Giveaways present excellent opportunities to draw a crowd on the expo floor, but knowing how many giveaways to order for a trade show can be a challenge. It’s a balancing act between fostering connections with potential customers and creating additional business expenditures by buying excess inventory.

Having spent decades working in the trade show industry and helping our clients with this very issue, we’re here to share our advice. We’ll help you break down some of the most important topics related to giveaways—determining what kind of giveaways are most relevant, calculating how many to order, creating effective distribution strategies, and learning how to ensure your giveaways leave a lasting impression on the showroom floor and beyond.

Table of Contents:

The Importance of Trade Show Giveaways

While planning for your next big expo, giveaways may not immediately climb to the top of your impending checklist. But these promotional items can help make your booth more entertaining and marketable, generate leads, increase brand awareness, or assist in launching a new product or service. They can also help you capture valuable contact information and leave people with positive feelings and memories about your brand.

In short, trade show giveaways act as a tangible connection between your organization and potential customers. They provide exciting and entertaining opportunities to captivate your audiences and allow them to take home a reminder of your business.

Contests and giveaways have a conversion rate of nearly 34%. When attendees receive a high-quality, useful item bearing your logo, they’re more likely to remember you and consider your products or services in the future.

Accurately Calculating How Many Giveaways to Order for a Trade Show

Understanding how many giveaways to order for a trade show is a learning process and will vary from one scenario to another. Using tracked data from past shows, ordering in bulk, and reviewing some general statistics are a few key ways to ensure that your educated guesses pay off on the showroom floor.

Run the Numbers

An infographic explaining how many giveaways to order for a trade show: 25% for large shows and 75% for small shows

Conventional wisdom says that if you want to be able to give something to everyone who wants one, you should order enough for 25% of the number of expected attendees at a large trade show or 75% of the number of expected attendees at a small trade show. Others have suggested that 3% to 10% of attendees will book an appointment to meet with your team ahead of time. Having pre-arranged gift bags ready and on reserve for these interactions is another good strategy.

Additionally, the duration of each trade show also plays a role in determining the number of giveaways you’ll need. A one-day event will require fewer giveaways compared to a multi-day trade show. Being mindful of trade show schedules will help you plan your giveaway orders accordingly.

It’s also important to consider your primary goals when deciding how many giveaways to order for a trade show. If lead generation is your primary focus, consider ordering a slightly higher quantity of giveaways to ensure that you have enough swag to engage with a large number of people. If you’re focusing more on direct sales, you may not need as many giveaways, as your interactions might end up being more targeted.

Order in Bulk

Ordering in advance is non-negotiable, and ordering in bulk is even better! This allows you to take advantage of any savings or deals on the price per item. For instance, if you have 10 events lined up for the season and decide to order according to the 25% of expected audience size at every show, you’ll almost always get a better deal per item by ordering in bulk.

Track Booth Data and Measure Trade Show Effectiveness

The most important strategy for helping you calculate effective giveaway ordering plans is to consistently track booth data and traffic. Then you can measure it against the data from past shows and expos.

If you don’t have that data at the ready, be sure to track it at your next show. Data collection for on-site leads can be performed in a variety of ways, including using sign-in sheets, collecting business cards, and scanning visitor badges.

Giveaways and data tracking are both key components in maximizing overall trade show effectiveness. Estimating not only the foot traffic but also the average interaction rate at your booth can provide valuable insights into how many giveaways you need and help you make informed estimates when it comes time to place your orders. This includes tracking how many giveaways have been given out already, and metering the rest according to how many shows are left in your program.

Displaying and Distributing Giveaways

Everybody loves a good giveaway, but if you have your giveaways freely available they’ll all be gone too quickly. While it would be nice for every single visitor to receive a giveaway, creating strategic distribution plans and giveaway tiers are two ways to safeguard against prematurely running out of swag. Instead of putting all your giveaways out at once, try a few of these strategies to ensure that your giveaways land in the most promising hands.

Create Distribution Plans

Metering giveaways through distribution plans ensures that you’ll get better connections and more enriching leads from them. Your methods for distributing giveaways will enable you to target your most important priorities, whether that’s creating brand impressions, collecting information, or generating conversations and sales. While you can certainly get some brand recognition just by handing out giveaways, making a real connection almost always proves to be a more valuable part of the process.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is your main goal for your giveaways?
  • Who should receive giveaways? Who should not?
  • What do visitors need to do to get a giveaway?
  • What should your pace be? How many giveaways should be gone and how many should still remain at different points in the day?

Where you position giveaways within your trade show booth is an instrumental part of striking this balance. Rather than putting them all out at once, track how many have been given out already and put out more as needed. Having manned giveaways on the front counter rather than freely available in the aisle will encourage visitors to connect with your spokespeople.

Displaying premium giveaways on your booth’s back wall can also help to drive up engagement. When visitors ask how to get those items, staff members will encourage them to scan their badge, play a game, or complete another key action of your choosing. This opens up a valuable channel of communication between visitors and booth personnel.

