7 Creative Giveaways Attendees Will Love

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Graphic: stock.xchng/Ivan Prole

Graphic: stock.xchng/Ivan Prole

Think just because people are clamoring in your booth for your giveaway that you’ve made a big impression? Think again!

Too many times exhibitors hand out trendy or cliché tchotchkes, assuming that it’s all about driving traffic. But just because they want it doesn’t mean it’s going to make a long-term impression or influence them to purchase. It’s not likely that attendees will even keep an item unless they have a practical use for it. And another potential pitfall of randomly picking a popular item is that it doesn’t align with the image of your company or brand … or worse, that it could damage that carefully-built reputation!

So what is the key to a successful giveaway? Begin by considering your ideal target audience and their interests. What would they appreciate, whether needed or simply desired? If your audience is busy executives, they likely value their time and status, so zero in on that. If you’re targeting moms, they appreciate quality items for their kids or for pampering themselves. If you want to score points with construction professionals, give them a tool they can use.

Keeping all this in mind, here are some real-world examples of effective giveaways with the “gotta-keep-this” factor:

  • Hand-drawn caricatures have gone high-tech – digital versions now allow artists to not only present attendees with a copy on the spot, but also e-mail an online version for their social media profiles. At one show, the artist handed out 4×6″ portraits sporting the exhibitor’s logo which fit into a special lanyard, offering lots of exposure all over the show floor. I brought mine home and put it in a frame in my office. (You can see my image in this previous post.)
  • Speaking of photos, a current trend that’s both effective and popular is to provide a photo booth at industry shows for individuals to have professional headshots taken. While this doesn’t exactly offer any corporate branding option, it’s still likely that attendees will remember who took their new photo.
  • Like photos, gifts bearing an attendee’s name are also likely to have staying power. At shows filled with a crowd of executives and other professionals, items such as business card holders, desk name plates, and leather portfolios with their names engraved are very well-received.
  • No matter who your audience is, one gift that has a high perceived value is a topic-appropriate book signed by the author. Attendees appreciate not only the book, but also the chance to meet the expert. I have personal experience with this, having occasionally served as the guest author in a booth. People come up with wide eyes and eagerly slide their book across the table, asking for an autograph. And while attending a recent show, I was nearly mowed down in the aisle by two ladies rushing to get in line for an autographed copy of a popular book by an industry expert.

But effective gifts don’t always have to be physical items – sometimes a service works wonders as well. Here are a couple of examples:

  • No one likes to wait in long lines at the airport for a taxi or shuttle. So why not provide a shared limo or town car for attendees and get them started off on a high note? A bonus to this gift is that you have the attendee’s undivided attention during the ride in from the airport, so you can have a representative ride along to personally welcome them, or present them with another small gift during the ride.
  • And for those busy professionals who value their time and status? Give them the gift of making reservations for them at a popular or trendy restaurant. Note you don’t have to actually pay for the meal (although that’s an added VIP touch), but simply offer to get them into someplace that they might not otherwise have gotten to experience.
  • When the show is over, attendees often end up accumulating more items than what will fit in their luggage, so offer to ship some of the extras for them! Have boxes available in your booth and let attendees bring in their overflow items. Have them fill out a shipping label while you pack the box (adding some of your own promotional materials, of course), then haul the entire collection of boxes to a nearby post office or your preferred shipping company at the close of the show.

No matter what you choose to give attendees who stop by your booth, be sure it’s sending the right kind of message. You want them to be impressed and feel like you truly understand them. Just like holiday gifts from your family, it’s the ones given with the most thought that will be the most appreciated.

What are some great giveaway ideas you’ve seen at shows or personally used? Please post them in the comments below. And there are many more clever and effective tips for giveaways coming your way during the featured Strategy of the Month calls in December in the Exhibit Marketers Café.

© 2013 Marlys K. Arnold  (from the November 2013 TradeShowTips Online. To receive tips like this in your inbox every month, please take a moment to fill out this request.)


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Marlys Arnold

With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community.

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