Best trade show giveaways to give and grab!

best trade show giveaways

What are the best trade show giveaways today?

You first need to know why trade show visitors eagerly grab some branded giveaways and throw others in the trash. The answer: Product usefulness.

The trend today is to declutter and downsize. Millennials (ages 22 to 37) currently dominate trade show audiences. They are not keepers of “stuff.” If an item isn’t useful, it’s history.

The pros’ best trade show giveaways

As a former journalist, I like to get honest answers from the people closest to the story. So to give you the best insight, I asked trade show vendors and visitors what their favorite giveaway items are and why. If you’re thinking about using trade show items in the future, you’ll want to read this:


trade show can coolers

Kyle Baptist

“Going to trade shows can be very overwhelming. Whether it’s meetings or discovering new vendors, it is a lot to take in. When I walk down the aisles and get handed random postcards or catalogs, they always go in the trash. The only giveaways I take with me are something I can actually use, my favorite being can koozies. When friends come over you can never have too many and it is a giveaway item that is actually put to use. Occasionally, it has turned into a reminder to check out the companies’ products.” — Kyle Baptist Founder/CEO, Marconi’s Beach Outfitters

Trade Show Cell Phone Chargers

John Z. Wetmore

“The most recent useful thing I picked up is a car accessory, a socket cell phone charger, complete with multiple types of cable connectors. It was something I could actually use. I keep it in the glove box and when I have a passenger whose phone is running low on power, they can pull it out and plug right in. I’ve cut way back on the swag I pick up at conferences and trade shows. A lot of it is just useless clutter that takes up space. If it doesn’t have some utility, it better be consumable. You can never go wrong giving out chocolate.” — John Z. Wetmore, Producer, Perils for Pedestrians TV

Trade Show Notepads

Stanley Tan, Digital Marketing Specialist, Selby's

“Not USBs. Not tote bags. Not cups. Not bottles. Notepads with our brochure attached at the back is our favorite. We like to give something that is useful to the attendees and related to our business. They can write notes on the notepad and learn more about our business from the brochure.” — Stanley Tan, Digital Marketing Specialist, Selby’s

trade show lunch bags

JoAnn Yánez

“The Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges gives away insulated lunch totes. The recipients range from prospective students and student advisors to leaders in the healthcare industry. The totes support the AANMC brand as it encourages people to pack healthy meals while on the go. Additionally, we will often provide handouts of recipes and ideas on incorporating good food choices. Recipients are drawn to the multi-purpose use and report back that they are thankful to have a bag to bring food to work, picnics or school.” — JoAnn Yánez, ND, MPH, CAE, Exec. Director, AANMC

trade show giveaway chargers

Jill Sullivan

“As an attendee, I have experienced everything from candy to vehicle giveaways. Because most venues do not have general WIFI, your smartphone battery is worn down very fast. Anything given away that supports the longevity of portable electronic devices is a favorite among attendees. My personal favorite is a backup cellphone charger branded with the company logo. With that branding, I remember to visit their booth every year to see what they are not only giving away but to see what they are doing inside the booth.” — Jill Sullivan, Account Executive, Plus-Studios

business card bookmarks

Reuben Swartz

“The one we liked the best and had the most success with is simple: bookmarks. They stand out a bit from business cards, they’re small and light to transport, both for us and for the attendees, and there’s a natural reason for people to look at them repeatedly.” — Reuben Swartz, Founder, Mimiran

trade show candy

Trineca Mccleod and Ta'Veca Collins

“We’ve been vendors at wedding shows in the past and we always give away Hershey’s Kisses, chocolate-covered strawberries or Oreos. Most recently we were vendors at a local networking event and we gave every guest that visited our table a mini organza bag that included a tin, scented candle with our logo, a few rose petals, and a few “kisses” with our business card. The feedback for candles was a big hit and was enjoyable!” — Trineca Mccleod and Ta’Veca Collins, Owners, Romance On The Go

trade show stress balls

Michael Chmura

“Squeeze items. Relax, relax, relax! I love stress-reducing items. They work.” — Michael Chmura, PR Director, Babson College

trade show tote bags

Ana Zuravliova

“My favorite trade show giveaway item is a canvas tote bag. With the current conversations around single-use plastics and plastic shopping bags, a reusable fabric tote bag is the perfect gift to prospective clients. From a marketing perspective, it’s also a great opportunity to boost brand awareness by including a website or logo in the design.” — Ana Zuravliova, Marketing/Purchasing, Blinds Direct

Dave Gregory

“We find that the best giveaways are either the big-ticket prizes, like the time we gave away three Google Home speakers that got hundreds of people to our stand and to sign up for our mailing list, or things that are genuinely useful. We give away lots of our own branded notebooks and people are constantly coming to the stand asking for them. We run out at every conference we exhibit at.” — Dave Gregory, Content Marketing Manager, SiteVisibility

trade show giveaway bottle openers

Jeff Maile

Bottle openers. They are something I hadn’t seen before at a trade show and are useful. Plus, due to its size, I don’t feel like a walking billboard for programmatic ad buying software, or whatever is being promoted.” — Jeff Maile, Managing Director, Riverworks Media


What the numbers say

According to research by the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), the top-selling promotional product categories for 2017 (the most recent statistics) were:

1. Wearables (apparel, accessories)
2. Drinkware
3. Writing Utensils
4. Bags/Wallets
5. Technology
6. Automotive
7. Awards
8. Time (clocks, desk calendars)
9. Desk (USB drives, office supplies)
10. Health (Hand sanitizer, lip balm, etc.)

What makes sense for you?

I hope this information helps you choose a giveaway item or other supplies for your next trade show. Be sure the products you like are a good fit for your company or organization. Browse our trade show giveaways and contact us if you need help! Our staff at Totally Promotional has more than 25 years of experience helping customers like you find the right items and appropriate designs for branding.

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