It’s probably safe to say you’ve been to at least one business trade show. And you likely hauled out some kind of branded tote bag loaded with a ludicrous number of pens, notepads, pamphlets and gadgets with business slogans slapped on every one.

And when all was said and done, half of it went into the trash can. Or into your trunk. Or wound up in a desk drawer somewhere, completely forgotten.

Now, you’re up to host a trade show booth and need to pick a giveaway. There’s no law stating you must feature giveaways at your trade show booth, but they undoubtedly have their charming, creative usefulness. And let’s be real. People love ‘em. (HealthLink’s jar opener has been a highly-used kitchen utensil in my home for the last 8 years.)

So the $64,000 question seems to be: how do you begin to choose a giveaway that won’t end up unused and forgotten under someone’s car seat for 3 years before finally being pitched?

Things to Consider When Picking a Trade Show Giveaway:

Selecting the perfect trade show giveaway for your booth ultimately depends on 3 things:

  1. Your Goal
  2. Your Budget
  3. Number of People Attending

Once you’ve determined your budget and have a general idea of how many giveaways you’ll need, knowing which item to choose comes down to what you’d like to achieve by featuring them at your booth.

What do you want to accomplish with your trade show giveaways?

You may find you can give more than one answer to this, which is okay. More than okay. Pretty normal in fact. Here we took a look at five common goals businesses use when selecting a giveaway to feature at their trade show booths.

1. Get your brand noticed while at the show.

For this goal, either you’re putting on a wicked scheduled demonstration at your booth later that involves pyrotechnics to be noticed, or you’re choosing a trade show giveaway that is sure to end up staying in everyone’s hands or slung over their shoulders throughout the show.

Bottled waters are great in general, especially for those hot, miserable outdoor events. And how about hand-held paper fans? You know those are a big deal. You better believe I’m takin’ two. And I’m going to gleefully shout your company name at anyone asking where to find them.

But understandably, not every booth can offer fans and waters and expect a lot of branding buzz, so what else is there? Well, try walking yourself through all of the items you’ve seen, heard about or received at past trade shows, items you thought to yourself were truly neat and useful to have for the event.

High-quality tote or pull-string bags for storage of all “the stuffs” are always awesome. Consider handheld gadgets that are fun yet easy to engage with while participating in other booth activities, like poppers or fidget spinners. You get the idea.

Giveaway Suggestions:

  • Branded Waters
  • Lanyards
  • Totes & Bags
  • Handheld Gadgets
  • Customized Apparel (see table)
  • Disposable Handheld Fans

2. I want to draw people to my booth.

Choosing more quirky or remarkable items creates more potential for word-of-mouth advertising to get people to come to your booth to check you out. Keep in mind though, people have to want what you’ve got. Like tugging-on-their-friend’s-sleeve-to-go-get-one-right-now want it.

If you’re not so concerned with incorporating your brand into your giveaway, you have flexibility in choosing smaller, non-logoed items like snacks or other inexpensive consumable giveaways like mints.

At a recent trade show, our MayeCreate Design booth gave away some super funky slap bracelets. No, they didn’t have the MayeCreate loog or any business info on them. And no, they don’t appear at first to have much to do with web design or online marketing. We chose them because they were retro in relation to our signage, which cleverly states: “1992 Called. They Want Their Website Back.”

Great conversation starter, isn’t it? And they became a trade show hit.

Goal accomplished.

Giveaway Suggestions:

  • Food & Drink (see table)
  • Trinkets & Gadgets (see table)
  • Tumblers & Mugs*
  • Totes & Bags*
  • Plastic Bag Holders with Logo
  • Adult Coloring Books
  • Game Prizes
  • Customized Apparel (see table)
  • Valuable Products/Services (see table)

*Choose something higher in quality for this goal.

3. I want to increase the amount of time people spend at my booth.

If you want more time with the your booth visitors, coupling a more desirable, useful or valuable giveaway with a survey or game is a great way to go. Plus, this method gives you a chance to offer/gain valuable information to/from your visitors.

Say you sell commercial internet. Ask passers-by to play a question/answer game featuring weird and interesting facts about commercial internet. They learn, they win a cool prize, and they’ll remember you because of the highly-involved level interaction they experienced at your booth.

Consider the quality of the prize here, though. The giveaway has to sparkle with a must-have factor. People don’t want to sit at your booth and play a game or complete a survey for a pen when they’ve already got 25, unless it’s a battery-powered fan pen that writes in 5 colors. You’re pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down – go cool or go home.

Giveaway Suggestions:

  • Tumblers & Mugs*
  • Totes & Bags*
  • Plastic Bag Holder with Logo

*Choose something higher in quality for this goal.

4. I want to stay within budget.

Budget limitations are real, yes, but don’t let that keep you from considering those “outside the box” ideas for your giveaways. While you can always get away with offering Koozies, pens & notepads or totes with your logo on them, there are some really creative items out there that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Logoed decorative socks are fairly inexpensive (who doesn’t love an awesome pair of socks?) Or check out these custom-shaped stress balls from GarrettSpecialties.com.

With a little digging, you’d be surprised what you can find within your price point.

Giveaway Suggestions:

  • Food & Drink (see table)
  • Office Supplies (see table)
  • Keychain Gadgets
  • Koozies
  • Tumblers & Mugs*
  • Totes & Bags*
  • Piggy Banks
  • Adhesive Card Holders for Cell Phones
  • Printed Materials (see table)

*There are inexpensive options for these, just keep quality in mind and consider the likelihood of being thrown away if you go with one of these.

5. I want a giveaway with a low likelihood of tossed in the trash.

This one’s easy. Don’t pick something that totally sucks. Or something that’s completely overdone. Or useless.

Alright, maybe it’s not that easy. Just put yourself in the trade show goer’s shoes and ask yourself what you see too often. Look back on the giveaways you’ve thrown out over the years. Think about what you’ve kept and actually used.

Three words: adult coloring books. Alright, that may be more for the ladies…

More common items like good pens, notepads and jump drives are always great too. Who doesn’t love free office supplies? But again, consider pen and notepad quality if you don’t want them pitched into the trash bin on the way out.

Giveaway Suggestions:

  • Airplane-Sized Liquor Bottles
  • Office Supplies (see table)
  • Trinkets & Gadgets (see table)

*Choose something higher in quality for this goal.

Mapping it All Out

We took these goals and combined them with the suggested trade show giveaway ideas for each to further illustrate that many giveaways can fulfill multiple goals:

*We’re assuming these higher quality items, so we’re not accounting for unmarked dollar store tumblers. cardboard piggy banks or small canvas bags that may only fit a couple of magazines in it. Those will surely get tossed.

Making the Call

All it takes is a little imagination and research to accomplish the goal you have in mind when selecting your giveaway item. Each goal we’ve addressed presents some pretty effective options, and with most suggestions you have wiggle room to take it to a whole other level (like a wicked awesome sumo wrestler stress “ball”…. What?! Yeah.). Feel free to use examples we provided in the table above to stretch your creativity even farther!

Our advice is to just let yourself have a little fun with it and try to be smart. And hey, if it’s an epic failure, you can take it as a lesson learned. Plus, there’s always the next trade show, right?

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