One of things we've tried to do from the beginning is to provide each speaker & volunteer with a good quality polo. Due to luck far more than skill, the shirt picked the first time worked out very well, so rather than be creative we're just sticking with what works. For those of you aren't familiar with how most community events work, the speakers and volunteers work for absolutely free, and often incur costs to travel to the event, plus email and preparation time prior to the event. We could give them $20 (which doesn't seem to impressive), or a nice polo (which perhaps again isn't impressive, but at least it's close to one of a kind, let's them show they've done a few things) - and of course a thank you, because anyone donating time to anything deserves a serious thank you.
It's a detail thing, but if you do one of these events it's not worth skimping on the shirt. An extra $2-3 dollars can make a lot of difference, and still be reasonably priced. We use a local shop here in Orlando for most of this work, and we get white Gildan 3700 polos with embroidered logo for less than $20 each. Working with a local vendor saves us shipping (for the Florid events anyway) and we get to save some money because it's the same logo each time, and they add the appropriate text underneath it to customize per event. Saves a $50+ digitizing charge each time. Also, there is no minimum quantity per order, another money saver. If you'd like to look at the shirt...I know, how exciting!....here's a link to it: http://www.gildanfinder.com/step4.cfm?id_product=37000&id_color=DB030.
For SQLSaturday #8 coming up in Orlando on October 25, 2008 we're going to try something new for us and also give each attendee a t-shirt. Won't know the final cost for a couple weeks, but it looks like a decent t-shirt with one color screen print on the back and our embroidered logo on the front will run about $10 each. That's a big budget item, $2000 or better, and we'll have to work hard in the next few weeks to close a minor but real budget shortfall to get it done. The challenge there is we have to commit to ordering the shirts before we know if we've have the budget! I'm reasonably confident we will, but it definitely helps that my fall back plan is the corporate Amex and we'll just call it a marketing expense.