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Top Trade Show Giveaways 2014 (Updated)

by Johnny Bravo · 14 comments

As a a sales professional one of my responsibilities is to attend local trade show events and also hand out our unique trade show giveaways. This is an activity that I believe is essential to a sales career and one that can greatly influence success in prospecting.




When this post was first written I had recently had the opportunity to represent my company at the BOMA Expo with a group of my colleagues.

It was an amazing opportunity to meet with current clients who I never would have spoken to otherwise (because they aren’t in my territory) and prospects who are interested in our products but didn’t know much about us. 

Trade shows and other networking events are a great opportunity to get your name out there and meet new people. But first you have to consider how you will attract people to your booth.

A well known way is to have trade show giveaways. You know what I’m taking about, promotional pens, flashlights, car chargers, etc., etc., etc. These are usually handed out freely as promotional giveaways but can also be coupled with various trade show games (e.g. spin the wheel).

The problem with giveaways is that there are so many different items available that it can be hard to choose which is best for your company, your brand, and your audience.

Below I’ve detailed my three criteria for choosing a promotional item, some recent giveaways I handed out at the BOMA conference along with some other tchotchkes (I had to look up the spelling for that) I’ve come across in my experience.

What Makes A Good Trade Show Giveaway

Although there are a lot of options available, not all are created equal. To make the selection process easier I’ve broken it down into the 3 criteria a trade show giveaway should have before you decide to use it at your next event. 

First, it needs to be cost effective. If you were giving away free iPads I’m sure you’d be the most popular booth at the show, but that option is out of reach for most companies. One caveat to this criteria, I always recommend quality over quantity.  It’s better to hand out less items to select and targeted prospects than it is to hand out cheap items to everyone. Be sure to set a budget and stick to it.

Second, it must be intriguing. This can mean that it’s either unique like some of the items I talk about below or incredibly useful. This is to avoid the chance that it will be thrown away as soon as the attendee is back in their hotel room or in the office. Promotional tablet stylus, much more unique.

Third, it must be branded. The easiest way to cross this off this list is to have your logo or tag line on the item. Also, make sure all of your branded material, giveaways and collateral, are consistently branded. Use the same logo, the same fonts, the same typeface, and the same colors across all your material.

Here’s a great idea I came across from an article written by Susan Friedmann at The Tradeshow Coach.

Use trade show giveaways to help pre-qualify your prospects. The example she uses is playing cards. What you do is send the face cards to your various targeted attendees. For example you send Kings to your key customers, Queens to vendors and suppliers, Jacks to hot prospects, and Aces to your whales. Send a note to bring the cards to the booth in exchange for a special gift. When handed in the booth staff will already know what kind of attendee they are and what talk track to use with them. It makes their time much more productive in front of visitors. 




Recent Trade Show Giveaways

We had a good variety of items available which was great because:

  1. It provided options for booth visitors to choose from.
  2. It made it more likely we had something that no other exhibitor had.
  3. We were less likely to run out of any one item.

Breath Mints - I’m still making up my mind as to whether these were a good idea. On one hand they were little boxes that provided us with a lot of real estate for promotion, great for networking events since a lot of face to face talking is done, were easy to carry and pass out, and were relatively cheap to produce (I think).

On the other hand they had a limited shelf life as a promotional product. Once you were out of mints the box and branding potential was gone and in the trash.

Recommendation: Give out no less than two to each person. Tell them one for their pocket and one for their car. This will give your brand a little more shelf life with them. 

Best Trade Show Giveaways: MRI Car USB Charger 2014Car USB Charger – This was the first time I’ve had USB car chargers available to hand out. Great promotional item! Something most everyone can use. Most people have iPhones or electronics that can be charged through a USB charger and could use it while away from the home or office.

My only problem with our car chargers, the logo is on the side and once you plug it in you no longer see our logo.

Recommendation: These will go fast so be sure to control their distribution and use them with targeted prospects. They aren’t a cheap trade show giveaways. 

Best Trade Show Giveaways: MRI Chapstick 2014Lip Balm - This was an item that I had actually never seen as a trade show giveaway which got me really excited. Way to stand out MRI! It was a hot couple of days in San Diego so these were going fast. Also many people told us we were the only exhibitor to offer them.

Recommendation: Unique idea for sure. Stay away from strong flavors though since some people don’t like the taste or smell. We had mint which is a pretty standard “flavor”. 

Best Trade Show Giveaways: MRI Pens 2014Pens - This is a probably the most common trade show giveaways out there. You can find these being passed out at conferences and networking events around the country.

Recommendation: Go quality over quantity when it comes to branded pens. When I get a pen at an event, if it feels, looks, or writes like a cheap pen it is in the trash after I’ve left the trade show. Professionals in all industries have no shortage of pens, give them a good reason to keep yours. 

Reusable Water Bottle – These were cool reusable containers that we had to hand out. These got the most attention but because of their size were probably the least taken item. They reminded me of an adult Capri Sun with a mountain climbers safety hook attached. 

Recommendation: As far as trade show booth ideas this was great and one of the most unique promotional products I’ve seen but most people had to ask “what are those”. Perhaps have one filled with water or have your trade show team each have one and use it during the show to reduce confusion. 

Need help deciding on your trade show giveaways? Tweet this post

Favorite Trade Show Giveaways

Best Trade Show Giveaways 2014Here are a few of my favorite 2014 trade show giveaways I’m hoping to come across. I started seeing them a lot in 2013 so expect even more expose this year. Over all I thought they were all really unique, useful, and I’ve kept and use them to this day.

Hand Sanitizer - I am always happy to find a company that is passing these little goodies out as a giveaway. Like any networking event you shake hands and talk face to face with a lot of people. Passing these out help keep the germs away. I’m not a germaphobe but I hate getting sick. This can happen a lot if you are traveling to non-local trade shows. 

