Add a Physical Element to Your Virtual Summit with a Custom Box with Mark Stern

engagement guest expert Apr 27, 2021

Custom boxes are a powerful way to create an incredible experience and increase engagement for your virtual summit attendees by combining physical with digital.

You can create an incredible digital experience through a virtual summit, but have you considered what it would look like to bring a physical element into the mix?

I don't recommend that everyone creates a big custom box for a virtual summit, but creating something smaller, that's designed to complement and enhance the experience of your event, can go a long way.

To walk you through how this can impact your event, what to include in a box, and how to get started, we have special guest Mark Stern from Custom Box Agency.

And if you've seen the Summit in a Box boxes floating around the Summit Host Hangout Facebook Group, you can see why we love working with him!

I'll let Mark take it from here.

It's not just swag in a box

I focus on helping clients create custom box experiences. When people think about getting a physical box in the mail, they think of a swag box - things like a t-shirt and water bottle.

But the thing is, that's not doing your summit attendees, students, or clients any good (even though it can be fun). Don’t just put swag in a box. Create an experience that brings physical and digital together.

A physical box should:

  • Eliminate barriers to success for your attendees or students - What can you give them to make getting to the transformation they want easier?
  • Increase engagement - How can you get them to take specific actions you want them to take, whether it's interacting with your event, sharing about your business, or completing your course?
  • Reward the recipient - Give them a reason to smile and celebrate.
  • Incentivize them to get to the next level so they want to continue working with you.

Physical Boxes in a Virtual Event do physical boxes fit in a virtual event?

Think about Disney World, movie theaters, or a restaurant. They're fully immersive experiences. You connect to them differently because you're activating all the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.

When you shift to a digital-only event like a summit, you only tap into two senses: sight and sound.

Although we can’t recreate Disney World, custom boxes activate the senses of touch, taste, and smell - in addition to what you see and hear within the boxes.

It's a powerful way to connect with people and creates a more intimate experience.

Benefits of Physical Boxes with Virtual Summits

During a virtual summit, custom boxes give attendees tools and resources that increase their level of engagement. If you can create and distribute your custom boxes before the event, it’s one of the most powerful ways to gain authentic, organic traffic.

Boxes and Speaker Promotion

When you send your speakers a custom box before the event, you get them excited for it.  They share their swag and authentic excitement with their audience which brings in organic traffic.

Instead of forced speaker promotion, now you have authentic excitement and their audience will see that and want to participate. 

Use Boxes as Paid Traffic

Another option is to use the money you would have spent on Facebook ads and put that money into custom boxes instead - because they're a marketing tool!

Custom boxes excite attendees. They'll take pictures with their box and share it with their world. This can bring in extra traffic as they share with coworkers, clients, friends, and on social media.

Nurture Your Audience with Boxes

Another powerful thing boxes can do is nurture your audience. It’s a powerful way to pre-frame the next step of the journey.

By being intentional with what you put in the box, you give attendees access to get those small, quick wins. If you include things like workbooks and worksheets, you can get them in the mindset that they’ll have that experience when they work with you. They will want to work with you more if they know they can make progress easily. 

It's a whole different engagement level than with a digital-only experience.

Leverage the FOMO

If you’re putting on a virtual event, you want to establish yourself as the trusted mentor to those participating. That’s why it’s critical to get people to connect with you. You create a new level of connection when you send something in the mail.

The attendees are looking for a trusted mentor that can help take them to the next level and address some of the pain points they’re having.

Build engaging experiences into your summit that relate to your box. For example, host a coffee chat during your summit where attendees can meet you and everyone can bring their mugs you included in their custom boxes. If you do that in a Zoom room where you can see everyone’s face and everyone holding that coffee mug, then those who don’t have the mug will ask where to get it and how to be a part of the experience.

You’re building community.

Mark’s Virtual Social Boxes

When COVID hit, people started doing little virtual gatherings just to build connections with other people. That’s where the Virtual Social Box was born, which is essentially a fully branded box for you to customize and quickly get out to your market. It includes things like:

  • A welcome note
  • A custom insert
  • A choice of a wine glass, rocks glass, or coffee mug
  • A set of branded coasters - We're using QR code automation, where you can control a QR code that's on the coasters and send people to specific pages of your event.

The whole point is to be intentional with creating these experiences that bring people together.

What to Put in the Box

When you're thinking intentionally about what can serve your audience in the best way possible, you're building the experience. If you’re doing a virtual event, there are essentially 6 different types of items I recommend you include in your box. 

  • Welcome note – This could be a QR code to a video or a written note that tells people who, what, when, where, and why the box is being sent to them.
  • Promotion or swag – People love swag like t-shirts, water bottles, and stickers to put on their desk nearby as a constant reminder of what they do.
  • Support item – These items are designed to set people up for success like a workbook, post-it notes, or other tools your business has.
  • Engagement item – This is something that gets people to interact or engage live through an experience such as photo booth props.
  • Take action item – Include something that gets people to do something, such as responding to a flyer for your coaching program or posting a picture on Instagram.
  • Story element – Stick in an item that is insignificant when you see it, but when you know the story behind it, it instantly becomes this mark of connection.

Not every box needs all 6 of these pieces, but a welcome piece, swag piece, and support piece to encourage them to take action are the most important.

Things to Consider

If you add a custom box to your summit, you want things that get people to interact with the experience while it’s happening live, but you don’t want it to cost an arm and a leg! 


Pricing scares hosts. They tend to think a large box has to cost a bunch of money, but the reality is that there are boxes of all different shapes and sizes. You can even send a small pack instead of a big box. It shouldn’t break the bank!

If you’re brand new to boxes, there are different solutions and ways to position them. Think strategically about how you’re going to fit it into the equation. It may be the difference between creating a standout experience that allows you to serve your audience at a greater level or just being another summit out there.


When planning your summit, and including a box, have them ready to go about 3 weeks before the summit.

The reason I suggest 3 weeks is because you want to take advantage of getting the boxes out to your speakers beforehand. They’re going to start to promote it, and when they authentically promote it, it will create organic traffic.

People will start wondering how they can get that box.

Plan ahead of time so it’s done, and you don’t have to worry about it.

Brainstorm a box for your event!

If enhancing and deepening the experience of your virtual summit is something you want to do, take some time to brainstorm what a physical box could look like for your next virtual summit.

Remember, it's important to start planning far in advance so you can have everything ready to go when registration opens.

And if you want some support throughout the process, reach out to Mark and let him know you found him through the podcast!

About Mark

Mark Stern is a serial entrepreneur and founder of the Custom Box Agency, Virtual Social Box, Rough Streak Digital, and LYVE Online.

Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Mark was a top-rated strategy consultant at Deloitte Consulting, the world’s largest consulting firm.

He is a five-time Spartan Trifecta holder, SXSW Start-up Mentor, and lifetime lover of tacos and BBQ. Mark currently lives in Austin, Texas.

Custom Box Agency  |  Custom Box Challenge  |  Virtual Social Box



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Custom boxes are a powerful way to create an incredible experience and increase engagement for your virtual summit attendees by combining physical with digital.Custom boxes are a powerful way to create an incredible experience and increase engagement for your virtual summit attendees by combining physical with digital.

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