Trade Show Swag: Event Giveaways You Should Avoid

    Trade Show Swag: Event Giveaways You Should Avoid

    Freebies and giveaways are a major highlight for trade show attendees. Everyone loves something fun and interesting to take home. But, no one wants to tote around another cheap leaky ballpoint pen or flimsy rubber refrigerator magnet that will clutter up their home or office.

    To get the most value out of your trade show swag investment, avoid these event giveaways that most often end up in the garbage bin:

    Cheap and Faulty


    A thin tote that tears (we will get back to this one at the end of the article), a busted USB stick, rock-hard chewing gum—nobody wants something that works poorly or breaks instantly. Don’t bet on quantity over quality. It is better to selectively hand out swag to your best prospects, spending a little more per individual unit, rather than having hundreds of low quality trinkets to throw into the crowd like plastic beads at Mardi Gras.

    When you are choosier handing out freebies, you’ll also dissuade bored sample collectors from storming your booth and wasting your time.

    Technological Antiques

    Cell phones are the new multi-tool. People no longer need flashlights or calculators. Avoid tech products that have limited uses or seem out of date.

    Even items that are still used, such as ear buds, will seem cheesy considering that people are beginning to adopt wireless equivalents at an increasing rate. Any tech giveaways must be fresh, branded, and trending.


    If spending more on a tech item as a giveaway is not within your trade show budget range, then consider looking at an alternative. There are plenty of unique, branded, industry relevant items, vendors can use when planning their next event.

    Also, if budgeting is an issue, consider a trade show booth rental instead of a custom trade show display.

    A booth rental may be a more cost effective alternative, especially for the first time trade show attendee who wants to get their brand noticed, but still be able to reap the financial rewards of executing a successful exhibit.

    Cute Without Function

    There is nothing wrong with giving away charming freebies. They can be memorable and quite coveted at trade shows. Something adorable without purpose, however, might be well-received on the day, but it won’t likely leave a lasting impression.

    Popular examples include rubber ducks, funny stress balls, and key chains in cool shapes. These items have limited use, so attendees are more likely to toss them out or lose them. Also, these giveaways tend to be cheap, poorly made and are popular with less imaginative vendors. There is always at least one booth at a trade show handing out stress balls. Better them than you.

    Not Universal

    While it might be unreasonable to choose a trade show giveaway that every single attendee enjoys, aim for as much inclusion as possible.

    Avoid heavily gender-related items such as nail polish or t-shirts in a single extra-large size.

    If choosing something edible, try to pick items that come in a variety of flavors. Not everyone likes mint or cherry! That might mean spending more on your promotional freebies, but it also means more appreciation from booth visitors.


    However, many booths that do give out edible items usually offer something that can’t be consumed as well. For example, the packaging the candy is in may be in a cool jar, that has the company’s logo on it.  Once all the candy is consumed, the attendee won’t be as apt to toss out the jar because it is in a cool shape, and they may want to use it later to store something in it.

    Zero Brand Connection

    Freebies should enhance your message and brand memorability. If your company is green, then your trade show swag needs to reflect that. If you are focused on office solutions, then go with items that are useful while working at a desk.

    Don’t pick items that are too far removed from your purpose.

    Handing out beef jerky packets while pitching solar panels won’t solidify a connection. The solar panel company that hands out sunglasses, however, links the brand with the giveaway.

    Bonus Item: Trade Show Totes (AVOID!!!)

    As you walk into almost every trade show, you will be handed a mesh tote that is sponsored by whomever is putting on the event. However, as you roam around the convention center, looking at other booths, getting business cards, scoping out the competition, you will eventually have a collection of about 100 mesh tote bags with 100 different logos on it. This is the number one, go-to freebie trade show booths hand out. However, they are impractical.

    The idea behind passing out mesh totes is that you will need a bag to carry your business cards, water bottle, and other freebies you will have collected from other vendors. However,  majority of vendors now pass out totes. So many vendors offer these as giveaways that trade show attendees have to use a separate trade show tote to carry all their free totes they have collected.


    By handing out the same thing everyone else is, the vendor may not leave a memorable, or positive impression, with attendees. A great way to avoid this is by not giving out trite items that every other trade show vendor is giving out.

    Being more original, and putting a little more of your budget towards a well branded, and useful giveaway, you are able to increase the potential of leaving a lasting impression on attendees, and gaining more prospective leads.

    For information on event giveaways that aren’t so horrible, check out our blog on Trade Show Freebies that Work. We are constantly updating our blog with your success in mind.

    If you need more information on trade show displays in Las Vegas, contact Structure Exhibits by calling 888.633.4162 or by filling out the form below.

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