Personalization is one of the core themes of the year, not just in events, but across the board. There’s more programming than ever, making it a buyer’s — or attendee’s — market. 

For example, there were six different in-person events I wanted to attend in September, but I could only make it to three. Personalization – in some form or the other – helped me decide which events would speak to me directly. 

To deliver an experience worth attendees’ time, crafting personalized event activations is critical — no matter the event format. Between direct mail with personalized gift boxes, virtual classes handpicked by attendees pre-event, and customizable swag at in-person events, the possibilities are endless. 

Personalization is more than just your name on a water bottle

To personalize an event, start with two questions:

  • Who are my guests?
  • Why are they here?

Once you determine your audience, you can better personalize event content to fit their personas. Making the event valuable to your guests and meeting them where they are is personalization. Putting people’s names on stuff is always fun, but in 2022, attendees expect more.

Asking pre-event registration questions helps event professionals discover who their attendees are and gives those guests the option to vote on speakers and discussion topics. They work well for events and multi-day conferences, but for happy hours or parties, you may not want to request too much of your participants.

In that case, make it easy to register, but call out your intended audience in the event name or marketing materials. For example, Postal recently attended Hubspot’s annual event, INBOUND. Tens of thousands of people attend INBOUND, and they don’t all match our intended customer profile. So we held an afterparty called B2B Rock ‘N’ Bowl. Anyone could come, but we wanted B2B folks to know this party was for them. Even before collecting data, you can position your event in this way to attract the attendees you want. 

What parts of the event experience should you personalize? 

Consider your goals for the event. If you know your event sells out every year, you may not need to focus your personalization efforts on registration. But if it’s your first time hosting this event, give a little more TLC to your registration page by allowing attendees to vote on session and discussion topics or pick event swag. Are you hosting a multi-day conference? Consider what you can personalize each day to make your guests excited to make the investment of attending in-person. 

In all events, content needs to be personalized to your attendees. For a networking event, ensure you invite a quality group of people to network with. For in-person tracks, you want people to walk away feeling like they received something useful – something that made their travel time and financial investment worth it. From there, personalize elements depending on your KPIs and desired ROI. And an event doesn’t end when the bar closes; make sure to personalize post-event communication, too.

Personalization by event format

Content remains king across all event formats, but consider special touches to personalize the experience for each attendee no matter their location.

In-person events

In-person events are perhaps the most obvious when it comes to personalization, because the personalization is tangible. You have your t-shirts, Tide pens, and themed mixers. But think outside the box. Offer personalized experiences, like allowing attendees to choose from pre-conference yoga or post-event hikes. 

For multi-day events, consider a room drop, so there’s something waiting in the attendee’s hotel room upon their arrival to remind them why they’re physically there. It makes the hotel room part of the event experience. 

Virtual events

For virtual events, send attendees something ahead of time. Postal helps with address verification so you can easily find attendees’ mailing addresses without having to ask. A great option is to send a personalized notebook with the event agenda and prompts to encourage them to take notes. You can even send a cocktail-making kit for a virtual happy hour.

To increase engagement, let attendees influence event content in real-time by answering a poll or voting on a discussion topic. Or create virtual breakout rooms based on interests or job functions.

With all events, but especially virtual, make them flexible. If attendees have something to do at home, they’re going to do it. Build in unstructured time for attendees to use how they’d like, including networking. And use technology to your advantage. With the latest event tech, you can pre-record content in advance, then release it at a specific time to allow attendees to watch and interact together. But if someone can’t make the time work, they can watch the on-demand recording.

Hybrid events

Offer a personalized experience for both the in-person and at-home attendees. If you have an on-site happy hour, create a virtual breakout room for a remote happy hour. Send the virtual attendees packages ahead of time with fun drinks and snacks. And be mindful of when you combine the virtual and in-person elements together. Don’t try to shoehorn the virtual attendees into the in-person event. 

Event personalization examples

Today’s event professionals compete against heaps of programming. My advice: Only throw your event hat in the ring if your event has clear goals and excellent programming. And then find ways to personalize the experience to make it worth your guests’ time and energy. 

Corporate swag

Because I work at Postal, people really like to send me swag. I attended a product-focused webinar recently outlining all the swag options coming out for the holidays. In advance, they sent me a pack of items with my name on them and an outline of the webinar. I attended because I knew they worked hard to send out a personalized box versus one of hundreds. 

Postal curates a marketplace of local goods that allows you to send ready-to-go items from community vendors. Think hometown brews, flowers from a local florist, or warm, fresh cookies from the corner bakery. And to personalize further, our Paper Plane team works with customers to customize unique swag. We see people create really nice boxes with a combination of personalized swag with related items. For example, personalized mugs with gourmet teas. 


Another example of personalization at an event would be the way SaaStr used Braindate to set up networking sessions at their conference. I think Braindate does a good job of personalizing the experience. People input information about themselves and topics they’re interested in, and the software works as a matchmaker. It’s participant-led, caters to attendees’ needs, and helps extend the reach of event content. Surveying attendees in advance helps with content personalization.


Use personalized elements to match your event theme. A great way to do this is by appealing to the senses. At meals, think of ways to tie the food into the theme, whether that’s through renaming dishes or the menu itself. For example, we’ve hosted 90’s themed parties and the food was all elevated and fresh takes on some of our favorite 90’s snacks (think: upgraded bagel bites).

Also note that like events, food should be inclusive and intersectional. Keep in mind that some of your attendees might have food allergies or sensitivities. This is something you can ask about during registration to ensure that everyone can enjoy the food at your event.

Sound is another great way to hone in on a theme via the senses. Salesforce’s Dreamforce is one example of an event that uses sound well. The conference has intentional sound piped in everywhere. Whether that is nature noises in common spaces so you feel like you’re outside, live DJs on-site at key egress/regress, points or live bands outside, Dreamforce is an awesome example of how incorporating sound can keep energy up and therefore create a more engaged attendee. 

Successful personalization should be intentional

In the events world, we don’t have to (and shouldn’t) do things the way they’ve always been done. On-demand personalization is gaining popularity. I saw a great example recently at INBOUND. RollWorks offered on-site screen printing in their ABM lounge. Attendees got to personalize their shirts by choosing from shirt colors, sizes, and design templates. It was a win-win because they printed shirts on-demand versus making a bunch of swag they didn’t need. 

When Postal goes to events, instead of bringing swag, we let attendees select an item they want via a customized swag card with a Postal generated QR code, and we’ll mail it to them. We decide what items are available for them to choose from via a Collection. Usually this includes:

  • A branded swag piece or two (including the shirts we might be wearing at the booth)
  • A non-branded option that ties back into the specific event (e.g. for a conference in Austin, we had a food option and a beverage option from local Austin vendors)
  • A charity option if they don’t want swag.

Mailing the item to the attendee serves as another reminder of our company and the event a few days later when they’re home and back in the swing of things. 

Both the screen printing and swag cards are great examples of changing the way we operate, being more mindful and efficient with the goods we give out, and reducing waste. Corporate responsibility matters, and I think we’ll see more on-demand activations and intentional swag options in the event cycles to come. 

Today’s event-goers expect more, and it’s up to us to deliver elevated, personalized experiences. But events cost money, time, and mental space for the planners, attendees, and sponsors. Every time we throw an event, we hold someone’s resources in our hands. We must be very intentional with the events we host and the personalization we add. It’s 2022: putting someone’s name in an email subject line doesn’t cut it.