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Be a Gift-Giving Guru

by Deborah Rinner, Vice President, Tero International

The French have a phrase that refers to gifting, "Il faut bien presenter les choses" which translates to "things should be well presented." A gift is a statement and the more thought we put into selection and presentation, the more our gift will communicate. What are some considerations to reflect on when giving a gift so that we present well?

The first consideration is the person you are gifting. What might they appreciate? Review what you know about this person and select the gift with them in mind. If needed consult someone close to them if unsure of their interest. The most memorable gifts are those that tell us someone understands who we are and what we are about. So it may be a gift certificate to a new restaurant for those who love to dine out, a piece of jade brought home from your business travels for the person who collects stones, or a carefully selected bottle of wine the recipient favors.

It is also important when selecting to consider budget. Not only your own, but the appropriate dollar amount for the occasion .If the gift is being given to a business colleague, make sure you are aware of the gifting policy of the organization they work for. The nature of the relationship, status of the recipient (especially if the gift is given cross culturally), the purpose, and the occasion all dictate appropriateness with regard to how much to spend.

Equally vital is to take into account the perceived value of the gift. An item that is common will not have the perceived value of something specific to a region, a person or that is harder to find. A British expression that illustrates this is "Avoid carrying coals to Newcastle." People in Newcastle, a coal mining town would not appreciate coal as a gift. Finding something other than what is readily available to the recipient carries more value.

How you wrap it up does make a difference! The presentation of the gift is as significant as the gift itself. Taking time to wrap attractively and enclose a thoughtfully written note will set your gift apart. Often this is the last consideration. A haphazardly wrapped gift sends the message that the giver did not spend time or thought in the gifting process. The box the gift is enclosed in, the wrap, the bow and the card all communicate the seriousness of your intent to the recipient.

With the amount of international business being conducted, precaution must be taken when gifting across cultures. Gift giving customs vary greatly from country to country. What is considered appropriate in Germany may be totally inappropriate in China. How do you know you are giving a gift that will be respected, rather than making a cultural faux pas?

Select with care. Countries vary with regard to the importance of gifting. In countries where gift giving is of high importance, it is necessary to take extra care in selection, understanding taboos, and in finding out how best and when to present your gift. Countries that place high to medium importance on gifting are Japan (highest in gifting rituals), Latin American countries, The Middle East and the Pacific Rim. Researching the aspects of gifting particular to the country is imperative. Lower importance on gifting is characteristic of Australia, Canada, Europe and U.S. Because of this, many U.S. businesses fail to place the significance on gifting required when doing business internationally.

Here or abroad, utilize a gift record or list if you will have the opportunity to gift the same person or organization more than once. Record what you gave so as not to repeat, and any new information you receive about the person or clients likes or dislike to help you select for them in the future.

The process of gifting is a circular one. In accepting a gift, even if it is an expression of thanks to us, we realize that reciprocity is now required. Cross culturally, that may mean a return gift of similar value. Here in the U.S. it may mean simply a thank you card expressing thanks for the thoughtfulness of the giver. Gifts communicate respect, friendship, and appreciation. In giving a gift we signify the value of the relationship and goodwill to the receiver. If done well, it will result in value and goodwill long remembered.

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