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Best Trade Show Giveaway Idea Ever?

May 3rd, 2010 · 12 Comments · Trade Show Marketing

I’ve been to many a trade show and I’ve seen and collected many a trade show giveaway (also known as trade show swag, or just swag). The vast majority of trade show giveaways are the same things, year after year. I think we’ve all collected more than enough stress balls, frisbees, letter openers, and even pens. There is nothing wrong with these kinds of generic trade show giveaways, as long as you have your company name and contact information printed on them. I even wrote about the benefits of handing out trade show giveaway pens. But let’s face it, stress balls and frisbees aren’t very unique or memorable. So what is the best trade show giveaway idea ever?

In my humble opinion, for a trade show giveaway to qualify as the “best trade show giveaway idea ever”, it has to be unique, and “best” probably varies from person to person (just like the question “what is the best flavor of ice cream” or “which of the Rocky movies was the best one”).

One of the best trade show giveaway items I ever got was at WESTEC, a huge machinery show in LA that I’ve gone to many a time (and not because of the Makita Tools calendar girls and other booth babes there… not that there’s anything wrong with them though). WestTec is the place to see huge mills, lathes, and machining centers. The HAAS trade show booth had a brand-spankin-new, super-expensive, state-of-the-art multi-axis, computer-controlled, does-everything-including-making-a-kitchen-sink HAAS machining center on demonstration. They were feeding in a 4 inch diameter bar of steel on one end, and 8 inch long parts that had been lathed, machined, and engraved were being spit out the other end. I had no ideas what one could do with these part (it was simply to demonstrate all the machining things that could be done with this machine), but the parts looked cool so I asked it I could have one – and they gave me one. I quickly realized that the part weighed several pounds, but nonetheless lugged it around the show, and in the end, the part ended up being a one-of-a-kind door jamb in my office for many years (until it disappeared in a move).

The door jamb was a great conversation starter – countless people asked me what it was or what it was for, and I’d tell them the story behind it and how it was made by this super-amazing HAAS machining center. No, I never did purchase that HAAS machine – because I had no need for it and wasn’t a trade show prospect. But I spread the word. I’m not sure if it was really the best trade show giveway idea ever, but it certainly was unique. I personally think that the best trade show giveaway items are those that are unique, and that say something about your company.

What do you think? What’s the most amazing, think-outside-of-the-box, best trade show giveaway idea that you have ever seen, gotten, or handed out at a trade show? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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The Trade Show Guru’s Enigmatic Insight of the Day

Are you stuck in a trade show conundrum, and does everything seem trade show greek to you? If you are searching for trade show enlightenment, or simply the best trade show giveaway idea ever, may you find it and your trade show mojo, and may you conquer your trade show enigma and have your best trade show ever! As for the proceeding insight, if it seems like trade show greek and makes as much sense as a trade show geek singing in the shower, then stay tuned for a future post that will hopefully explain at least a little.


12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Anders - Trade Show Infotainer // May 3, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    In my opinion the give away should do more than just carry a logo on it. It should communicate a message and be original all at the same time. This is a tall order.
    When I work my clients’ booths I use special promo-links that have a teaching element. The prospect cannot use them until they are taught by one of the salespeople. This creates an opportunity for the rep to get rapport and talk with the prospect. This teaching actually positions them as a mentor or advisor. If you follow the teachings of Jay Abraham, then you know how much he endorses consultative selling.
    If you hand out a pen. then everyone knows exactly what to do with it and you’re not needed. Make it original and you’ll create opportunities to talk.

  • 2 The Trade Show Guru // May 4, 2010 at 10:47 am

    hey Anders,
    Great comment! I couldn’t agree more.
    “Make it original and you’ll create opportunities to talk.” Exactly! ~ Steve

  • 3 Will // May 8, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    I have not collected much in the way of trade show swag. Now geocaching swag is another story. I am King there, both in collecting and distributing.

  • 4 The Trade Show Guru // May 10, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Will, King of GeoCaching Swag!
    hey Will,
    I’ve see you mention geocaching on your blog and have meant to try it. As I understand it though, it is GPS based so you need a GPS to do it?
    I did a “regular” cache hunt with my kids last year and it was a ton of fun, so if I get a GPS I’d like to try geocaching. ~ Steve

  • 5 Will // May 12, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Steve – you can use a GPSr or you can download the Trimble geocaching application if you have a smart phone or a Blackberry. I use both, but then we are serious about the game!

  • 6 The Trade Show Guru // May 13, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Hi Will,
    The key phrase is “if you have a smart phone”… I don’t. 🙂
    I guess I am a bit of a luddite… I just use my cell phone for talking. At least I’m learning about the blogging thing and know what the world wide web is. 😀
    When I do finally get a “smart phone” or just a handheld GPS, I’ll try this geocaching thing!
    ~ Steve

  • 7 Will // May 25, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    You know isn’t it sort of ironic that with all the things we do with our cell phones these days, it is talking that might be the most dangerous for our health? Or our brains.

  • 8 The Trade Show Guru // May 26, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    hey Will,
    I’m not sure if you’re talking about the unknown potential of a cell phone to cause cancer when held next to the head (I don’t think I personally talk enough to worry about that), or about the idiots who yak on their cell phones when they are driving…
    I do think many “cell phone drivers” are definately a threat to our health! They certainly raise my blood pressure when I get stuck behind them! 🙂
    ~ Steve

  • 9 RT Cunningham // Jun 9, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Mmmm… Swag…. wait, you can’t eat that?

  • 10 Jared // Feb 3, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Whatever swag you choose to give away make sure you have the best Las Vegas trade show models distributing it. Everyone remembers the most beautiful trade show models at each convention! Even simple swag like pens, when distributed Model Machine’s “World’s Best Trade Show Models” will be remembered for years to come.

  • 11 Laurie Stevens // Sep 25, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Hey Jared,
    While I’m a grown up and realize that people sell what they consider to be “pretty bodies” in the form of models, I, as a business person and marketing professional, consider models to be a cheap gimmick and consider those people who respond to such gimmicks as easily gullible. Do you think strippers really like you, too, when they sit at your table and talk to you? Come on, smarten up and man up. Don’t be impressed with cheap (or even expensive) gimmicks like oiled bodies. If you’re judging trade shows give aways, follow the brains and try to suggest something that is unique. I’m trying to find a way to both have a give away that enlightens booth visitors (in my case, in mortgage) and makes them want to give us their business card for opt-in marketing. I’d like to hear from those who have concrete suggestions for this goal. I can get my porn online if I want it.

  • 12 Paula // Nov 21, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    We found the slot machine software to be very effective at our trade shows. It manages our booth prize giveaways and draws quite the crowd. Our last show in Orlando went over nicely with the software allowing every booth visitor to play, while being exposed to our corporate logos and prize icons spinning on the slot machine reels… Was terrific. -TW

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