in a sweatshop in some poor country.

You might argue “everybody does it so why not me?”. Well -I’d answer- because you care about details and want to innovate on just another bad practice.

T-shirt made with reused yarn (by Muji)
T-shirt made with reused yarn (by Muji)

I do appreciate when an event gives away a nice or useful product (like the classy Monocle notebook given out at a Monocle magazine meetup). In the past I’ve given out BlackBerries and iPods as a special offer promotional gadget (of the kind “if you buy by a give date you get a BlackBerry – it was a corporate event). Other gadgets I usually like are stickers or T-shirts (with logo, date and country) that act as a stamp  that shows that your participation. If it’s about T-shirts, please make them of good quality… and why not from organic cotton or recycled yarn?.

3D printed gadgets

3D printing has been around for many years and now the entrance barrier is becoming much lower and accessible to broader masses. My interest in 3D printing has been pumped up by the near future scenario described in Cory Doctorow’s latest novel, Makers (Amazon link), and a short conversation with Marleen Stikker (co-founder of PICNIC festival, founder and director of the Waag Society which hosts the FabLab dedicated to 3D printing).

Continue reading “Reinventing the Gadgets of Your Conference Using 3D Printing”