Recommendation: Brand these as best you can and have plenty of them available. They’ll go fast because everyone knows what they are, uses them, and wants them. even better, make those branded “cases” for the little bottles. Those will have a much longer shelf life then the sanitizer itself. 

Touch Screen Cleaning Cloth – Got this at the 2013 BOMA Expo. Super useful item that I will keep for a very long time. To be honest I don’t remember who I got it from or who made it. It’s green and the tag says “16×16 microfiber cloth…Made in China“. They missed a great branding opportunity. BIG MISTAKE!

Recommendation: Brand it with your logo, tag line, colors (if colors are part of your brand), etc. 

Tablet Stylus Pen – I talked about this giveaway in a previous post about sales gifts. This was such a high quality item that I still use it today and have yet to find an alternative that works better.

Recommendation: Like pens, focus on the highest quality product you can find. Tablets are the fastest growing personal computing device. If you provide a valuable tool to better use them, you’ve won a big battle for attention. 

Reusable Bag or Tote – I kid you not; of all the tradeshows I’ve been to there are usually only one or two exhibitors who give away bags or totes. Maybe there’s a trade show limit that I don’t know about. Either way these are one of my favorite tchotchkes to get. I think more companies should give them out for three great reasons.

  1. It gives you a way to carry all the other goodies you pick up through the day.
  2. It is the largest promotional item I’ve seen given out in mass quantities with a lot of available square footage for advertising.
  3. For hippies (California folks like myself) I can use these totes for grocery shopping, carrying food to the beach, as an overnight bag, to hold wet clothes after the beach, etc.  

Recommendation: This is my top choice for a trade show giveaway in 2014. One caveat, be careful that you don’t put too much info on the bags. Something simple like your logo and tag line on both sides will work. Or if you want to be a bit more creative perhaps a picture, caricature, or cartoon on one side instead. The point is you have a lot of marketing real estate but don’t go crazy. Make it simple but recognizable. 

Disposable Water Bottles – I love walking around an expo and stopping by the booths that had branded water bottles as giveaways. This seems like a pretty easy and inexpensive giveaway to have. All you really need to brand is the sticker. However you have to be mindful that water bottles relate back to my issue with the breath mints. It is a food item and has a limited shelf life. As soon as the water is gone, the bottle goes in the trash or recycling.

Recommendation: Give out a pair, one for now and one for later. Stay top of mind for as long as you can. I don’t know if this is even possible, or how much is costs, but what if you put a special offer code under the bottle cap or on the backside of the sticker? Maybe simply a specific landing page URL to keep the conversation going. 

Wine or Beer – This was a new one to me. There was an exhibitor with wine as their giveaway. Creative I’ll give them that but this can be good and bad.

Good: A lot of business professionals like wine, myself included. It’s unique. Appeals to many people. And can create a business social gathering area centered around your booth.




Bad: Not everyone handles their liqueur well. If they get out of control it’s your fault. If they get rowdy and make a scene, it won’t really help your brand. And when you cut them off, they may not be happy.

Recommendations: Trade a business card for 1-2 drink tickets. Also mark those that take advantage of the free booze. A small Sharpie dot on the middle part of their thumb should be identifiable yet not noticeable  This will help you keep track of who’s already had a couple of drinks and may not be the best to serve more to. Do not let trade show giveaways get you in trouble. 

My favorite wine: Merlot if you’re wondering.

Other Trade Show Giveaway Ideas

These are the other trade show giveaways I’ve come across that didn’t present much value and were quickly filed away in the round folder .

Stress Balls – As long as they aren’t toxic the best use for these is as a dog chew toy. I don’t know about you but I’ve never used a stress ball for more than a dozen squeezes in any month period. They just take up desk space in my opinion. Please comment below if you beg to differ.

Recommendation: Stay away from stress balls. Think of alternatives such as branded baseballs, basketballs, footballs, frisbees, etc. something that is less….lame. 

Flashlights - Small little flashlights that can go on your key-chain are a great idea. Based on their size; their price tends to be deceivingly high. But it is small, branded, and usable.

Recommendation: Don’t use the small round flashlights; instead get the flat ones. They are super bright, pretty sturdy, cost less, and are more likely to be put on a key-chain. 

What To Do Once You’ve Handed Out Your Trade Show Giveaways

I hope you don’t think the relationship is over once they’ve grabbed something off your booth. This is were the real selling starts especially with a proper prospecting method in place.

If you’re exhibiting at a trade-show and someone comes up eyeing the giveaways at your booth you’re in luck. You have a few options.

You can collect their information. Whether that’s by collecting business cards (Have you read Are Business Cards Friend Or Foe?) or using a scanner to collect badge information, get what you can. If nothing else get the bare minimum: name, company, phone number, email address…in that order.

You can start a conversation with them to find to out what brought them to your booth.

  • Are they a customer?
  • Are they interested in your product or just the giveaway?
  • Have they heard about your produce before?
  • Have they used it before?
  • Do they know anyone who uses it?

There are a plethora of questions you can ask a visitor when they stop by your booth.

You can take a picture with the visitor and your giveaway in front of your booth and share it among your social media profiles. Ask them to do the same on their social networks.

You can ask for an introduction. Industry experts often know other people who regular attend the same trade shows. They are good friends with them. They walk around events with them. Ask for the introduction.

I hope this has given you some good great ideas for trade show giveaways the next time you have an exhibit. Let me know in the comments below any other ideas you have or giveaways you’ve seen at shows. I hope to see you around.

To Your Success,

~ Johnny Bravo

Trade Show Giveaways image courtesy of sumetho & graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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