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How To Shop Awards_Blog

How to Shop - Awards

Picking the Perfect Gift for your Honorees

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Over the past few years, we've all seen (and been a part of) the meetings and events industry pivoting from in-person to virtual events to hybrid events and back again on the road to recovery for large-scale in-person events. This ability to overcome obstacles and inspire adaptability is visible no matter the individual's role or industry they work in. From rising costs to supply chain issues, people everywhere have turned obstacles into opportunities for growth. This has all been made possible through the often thankless work of our staff and supporters. If you’re looking for a way to honor your team for a remarkable year, resilience, or a specific achievement, this blog is for you!

As with any industry, technology and trends in awards production and options available have come a long way since the glass paperweights or plastic trophies in years passed. With an increased and often overwhelming number of options on the market, choosing an award that makes your employees appreciated and proud and aligns with your company values and budget can seem daunting.  Below we’ll dive into some of the most popular award types, how they’ve traditionally been used, and some cool, modern spins we see on design elements and customization.  These awards are all available in a variety of materials which can impact not only their look and feel but award costs and shipping costs.  Below we’ll dive into the materials that awards are available in, then the categories and styles of each award.


Acrylic:  A durable thermoplastic that can easily be shaped into unique designs.  This material is usually the most cost-effective option when it comes to awards and can be quickly produced in large quantities.  This material is not scratch resistant and is considerably lighter than other award material alternatives. Shipping this item will be the least expensive, but some recipients may perceive it as a lower-quality award due to how light it feels.

Crystal: A long-time staple in award material, crystal is sought after for its heavy feel and dazzling light-refracting properties.  The customization process and craftsmanship that goes into crystal awards can often mean a longer lead time than some of the other award materials available on the market. It is scratch resistant but can be damaged if dropped. The weight of crystal could make shipping a bit more expensive, but this weight can contribute to a higher perceived value or “nicer” award from the recipient. 

Glass: Like crystal, glass has been a long-time staple in the awards market. Positioned as a compromise between acrylic and crystal, glass awards are more malleable than crystal resulting in fewer design limitations. Glass is heavier than acrylic and has the same pros and cons when it comes to shipping and durability. 

Bamboo: Since bamboo awards are produced with a highly renewable resource and with sustainability at the forefront of many people’s minds, bamboo is becoming increasingly popular. Bamboo awards are commonly sealed with linseed oil instead or lacquer, making the award both biodegradable and recyclable.  Bamboo is both lightweight and durable, making shipping slightly less expensive than its heavier counterparts.  

Concrete: A newer material in the awards world, concrete is becoming increasingly popular due to its low price point and sleek, modern look.  Often paired with a colorful, eye-catching resin, concrete awards offer unique designs that fit within any budget.  While concrete is incredibly durable, the resin portion of these awards can break if dropped. Concrete is comparable in weight to crystal and presents the same pros and cons as far as shipping and hand feel.

Enamel: Seen most often in pins and medals, shaped and polished enamel offers totally custom capabilities without the big price tag.  Because of the size of most enamel products, there is less space for personalization, but often cost savings in shipping.

Award Formats

Now that we have a feel for the different materials available to us, let's dive into the most popular award types, how they’re being used to honor achievements, and some emerging trends you can use to make your award as unique as the recipient receiving them.  Almost all these award formats can be created on any of the materials cited above, so you can pair the award material and type that pairs your style with your messaging and budget best.


Popular For: 

  • Employee of the Month
  • Service Awards or Anniversaries 
  • Sponsor Recognition 
  • Legacy Awards
  • General Employee Appreciation

Emerging Trends:

  • Eco Material for Sustainable Initiatives
  • Routed Designs for Specific Accomplishments
  • Awards for Customers/Supporters

Plaques have long been a tried and true format when it comes to honoring recipients. The large surface area provided by these awards means lots of space for personalization and messages to make the gift particularly unique.  New developments with green materials and better production techniques now allow for more sustainable and more stylized plaques. Picture presenting an employee with a bamboo award honoring their achievements in sustainability or a routed metal plaque of your state for regional recognition awards.  The high degree of customization and affordable nature of plaques also means they’re a great option not just for employees but for loyal customers and supporters as well!




Commonly used for: 

  • Employee Superlatives
  • Sales Awards
  • Significant Anniversaries
  • Career Achievements
  • Speaker Awards

Emerging trends: 

  • Utilizing New Progressive Materials to Reflect Progressive Achievement Awards
  • Utilizing Clever, Interactive Designs to Bring Value to Annual Awards
  • Targeting Specific Demographics with Either Traditional or Modern Designs
  • Highly Personalized Awards by use of Suspended Photos


This classic format is available in a wide variety of styles like pillars, cubes, shaped displays, and vases and can be cast in a wide range of materials that all boast a high caliber quality. Although typically thought of as a more traditional award type, innovations in design and material types make for unique (and trendy) trophies to set your award apart from others. Some new designs allow you to bring proactive value to your company’s annual award and use interactive pieces like glass puzzle pieces to create a new trophy year for the recipient year after year.  New production methods bring a whole new level of customization by allowing you to have a personal photo engraved or suspended in the award. Opting for a new, highly modern mixed material cube can offer a sleek and different spin on awards that can resonate with the more modern style of some of your potential award recipients. 


Stacked Cubes2D VerticalPuzzle PiecePhoto Star

Pins / Medals

Commonly used for: 

  • Participation Acknowledgements
  • Personal Achievements
  • Employee Appreciation Gifts
  • Placement Rewards


Emerging trends: 

  • Dynamic Pins and Medals with Dynamic Functionality
  • Collectible Event Themed Pins for Attendees
  • Tradeshow Giveaways, Supporter Gifts

The level of customization possible is unparalleled when it comes to pins and medals.  This format is a great way to highlight your branding, as well as flex your company’s creativity.  Some newer trends we’re seeing with this awards format are the awards having secondary uses or applications.  Medals that double as wine-stoppers or bottle openers, medals that include a pop out ring for the recipient to proudly display on a daily basis, or pins that double as cufflinks are all great ways to bring some versatility to these types of awards and present the recipient with more opportunities to proudly display their achievements.  Another increasingly popular use for these types of gifts is to create new pins for each of your events to distribute amongst your attendees.  The collectible nature of your pins can bring an added level of fun to your current event and excitement for your future events.


Let’s Get Started!

A great effort or great achievement recognized with a great award can make your recipient feel inspired, proud, and appreciated.  If you're looking for some help getting started or looking for an award that highlights your company’s values as much as it honors your recipients, contact us and our experts will help pair you with an award for your amazing team!


Zack Malpass
Written by Zack Malpass

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