Our department doesn't pay visiting speakers other than covering their travel expenses, except when we bring a speaker in as part of a college/university wide program, in which case there is a small honorarium. However, we typically give a small gift emblazoned with the name of our department and university, just for fun. We recently changed the type of little gift we give, and the decision about the new gift item was made by an administrative assistant. I think she made a rather strange choice, but these are just tokens anyway, so it doesn't really matter. However, it got me thinking about all the various items, gizmos, and assorted other tokens I have received in recent years when I've been a visiting speaker. Once or twice a year, I give a talk at a place that gives a small honorarium, but more typically there is either no tangible gift (this is very fine with me) or there is some token gift. A brief inventory of my office turned up the following items emblazoned with the names/logos of places I have visited:
- several mugs
- a couple of T-shirts
- a lapel pin/cufflink thing
- a laser pointer/pen
- miscellaneous office supply items (folders, pens, pencils, mousepad)
- a hideous but fortunately small clock
I use the mugs, pens, and laser pointer. The T-shirts are all much too large for me; I suppose I am smaller than most visiting speakers in my field. The pin thing gets the designation as the most useless token gift, but I had a nice time at the university that presented me with the pin, so mostly I think of it as a memento of an interesting trip.
Perhaps I should collect all these things in one place and make a little display -- a sort of weird academic token collection/museum.
If anyone reading this has ever given a talk at a university and been presented with some of these types of things: what's your favorite item and what's the weirdest item you've gotten?
12 years ago
I've never gotten anything like that. But I have to admit that I *often* go to the campus shop, or whatever, and buy a small logo-ed item as a souvenir, generally either a mug or a soft football (which I officially get for my sons, I hasten to add).
I'm a humanities prof.
Here's one that qualifies as both weirdest and favorite: someone I know gives out brain squeeze toys emblazoned with his school's logo.
I've gotten free swag through on-campus recruiting blitzes, and conference tradeshows. The popular ones these days seem to be laser pointers, cordless mice, and USB sticks ("memory sticks"). Some more unusual ones have included rubber "bouncy" balls that made distracting video-game "laser gun" noises.
The best thing I have gotten from attending the small meetings in miniature that we and three other departments take turns hosting...are the laser pointer pens. I still have mine and use it all the time. The worst/oddest gifts. These really ugly lunchbags (yes lunch bags, the kind that are supposed to be insulated....) with the meeting logo on them. Of course this can only be matched with the fake nalgene drinking bottles we got the next year that leaked.
We always gave hats at the Named Graduate School/Department talks, even if they were just talks to classes and not larger seminars or anything like that. They were pretty nice hats, and even the very important people seemed to like them rather a lot.
We usually give a nicely framed copy of the promotional poster for their talks in our big lecture series. We also make sure to have a gift basket in their hotel room filled with some fruit, chocolates and other snacks.
I suspect this is a reflection of having a core of women in the department -- the men who preceded us just followed standard university procedure where they gave rather random books or logo mugs.
Best: a stainless steel vaccuum coffee mug (the kind sold by Lee Valley Tools), with my name and that of the university engraved on it. I use it every day.
Worst: a big ugly plaque to hang on my wall so everyone would know I gave a talk at that institution.
Ooooh, a plaque. Cool. A friend of mine got a framed photo of the football stadium. I think that might just be the worst thing I've heard of in in this context.
I got a football for my daughter at one university. I thought it was thoughtful of them to think of my kids, but wonder if they do that for male faculty as well.
A plaque, with my name spelled incorrectly. What would you do in such a situation, really?
If it's a really nice plaque, you should probably change your name to fit the incorrect spelling.
My department once made baseball hats for a conference it was sponsoring. Cheap, ugly baseball hats with nothing but the acronym for the conference unimaginatively splayed across the front.
I got a USB necklace. 512 MB, I think, that you can wear around your neck. I actually use it, but hate being caught walking outside of lab having forgotten to take it off!
Several canvas bags. I have a whole drawer full of them, with straps and zippers of varying qualities (the shoulder-destroying, hair-eating kinds included).
And my personal favorite, the mug & unsharpened pencil. WHY do they give pencils but not sharpeners?? Somehow the unsharpened ones remain virgin and then disappear, like they're going to run away and escape the blades...
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