Choosing the right trade show giveaway items for your upcoming events

Choosing 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 amount of useful and memorable items are few and far between. 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 remind you about the exhibitor company within that booth space? 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 that actually write for more than a few minutes, people tend to really have a use for them. So if this is an idea, don’t get cheap. Everyone hates a pent 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 further in the post.

Large-capacity USB drives are great. Most USB drives are so small they can barely hold more than a few images. That is 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 giveaways, they are also going to 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 personally 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 and useful and practical.

How to handle the 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 with free items is actually a good thing. Your focus should be on truly interested parties. Common approaches are sitting through presentations and similar engagements.

Bubble containers full of cheap plastic items that say “free” just clogs show floors and (as we all know) encourages the scoop hand that grabs more than a single item. It is just the reality of the free mentality and offers a zero value sum 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 is 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 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 really would be interested in engaging 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 what my opinion is. If you follow the advice above you are going to have a better ROI overall for your show. Sometimes it just takes one conversion to pay for the entirety of your show. One account landed, one new order or one contract can turn an expense to investment really quick.


It is unfortunate to see giveaway items in trashcans 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 or take some kind reminder of your business because 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 who works closely with trade show and event companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and Denver Colorado.

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