What You Get Is Important; How You Get It Sends A Message

Many of us think our job has ended after spending considerable time, money and effort into selecting the right gift for someone who deserves to be recognized. Yet the perfect gift can be reduced to dust if it is not given the right way. Yes, the presentation of the gift can mean more than the gift itself, or at the very least, be a positive memory to associate with the gift.

All That Glitters….

While the gift doesn’t have to be gold, the very first thing the receiver will see is the wrapping paper. You have probably gone to great lengths by yourself or with a supplier to personalize the gift to the recipient. The first level of communication is going to be through the selection of paper. Think about what the person likes, things they have said, images associated with them. With a little bit of detective work you can shop around for quality paper that speaks “we care about you”, even before the gift is opened.

It’s All In The Cards

You don’t have to believe in the paranormal to know that there is a lot of meaning in the cards that accompany the gift. Again, some thoughtful choosing will show that someone has put effort into this and that the receiver really means a lot to you and the company.

Now, this is all before you have even written anything. The wording you use is very important. Focus on maintaining and even building your relationship with the receiver of the gift through what you say. This is done with the rule of “two-part specificity”. First part of the rule is to spell out specifically what it was that the individual “did”. Don’t just burst into superlatives about the individual. The card states the performance; the gift is for the performer. The second part of specificity is rarely stated. Tell the person how their actions have “made a difference” to you personally and to the company. This bonds the relationship and has the gift absorb that association.

There’s A Time And Place 

Hopefully, you already know that giving recognition is an individual thing. This means you have to do your homework well in advance to know what your employees like and dislike. For receiving a gift you should know whether the receiver prefers a large public presentation, in their smaller department, or just one-on-one. Whatever it is do it. You will be honoring the person and adding more value to the gift being given.

Another opportunity to communicate to the receiver, is sending them a letter about their recognition and based on what you know give them some choice in how, where and when the gift may be given. Be open to other options as well. This level of choice communicates respect. In turn, the receiver may want just unit colleagues present but want their family with cameras on tow to be in attendance. Some things you may never have thought of.

 “And Now, Presenting….”

There are only a few of us that like this part. Yet the fact is, someone has to give the gift to the deserving person. It should not be done like passing a football or worse like a hot potato or a bomb. This is where you have to do your most preparing, even a rehearsal if need be.

First, know how to say the person’s name correctly. Nothing like flubbing up a person’s name to tarnish the gift. Write it out phonetically if you have to. Even go to the person well ahead of the day and ask their help. That will speak volumes.

Second, prepare some background information on the receiver. Check with employment records and verify with colleagues and managers. Ask friends for personal stories that typify the character of the individual. Know some of the fun things about the person, but make sure it builds the individual and not humiliate them. Understand what went into the performance that merited this gift or award being earned.

Third, keep your remarks short and sweet. The focus is on the individual and the giving of the gift. Refer to some details gleaned from your background research. Use the “two-part specificity” rule to say why the gift is being given. And say “Thank You” and the person’s first name as you close your remarks. People love to hear their names, and when attached to thank you it means a lot.

Fourth, make the moment last. Too many people finish their lovely remarks, give the gift graciously and sit down immediately. Ask the many parents who have lost out on a good school award picture because the presenter rushed the award giving. So, you are in charge of making memories. Give the gift, shake their hand, and then hold on. Tell them quietly, “Just look to the front and enjoy this moment. Some people might want to take a picture.” You have helped make a memorable occasion.

Finally, there are two things to ask the receiver. When the time and setting fits ask, 1. “Would you like to open your gift now?”, and 2. “Would you like to say a few words?” It is amazing how many people will want to open the gift and hold it up high for everyone to share in. This is like a victory moment. They also know that many people made their receiving the gift possible. And you’ll also be surprised at the number who will want to say some remarks. Make sure you have a box of Kleenex on hand just in case.

Oops! The Gift!

We can go to so much trouble to get the right gift, wrap it up beautifully, give it masterfully, and then think all is well. So before a day has gone by, call up the gift recipient to make sure the gift was intact with no flaws. There will always be the once-in- a-blue-moon accident that causes a chip in the china, or a malfunction in some working part. If something is wrong, speedily replace it. Have someone responsible for following up with the supplier, and give updates to the recipient on where things are.

Last, But Not Least…Say Thank You!

Here’s a final step to add icing to the cake and make the gift glow wherever it has been placed. As the presenter of the gift, send a thank you letter on company stationary the day after the event, appreciating the opportunity to present their gift to them. Also draw on some of the memories of the presentation, a word of praise passed on from someone, or observation of friends and family during the presentation and write that in your letter. This adds a picture the receiver was unable to see or hear because of their preoccupation with the event.

Getting the right gift truly takes a lot of work. Now make sure once you have the gift in hand that handing it over leaves the same message as the gift.

Question: How do you ensure the presentation of a gift or award goes smoothly?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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