Free Tips on Freebies for Trade Show Displays

Let’s be honest. We might be grown-ups (allegedly) but going to a big trade show is a lot like being a kid on Christmas morning. You have to have a will of steel to not walk out of the convention center with a giant bag full of swag, even if half of it ends up completely forgotten within a couple days. I, for one, fully admit that I’ll even visit trade show displays I have no real interest in, if they happen to have some fun freebies to give out.tote bags

Of course, promotional items are still serious business. They are a promotional tool, and they aren’t actually there just to make random passers-by happy. The point is to make an impression on your visitors, and to give them something with your name\phone\Twitter\QR Code\whatever on it. The trick, then, is to find promotional items that don’t just catch visitors’ eyes, but their minds as well.

So, here are some ideas and suggestions for good promotional freebies that will help make for successful trade show displays:

Make it useful. Yes, theoretically, a pen is useful. However, most promotional pens are lost or forgotten within a day or two, plus, everyone visiting a trade show is going to have a bag full of them. Try to find items that might be legitimately useful to your visitors. Decent calculators would be a good example, especially for finance-related businesses. Thumbdrives are another good one – everyone always seems to need more. Load them up with promotional materials, but keep them re-writable so that they’re still useful if your visitor needs to use it.

(On the other hand, I once got a pen from a doctor’s booth that was shaped like a syringe, complete with a working depressor and colored water “blood” surrounding the ink reservoir. I used that thing until it ran dry.)

Don’t do food. In a hot and stuffy trade show, a visitor might be briefly grateful for some water or a snack, but they’re not going to hold onto that branded water bottle or empty peanut packet as a souvenir afterwards. It’s going to go straight in the trash. Don’t have disposable freebies that will be consumed moments after the visitor leaves the booth, unless you’re actually in the food industry. The exception to this would be if you’re deliberately turning your booth into a lounge or social hub, which can be a good way to gather contacts.

Have some toys. We all like having things on our desk to fidget with when we’re bored. Some puzzles or other “executive time wasters” can be great for getting branding in front of visitors days after they saw your booth. IBM used to get terrific mileage out of giving away Rubix Cube-like mind games and such.

Clothes are always popular. They’re a little more expensive, but people will flock to trade show displays that are giving away articles of clothing like hats or T-shirts. Even better, if they actually wear them, that means some free advertising. However, try to keep the clothing reasonably stylish and be tasteful about the branding. If the logo is unobtrusive, such as on a sleeve, visitors are more likely to wear them in public rather than just when they’re working on their car.

In short, make your trade show promotional items interesting, eye-catching, and in some way relevant to your visitors. You don’t want them to vanish into the swag bag, never to be seen again. Your visitors should still be using them days or weeks after seeing your trade show display, so you remain on their mind.

For more, learn how to build engagement or how to embrace the holiday spirit in your displays.

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