Selecting Smart Giveaways

Ever feel like attendees at a trade show are like kids out trick-or-treating in the neighborhood? Do you wonder if the giveaways in your booth are making a difference, or are people just out for the freebies? How much thought have you put into the selection of those items? Unfortunately, many exhibitors don’t appear to have thought very hard and a lot of them are just feeding the “gimme-gimme” mentality.

Here are some frequent mistakes that exhibitors make:

  1. Giving away banned items that can’t be carried on a plane, including knives, baseball bats and square yardsticks. A walk through most any convention center or airport after a show will reveal trash cans full of these items.
  2. Items that aren’t appropriate for the target audience. If you’re prospects are high-end technology users, they won’t be impressed by low-tech gadgets.
  3. Selecting tacky giveaways. Beware of using cheesy trinkets — you may be creating an image you never intended!
  4. Gifts with no tie to your company. Whatever you choose to give, make sure that it either reflects your marketing message or exhibit theme, or else fits with your overall corporate personality.

So what qualifies as an exceptional giveaway? An item that is logical, memorable and practical. Some real-world examples that met these criteria and were used to reinforce a company’s message:

  • USB mini-drive (pre-loaded with your company/product information)
  • Stopwatch (great for an athletic audience)
  • Binoculars (in various price ranges, from general attendees to VIPs)
  • Back massager (great if you have a massage station in the booth to reinforce theme)
  • Nice leather or sandstone coaster (which they can keep on their desk)
So remember when you’re selecting giveaway items, don’t just choose something you think everybody will want because your goal isn’t everybody. Your goal is to have the right audience interested in what you have to offer. So make your giveaway very targeted and useful for the right audience and you will make the kind of impression you intended.
© 2004-2012 Marlys K. Arnold  (from the October 2012 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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About the Author:

With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. She travels the country consulting and training both exhibitors and show managers, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image (2002), host of the Trade Show Insights blog-cast and creator of the ExhibitorEd Success System and the Exhibit Marketers Café. To request an “Extra Shot of Exhibit Success” go to


  1. Anders November 17, 2012
    • Marlys Arnold November 17, 2012
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