Choose the right trade show giveaway items for your upcoming events

Choose the right trade show giveaway items for your upcoming events Banner

The amount of items that are given away at just about all events is insane. The number of useful and memorable trade show giveaway items can be very low. How many plastic bags, pencils, dancing robots, rubber wrist bands, and hammers that “boing” can one possibly use in life? Another reasonable question to ask is what about those items even reminds you of the exhibitor company that handed them out? This is a prime example of why the substance of what you give away really matters when potential clients approach your booth and engage with your staff.

Think outside of the ordinary

To be fair, pens are really useful and when they are not the 1/4 filled super slim ink tube kind (the kind that actually writes for more than a few minutes), people tend to really have a use for them. So if this is an idea, don’t go cheap. Everyone hates a pen that doesn’t write and associating yourself with a failing item that will eventually cause a friction point. Take it a step further and offer quality over quantity and do not put them in a grab jar. We will talk more about this later in the post.

Large-capacity USB drives are great. Most USB drives are so small they can barely hold more than a few images. It’s irritating and everyone reading this knows exactly how searching for a USB drive that can hold video presentations or larger files is more difficult than it should be. Branded with something clever like “large enough to handle your work” can remind potential clients that your not cheap and can handle their work.

Water holders, backpacks, and fanny packs are also really useful when you are wandering the show floor. Though these are premium trade show giveaway items, they will also be used outside of the show. If the packs are quality built, they are a moving billboard for your brand that can be seen by a lot of people over time. Rain jackets and umbrellas are also incredibly useful seasonally and can remind people of your company.

Out of all of the things I have collected over the years, the only ones I still have are coffee mugs. I look at that company branding at least once a week and I have found the larger the mug, the more I use it. We are talking about the basic ceramic mug that is a staple in most homes. Simple, useful and practical.

How to handle trade show giveaway items

This is a big question that has a few answers depending on your approach to engaging potential prospects. Weeding out the non-qualified crowd that wants to cram their pockets full of free stuff is a good thing. Your focus should be on truly interested parties. A common approach is to only give these items out to individuals who sitthrough your sales presentations or similar engagement activities.

Bubble containers full of cheap plastic trade show giveaway items that say “free” just clog show floors and (as we all know) encourage the scooping hand that grabs more than a single item. It is just the reality of the free mentality and offers a zero sum value for your marketing.

I am a huge fan of participation and questions with the booth staff. An awesome and memorable gift is one that is presented to the attendees that are actively asking questions and handed a premium giveaway by the booth staff when that conversation happens. “Thank you so much for seeing us and taking the time to listen to how we can help you. Here’s a token of our appreciation.” Then you are handed a nice backpack for example that is full of informational brochures, business cards and a giant thank you note. I guarantee they will remember your company for years.

Premium gifts for qualified participants

Another great way to give those premium trade show giveaway items away lies within your pre-show marketing and meeting schedule. If you facilitate in-booth meetings at set times you can make sure those individuals are leaving with not just a conversation, but a gift for taking the time to sit down face-to-face.

These are just a handful of examples but you really get the idea of making sure your items are handed to parties that would actually be interested in engaging with your business professionally for consultation or work.

How Much to Spend

This is one of the more overlooked items when planning an exhibit. Go big or go home is my opinion. If you follow the advice above you are going to have a better ROI overall for your show. Sometimes it only takes one conversion to pay for the entirety of your show. One account landed. One new order or one contract can turn an expense into an investment. Quick.


It is unfortunate to see giveaway items in trash cans at the end of a conference, but it happens all the time. Why? Because those things that most companies give out just are not that interesting or useful.

Instead of buying cheap items that will be thrown away, spend some money on quality items that people will actually use and that will remind them of your business. Attending a trade show is about far more than just selling – it’s about making a really good lasting impression.

Matt Smith has been a professional User Experience and Graphic Designer for over 28 years and works closely with trade shows and event companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and Denver, Colorado.

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