Not another stress-ball, please.

Giving away promotional items is generally essential at any conference, I mean, that’s what the market hall is for right? There are some attendees who are just lining up to fill their promo bags with pens, stress-balls, bouncy things, and although I haven’t been to a conference for a while I’m sure the fidget spinner would be doing the rounds.

The point of having a booth at a conference is to get in front of your audience, show off your products, collect leads and build connections. So what happens to those hundreds of pens you tried to entice your audience with? Usually they end up in a random handbag, float around from desk to desk or are simply left in the hotel room they were staying in for the conference.

Choosing the right promo gear that will get your voice heard, that’s not tacky, that’s on brand, is tough. But if you do it right you will have your audience flocking to your space to get a taste of what you’re donating and while they’re there you get a chance to build a relationship.

So what’s the magic recipe? Here’s a few questions to consider, they might sound obvious but you’d be surprised how quickly these considerations can go out the window when you’re too busy organising everything else for the stand.

Who is your audience?

Men, Women, Ages, Interests.

For example if your audience is 50 year old corporate men you should have different promotional enticers to 30 year old designer women. Makes sense.

How can you segway what you do with your promotional items and giveaways?

Think of a campaign that can link the promotional items to what you do. I’m surprised how many conferences I’ve been to that give away pens, a bottle of wine or travel voucher and there’s no link back to what the business does. Reinforce what you do and your message with the prize.

A great example of this is Splunk, a data analytics firm. Their promo t-shirts are so good people run to their trade show stands just to get their hands on them.

They’ve got sayings on the t-shirts like, “You’re doing IT wrong” and “Take the sh out of IT” and a bunch of other sayings which some are hard to understand if you’re not their target audience. 🙂

They are a big company, yes, but their idea is basic, affordable and it works.


Promotional products like this can create traffic towards your booth in a space filled with all your major competitors. They stand out, create a vibe, get everyone talking about you.

There are literally lovers of conference swag who will be looking forward to swooning over you and scouring the room for the best promo items. If you’re just giving away something just like the next guy they might even skip your stand all together.

Now we can’t forget the infamous ‘business card draw’ which is the really really good prize, a prize where your audience is prepared to give you their contact details for a chance to win. If you can link the prize to the promotional items, you get an extra big tick.

Gladys has helped a few companies in the professional services space by providing on-brand gift boxes for their business card draw prize. It worked a treat, we included products that were suitable for the conference goers to take back to their office to share or take home to their families. Not only did it look great up there on the stand we were able to tie the gift box prize back to the marketing message through the products. A success and was lots of fun in the making.

So next trade show make your marketing dollars count. Be different, link it back to your brand and send a message that connects.