I received the gift of an umbrella once when the weather was wet - this was a great because it was a very warm country and I hadn’t planned for it!
The best speaker gifts have been those that proved useful later. One conference I’ve been to has been held in winter months, and I have a scarf and a beanie from them that I wear still years later. Another provided panel speakers with a portable travel battery that can power my phone several times; that’s been stellar.
It’s great when an event offers a +1 ticket for a friend, so I can give it to a friend who wouldn’t otherwise see the event.
Goodie bags with snacks when you arrive after a day of travel is so appreciated! Confab does an excellent job of this. Organizing a speaker dinner is a big plus as well.
Web Directions gave me a super high-quality water bottle that I still use. It’s right next to me now.
GoGaRuCo 2014 gave all speakers thank you cards, toiletry travel bags with our names on them, and also offered to connect our Uber accounts under their corporate account to make claiming travel easier. (I don’t like Uber, but it was an appreciated offer nonetheless!). GoGaRuCo were broadly super supportive of their speakers! Oh, and they had a speakers/organisers Green Room, which is useful for last minute preparation and zoning out.
Andy McMillan’s brass bolt left on my hotel room bed for Build always stands out. It was a really lovely gift and made me feel really valued as a speaker.
For my first conference, I arrived at my hotel feeling like an imposter and a small welcome pack a note from the organisers made me feel really welcome and at home.
Stop giving me wasteful speaker gifts - I leave them in the hotel and feel guilty: Olive oil, maple syrup, wine, a 300-lb hardcover book All are nice ideas but they cannot go in my suitcase.
If you want to give me a speaker gift, give me: A charger, A battery, A spare Kensington clicker.