Some modest suggestions on vendor tradeshow giveaways

May 19, 2006

Part of the just finished intra-university IT conference here was a vendor tradeshow. The vendors were there to market to us, but the real purpose of going to tradeshows is of course the loot; the vendor giveaways. (And if you're hungry, the candy and snacks the vendors leave out as lures.)

In the hopes of helping vendors at future tradeshows, I thought I would share some opinions on these giveaways.

  • most overused giveaway: pens. If you must give these out, please make sure they're nice to write with. (One vendor gave away the same pen they gave away last year, which was real optimism.)

  • most optimistic giveaway: a frisbee. It didn't help that we're having rainy and grey weather.

  • most useful giveaway: a 4-port mini USB hub (as a bonus they put it in a drawstring cloth bag). These disappeared in nothing flat (along with the USB keys they were also giving out); vendors, I see a clear unmet demand.

(We're too small for vendors to bring in that staple of the tradeshow giveaways, the t-shirt.)

Suggested future giveaways for the vendor that wants to stand out from the pack:

  • if you must give out a writing implement, consider mechanical pencils; I have a lot fewer of those than pens.
  • markers that are safe for writing on CD/DVD labels.
  • a notebook. That's right; everyone was giving out pens, but no one was giving out something to use them on.
  • a mini multitool. (This year's corkscrew & bottle opener combination was a nice try.)
  • a keychain LED flashlight, small enough to be handy for shining into the dark recesses of a machine. (A vendor this year gave out a nice, startlingly bright keychain LED, but it's blue and more omnidirectional.)
  • a keychain or keyring; bonus points for including a carabiner clip (please make it solid enough to feel reassuring when fiddled with).
  • little mechanical puzzles. (I'm surprised that no one has tried this.)

I fiddle with things a lot (in desperation I will even fidget with pens), so bonus points are awarded for fiddleable giveaways. The people around me in technical sessions will likely award bonus points if they don't make noises when I fiddle with them.

Of course there is the ultimate giveaway, which sooner or later will get cheap enough: laser pointers. (Perhaps the thought of a hall full of sysadmins armed with laser pointers dissuades vendors.)

Written on 19 May 2006.
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Last modified: Fri May 19 02:02:13 2006
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