Conference season has begun (does it ever really end?) and I’m thinking again about the swag. You know, those freebies given away by vendors or fellow evaluators. I am personally not usually excited about the heaps of easily breakable plastic crap, but if done well evaluation swag can make a strong impression.


I once chose the swag for the group of evaluators I worked with – for distribution at a conference where we needed to promote eval among no evaluators. So I picked transparent post-it notes, like these, with our logo across the top. Practical. Handy. Representing this grand metaphor of how evaluation helps organizations see clearly.

But as it turned out the post-its we bought (not pictured) were more like semi-opaque (evaluation is cloudy?) and wouldn’t work with regular ink pens. Not the message we were going for.

I’m focused more these days on data visualization and reporting, so I’m into this idea of a portable whiteboard for swag.


Better than drawing on a napkin, right? And a great way to encourage visual thinking.

On the cheaper end, I think I’ve seen evaluators hand out Smarties for swag. Cute!

And that’s the thing – the swag has to be cheap, cute, useful, and metaphoric. That’s not an easy set of criteria, especially for representing something as hard to define as evaluation. But that’s what makes something memorable – which is why we bring stuff to giveaway at a conference in the first place.

What successful or less than successful evaluation swag have you seen?

Are you focused on dataviz, too? If you can’t make it to AEA’s Summer Institute or the CES annual meeting to catch my 3 hour workshops on the topic, consider joining my 90-minute webinar later this month.

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