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With our extensive experience in trade show marketing, we’re often asked for suggestions on what giveaways are most popular at trade shows. Event managers often feel the need to offer patrons some sort of incentive for visiting their booth. After all, this seems like a good way to engage with visitors and build connection. But these days trade show guests are less interested in free promotional items. Here’s why.

With millennials now making up a majority of the workforce in the US and Canada, event planners are having to base their marketing strategies on ideas that will appeal to the modern business person. Nowadays many of them turn down freebies because, in their words, they simply don’t need them. What we are seeing is that many showgoers these days value experiences over products. To them success seems to be measured by collecting experiences and enjoying life, and then being able to share these experiences with peers on social media. There is also a tendency to be environmentally friendly by being cautious about what we own.

With this being the trend, tradeshow hosts have to think outside the box a little more. We know that over half of millennials will spend money on experiences, so with a bit of creativity you can come up with all kinds of interesting ways to attract passers-by to your booth. Once you know what your brand stands for, you need to figure out who to communicate this message. Here are a few steps on how to create a memorable experience that will impress today’s tradeshow visitors.


It’s important to let your brand message guide you, but also consider who will be your audience. It’s important to cater to your company’s target market as well as others who are like to attend your tradeshow or event.


Your theme should relate to your brand, but make sure that it’s interesting and appealing to your audience. For example, scientists are more likely to show interest in science experiments than in a gambling themed experience.


Obviously it’s important to have a big bold sign with your company name and logo. But consider finding ways to incorporate your theme into your graphics. Don’t be afraid to do something different and exciting.


Plan your theme way ahead of time and then do everything you can to promote it. Telling potential customers about your themed event beforehand will create anticipation. Continuing to promote it during and after the show will help turn your event into a truly memorable experience.


Trade Show Marketing - Giveaways are Out, Experiences are IN

Try to incorporate fun, memorable experience into your trade show marketing.

If you’re able to, create a game for visitors to play. If you manage to make it educational to your brand, even better! The iPad is your friend. Find ways to create an interactive experience on a tablet, or use something more old-school like a remote-control car race. This will ensure that your company is memorable to your visitors, but also to observers.


Create an environment that is interesting and unique. Provide an area that will be suitable for taking photos or video, promote the hashtag for your event and think about offering your guests incentives for sharing their experience at your booth on social media.


Many of your visitors will be traveling from out of town to be at your event. If you’d like to give away free products consider items that would be useful to them, like earbuds for watching movies on the plane, water bottles or snacks for the trip home. Giving away free products is still a great way to give your customers something to take away with them that has your company logo and web address on it. You can also try to find a way to incorporate your theme into your giveaway items, or if your company supports a charity you could look at giving away products that tie into your social responsibility.

Make sure that whatever your offer lines up with the quality of your brand.


You can increase the attention your booth gets by getting your staffers to co-ordinate dressing up to match your theme. It doesn’t have to be over the top. It could be as simple as shirts that are color-matched to your theme, or lanyards that display your company name and them on them. them. You could also do something more fun like have your staffers wear colorful socks.


By following these steps you are more likely to create a memorable experience that is sure to make a lasting impression on your visitors. Remember that if you’re going to offer a free product, make sure it’s something that will add to their experience. If you’re just giving away gifts for the sake of giving away gifts, it’s better not to. We’ve got more tips to share, so be sure to read Part 2 (coming soon!) for more trade show marketing ideas.