Trade Show Promotional Items: Take It or Trash It


If you’ve ever attended a trade show, chances are your hotel trash can is full of promotional items that you don’t want or need. Promotional merchandise has long been used to create brand recognition and help you remember a company long after you have returned home from the show. While it’s true that most of us enjoy receiving items for free, has a branded pen really been the difference maker in closing that big deal? It seems that promotional items may be losing their effectiveness. So, how can they be used purposefully and effectively?


Simply buying branded items in bulk and handing them out to the masses is a thing of the past. I think we have all heard a booth staffer at the end of the show, asking attendees to take as many of their giveaways as possible so they don’t have to take them home. If this is the case, the giveaways were probably not well thought out and are of very little interest to the attendees. Not all promotional items need to be costly, but it is important to understand the goal and impact of a purposeful giveaway to a qualified lead.

A promotional item should be a personalized item that resonates with your audience, and aligns with your brand. Be strategic, stop and think, what will my prospects appreciate and utilize? Think outside the box. Maybe it’s not even a physical giveaway, but more of a memorable experience.



Personalization can also come to life by thinking about the attendee audience at the shows. Each show has a specific demographic and a well thought out giveaway can be extremely impactful. If it is a family friendly show, perhaps provide items that even the kids will enjoy and hang on to. The attendee will definitely remember you, if your promotional item makes their kid happy. Even consider the venue. If show is taking place in popular vacation destination, it is common for attendees to extend their stay for a little R&R. Help them prepare by providing sun screen, beach towels, hats, etc.


A giveaway item should be considered an investment. A thoughtful, memorable experience can lead to a meaningful relationship and the value could mean millions of dollars down the road. All the more reason to think of an item that won’t simply be tossed in the garbage can. This could also mean that you shouldn’t place your giveaways out in the public; instead, make it more personal. Keep your giveaways in storage areas, and have your booth staff personally hand them to attendees who are engaging and have the potential to become a client. We all have seen the attendees who walk around the show with a large shoulder bag, shoveling in free giveaways from every booth.


Below we have listed some general items that attendees typically decide to take or trash.

USB loaded with information
Screen Cleaners
Items for children
Tasteful Apparel

Low quality items
Tacky Apparel
Items with the show date
Won’t pass airport security
Printed collateral
Over-branded items