So much planning goes into an incentive trip and the final awards banquet that it’s easy to leave the actual awards to chance. Take the time to carefully choose the right product—one that the recipient will appreciate receiving and cherish as much as the memories of the trip. Following are several tips from a specialist, Mike Szczesny, vice president of EDCO Awards & Specialties:

Act as if you’re shopping for a diamond.
Clarity, color, finish, and weight are all important. “The difference between a glass award and crystal award is the clarity of the material,” Szczesny says. Glass awards will typically fall into a lower price range as a result. The weight of the award is important as well. “You want a good quality glass or crystal, one-half to three-quarters of an inch thick so it will have good weight.” This is a case where price can be an  indicator of quality: A $35 corporate award, while suitable for some situations, will not be of the quality of a $135 award.

Go for the sizzle.
There will always be the traditional styles, but consider the newer selections that combine colors and materials. For example, there are new optic crystal awards that combine optical glass, crystal, and black glass or colored glass. It also offers the traditional glass designs, but in vibrant colors like blue and red.

Understand engraving.
The impact of a nice award can fall flat if it’s not engraved in a way that’s most suitable for the material. “Many local trophy shops will laser-engrave crystal, which is inferior to the more state-of-the-art sandblasting process,” Szczesny says. “Sand engraving or carving uses aluminum oxide as the blasting medium, which is a very fine material that does a very good job on detailed artwork and delivers a precise, deep etch. Laser engraving doesn’t cut deep, so it doesn’t look as crisp and can really compromise the intricate details of a company logo.”

Allow enough time.
It’s important to work with a trophy or awards vendor whose customer service department has in-depth knowledge of its product line. “Time is of the essence,” Szczesny says. “Most of our customers will order their awards just three to five days before they need them, and we sometimes are asked about 24-hour turnaround. As a result, you want to make sure the person you’re talking to understands how much time each step takes in order to meet your deadline.”

Skip the local trophy shops. These stores are perfect for sports trophies but lack expertise in the area of corporate awards, Szczesny says. “Knowing the time constraints, it’s important to work with an awards vendor that has the product in stock, offers quick service and turnaround, and can work with you closely on the design.”

Don’t go the Internet route.
The Internet has made it easy for businesses to purchase most of their office and production supplies without ever having to talk to another person. But, when it comes to your corporate awards program, the outcome is too important to rely on a faceless Internet site promising a good deal. “Economy sites don’t offer the quality craftsmanship, selection, or customer service of a traditional manufacturer,” Szczesny says.