Event Design

Pick-Your-Own Amenity

An Austin hotel offers meeting attendees a fun alternative with a whimsical popup “swag shack.”

ILYaustinswag
Candy and other goodies at Hilton Austin’s “Austin Swag Shop.”

In-room gifts such as chocolates, cookies, and wine are classic ways to welcome special guests — like meeting room attendees — to a hotel. But people vary widely in their tastes, not to mention what they are able to eat and drink. And that’s where an innovation like the Austin Swag Shack, installed this week in the lobby level at the Hilton Austin, fits the bill.

swag3The hotel is right across the street from the Austin Convention Center, where PCMA’s Convening Leaders will be held today through Wednesday.

Upon check-in, PCMA meeting attendees receive a paper “swag bag,” and are invited to fill it up with their choice of treats at the Austin Swag Shack popup shop. Its shelves are stocked with an array of snacks and colorful piles of candy along with and Austin-themed souvenirs, including key chains, refrigerator magnets, lapel buttons, and bottles of local wine, all complimentary to the hotel’s registered guests who are attending the meeting.  

 swag1The idea for do-it-yourself swag was modeled on a similar popup that was installed at the hotel during Experient’s e4 2015, which was held in Austin, and which  was a big hit, said Hilton Austin General Manager Robert Watson.

Hotel staff tweaked the contents for the PCMA meeting, offering items that meeting attendees would not only enjoy in Austin, but also fun things to take home to kids or to give to business colleagues, said Sherry K. Palmer, CMP, director of events and catering at the hotel.

 Another bonus: The Austin Swag Shop turned something that often is a solitary activity — receiving an in-room amenity — into a shared one. Decorated with neon and with interactive activities like a miniature graffiti wall and a postcard station, the festive popup naturally jump-started conversations between hotel staff and guests. 

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor of Convene.