The 5 Worst Trade Show Giveaways

Industry Insights and Trends

Bad trade show giveaways

Conventional wisdom dictates that giveaways are a reliable way to entice visitors to your booth and ensure leads remember you. However, giving out the wrong goodies or poorly designed items won’t get you anywhere. The quality of your products or services and exhibit should be complimented by the items you give out.

For some, the following items could potentially make good giveaways, but only if they are done well with appealing designs, social media-worthy wit, high quality or if they directly relate to the product. If your strategy includes simply sticking a logo on one of the items listed below, you might want to rethink it.

Here are some items that generally get ho-hum or negative reactions from trade show attendees:

USB sticks

This is no longer the most flashy way to share data. While visitors may occasionally have use for them, they are more likely to be forgotten in the back of a junk drawer.



A co-worker adamantly requested to add “especially the ones with LED lights on them” to this clunky item. There are more opportune times to remind someone about your company than when they’re juggling grocery bags in front of their house.



These are overdone. Unless your pen is cool enough to be found in James Bond’s shirt pocket or on J.K. Rowling’s desk, it won’t stand out among the possibly hundreds of others stuffed inside visitors’ supply drawers, holders and purses.



Unless there is an alcoholic beverage included, don’t expect anyone to talk about the awesome koozie they got at your booth.


Stress balls

They would be more useful if they bounced so the attendees could at least have skill competitions as they throw them away.


Finding appropriate giveaways, especially on a budget, can be tricky but it is possible. Even at events like RSNA and other medical field conferences with policies and regulations on giveaways, they can be done well. Exhibit managers have been able to push the envelope with ideas as memorable as low-cost photobooth set ups, travel items, local food or beverage items and more. The most impactful giveaways usually tie together branding and usefulness or individuality for the attendee. As always, your company can get virtual bonus points for incorporating social media into the mix.

Discuss some of your favorite (or least favorite) trade show giveaways below.

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