The big trade show is around the corner and you’re going absolutely crazy! You need to get polos for your team to wear, figure out the logistics of how to set up those enormous displays, and manage to eat lunch along the way.

So here’s one thing you can take off your plate…knowing just how much promotional swag to order. This is the free stuff, like logoed pens and custom keychains that you plan on laying out on your table for all of your visitors to take when they come to your display.

There’s no “right” answer as to how much swag you should order, but there are things you can do now to get a rough idea of the right quantity for you. Take a look at the suggestions below.

Ask Yourself: “How Am I Using My Trade Show Swag?”

What’s your plan? You aren’t just ordering swag to order it, so figure out exactly how you want to use those promotional items.

Handing Out Free Swag

You plan on laying the promotional items out on your table and letting it do its thing. People will grab the freebies from your table if they want them, and drop them into a tote bag that they probably got at the registration.

So how much swag should you order?: The quantity depends on what items you plan on ordering. If you go with expensive crowd favorites like custom sweatshirts, they’re going to go a lot faster than cheap pens. Order based on the popularity of your items.

Giving Out Swag as a Prize

You’re setting up some kind of game for visitors and offering a prize to the winners. The prize is probably going to be something cool and branded with your logo. You want the item to generate excitement.

So how much swag should you order?:  The game you plan on playing is going to determine how many promotional giveaways to order. If it’s something hard, like hitting a high score in ski-ball, you can predict that not as many people will win. If you have a spinning wheel with a prize on each slot, you’re probably going to have more people that are victorious. Adjust based on your game.

Offering Swag to Prospective Clients

You want a nice “thank-you” gift for the people who book appointments or sit down and chat with you at the trade show. The promotional gift will probably be some kind of premium item like a branded coffee mug or box of chocolates

So how much swag should you order?:  You can assume that somewhere between 3% to 10% of the attendees at a trade show will actually book an appointment with you to sit down and chat. Order enough for that amount of people. Give them something nice, so they can go home with a favorable opinion of you and your company.  

Do some brainstorming about what you’re going to do with the promotional swag and then go from there. You might even be wanting enough giveaways for more than one of the reasons above. Think ahead, and you’ll end up with the right quantity.

What you want to order makes a huge difference. Start by getting a budget together first and then choose an item from the selection below.

What Trade Show Swag Should I Order?

Now that you have an idea of why you’re ordering promotional items for a trade show, the next step is figuring out what to order. The answer ultimately depends on your budget and the quantity you need.

Need a Large Quantity?
You’re laying the trade show swag on a table or giving them as prizes in a super simple game.

Here’s what you should order for your next trade show:

Pens

Keep it simple and choose a black ink pen with your company name printed on the barrel. Bonus points if your custom pens are in a cool eye-catching color, or if they have a unique feature like an oddly-shaped clip.

Stress Balls

Branded stress balls are fun freebies or prizes at a trade show because you can find a unique shape that fits your business. Let’s say you’re a bakery. You can give out cake stress balls with your logo printed on the top!

Water Bottles

Drinking water is super important, which means your logo water bottles won’t be ignored. If your budget allows, go with drinkware that’s bit trendier than your average plastic bottle.

Sunglasses

The classic rock band ZZ Top sang it best – you should “buy yourself some cheap sunglasses.” This is easy trade show swag to have on hand, and people will go nuts if you offer neon colors or retro frames.

Phone Chargers

These days you can’t get people away from their cell phones. You’re going to have everyone running toward your booth if you offer custom phone chargers that are compatible with both iPhones and Androids.

Need a Small Quantity?
You’re giving out the trade show swag to prospective clients or as prizes in a tougher game.

Order this swag for your trade show:

T-Shirts

Everyone loves free custom t-shirts! Make sure you have a variety of sizes, with the majority of the shirts being LARGE. You also want to go with a nice, soft, breathable material.

Coffee Mugs

You can’t start the morning without coffee, which makes a mug printed with your logo an excellent giveaway. The best part is you can choose something for less than a $1 or spring for a trendier look and still make an impression!

Hardcover Notebooks

Our phones are pretty awesome, but that doesn’t mean we can resist an old-fashioned notebook. This is an especially great trade show swag if you choose journals that have a stylish hard cover.

Bluetooth Speakers

A nice Bluetooth speaker is sure to get the party started! Your visitors will use it after the trade show for dinner with friends or even for small moments like singing in the shower. That means a ton of exposure for your company!

Umbrellas

Custom umbrellas might seem like a random item to hand out for free, but don’t be so quick to judge! A person may not think to get an umbrella for themselves, but will be super happy to have yours every time it starts raining! This makes umbrellas unique trade show swag to have on hand!

Simply choose the promotional items that fit within the budget you’ve set for yourself. There are high-end promotional products that won’t cost you an arm and leg, and cheap promotional products that don’t look like junk.

Take some time to really look and choose the best trade show swag for your needs and budget!

How Much Trade Show Swag Should I Order?

It’s definitely worth bringing promotional swag to your trade show. Why? 83% of people are more likely to do business with a company in the future if they receive a free gift from them at a trade show.  

To figure out how much trade show swag you should bring, you should reflect on the following:

  1. The projected number of attendees
  2. The value of the swag you want to bring (is it really cool or kind of lame?)
  3. Your plan of action (are you setting the items up at a table, playing a game, or giving them out as “thank you” gifts?)
  4. Where your booth/display is located on the trade show floor
  5. The number of appointments you plan to book with people

Self-reflection is key here. It’s up to you to really think about all of this before you go to a trade show. From there, you can make an educated guess on how many promotional items to order.

When in doubt, shoot high. You can always hold onto the swag for next year’s trade show.

Final Thoughts

The short answer is you should order enough trade show swag to have something for all of your visitors. Generally speaking, it will be somewhere between 100 and 5,000 items, so set your marketing budget accordingly.

At the end of the day, there really isn’t an exact science to figuring out how many promotional items to order. It’s really up to you to do your homework and come to the trade show with a plan.

References

Friedmann, S. (2020, January 2). 10 Ways to Master Trade Show Giveaways. Retrieved from, https://www.thebalancesmb.com/tips-for-a-successful-trade-show-2947180

Swords, P. 7 Trade Show Statistics and What They Mean For You. Retrieved from, http://www.excaliburexhibits.com/blog/7-trade-show-statistics-mean/

Matthes, C. (2018, March 2). 20 Powerful Stats on the Value of Trade Shows and Expos. Retrieved from, https://www.spingo.com/blog/post/20-powerful-stats-on-the-value-of-trade-shows-and-expos

About the author

Bret Bonnet

Bret Bonnet is the president and founder of Quality Logo Products. He started the company in 2003 while he was still in college. Now QLP is one of the top distributors of promotional products in the country.