Different Tiers of Giveaways

A graphic showing different tiers of giveaways, helping you break down how many giveaways to order for a trade show

Creating different tiers of giveaways is a great strategy that prioritizes the most memorable and exciting swag for your most serious and valuable visitors. While you may be more preoccupied thinking about how many giveaways to order for a trade show, it’s also important to consider quality alongside quantity.

Investing in a smaller number of items for more important interactions or investing in prizes if there is in-booth entertainment are two examples of this principle. A high-quality giveaway makes a stronger impression, leading to prolonged brand exposure and recognition.

For example:

  • Leaving pens on the counter can generate brand awareness and can be offered to everyone.
  • Having stuffed animals on the back wall of a booth can lead to good conversation and quality engagement. Visitors should have to perform a more valuable action or win a game or contest to earn these prizes.
  • Inside the cabinets, out of view, there might be something even more valuable in store, like AirPods or Bluetooth headphones. Visitors can earn these items by entering a raffle with a business card, signing up as a new customer, or completing other actions that are the highest value for your business.

Planning for Variability

Knowing how many giveaways to order for a trade show is far from an exact science. Each expo is subject to its own unpredictabilities in terms of demographics, demand, and attendance. Crowds can fluctuate dramatically day to day or even hour by hour. Having airtight distribution policies and back-up plans at the ready can save you time and money when your numbers are in flux.

What Happens if You Run Out of Your Giveaways?

When traffic is unusually high and you’ve found your available swag supplies seriously depleted, don’t panic. It’s best to avoid running out of giveaways altogether, but it can happen to even the most seasoned expo-goers. Unpredictable crowds and booth traffic can upend even the most well-established data from prior expos.

If you’ve already ordered your giveaways in bulk at the start of the year or season, you’ll be able to draw from your backstock by contacting your home office or service provider and asking them to overnight more to you. But you’ll need to consider whether higher costs associated with overnight shipping are worth it. If you notice you’re running low in general, you could also place a supplement order or touch base with booth staff and tell them to slow their pace.

What Happens if You Over-Ordered Your Giveaways?

Because it’s better to be safe than sorry, you may end up realizing that you have extra giveaways after the expo shuts down. During booth break-down, you’ll have to decide what to do with the remaining swag. Oftentimes, it’s easy to reuse the leftover goods for another event, shipping them back to your warehouse or office in the interval between trade shows.

However, shipping inexpensive goods (such as pens) back to yourself may end up costing the same as ordering more for the next trade show. In the worst case scenario, it might be a smarter financial move to just throw them away.

To avoid waste, you can also try to repurpose your extra swag in creative social media giveaways and contests. Another great option is donating any extra promotional office supplies, clothing, or tech accessories to organizations that can redistribute them to communities in need.

Understanding What Types of Giveaways to Order

Knowing exactly what types of eye-catching and relevant giveaways to order will help to attract potential customers. It also goes a long way toward creating tangible connections between your business and trade show attendees as they move through the expo experience.

Know Your Audience

While trade show audiences can vary from expo to expo, identifying your brand’s target audience is an instrumental part of understanding what types of giveaways will be most popular and enticing to the attendees most likely to complete a conversion.

Carefully consider the demographics, interests, and preferences of the attendees you’ll be engaging with, including taking into account any interesting swag ideas in relation to the geographic location of the expo itself.

For example, professional services—such as those in the medical field—may not have much use for a free pen. But visitors from more hands-on industries, like trucking, might find everyday use and value in a free pen. Fitness enthusiasts will almost certainly find more use for a water bottle than a USB drive, and tech professionals probably have more than enough USB drives already.

Whether it’s your first expo or your fiftieth, certain giveaway options are classics for a reason.

Examples of giveaways that are often practical and popular include:

  • Phone chargers
  • Water bottles
  • Sunglasses
  • Lip balms
  • Notebooks
  • Branded pens

Other wearable giveaways featuring your company logo are great for generating a buzz in the exhibit hall and beyond, such as:

  • T-shirts
  • Backpacks
  • Umbrellas

Consider Sustainable Options

Today’s mass market is more environmentally conscious than ever before. Over 80% of consumers report that they avoid companies with bad environmental practices, and 78% of consumers believe sustainability is important. Acknowledging this as an exhibitor will help solidify the perception of your business as sustainably-minded and aware.

Even though these eco-friendly options might initially cost a bit more than their traditional counterparts, they ensure that your giveaways will stand the test of time. Not only is reusable swag environmentally friendly, but it keeps brand awareness afloat far longer than single-use items that carry your logo straight to the landfill.

Reusable items such as branded tote bags can be used by attendees on the spot, creating immediate visibility at the show as well as years of continued wear on the horizon. Other sustainable swag options include lightweight smartphone wallets, which are perfect for travelers who are visiting trade shows from out of state, or coffee mugs, which are sure to get everyday use in your clients’ offices back home.

Tips for Shipping Giveaways at Your Next Trade Show

Even if you know exactly how many giveaways to order for a trade show, you still have to contend with the logistics of procuring them, storing them, and shipping them from your warehouse to the showroom floor. Getting the best deals on bulk ordering and reliable transport are two key factors in ensuring your giveaway experience goes off without a hitch.

Your giveaways are no good to anyone if they arrive damaged—or worse, if they don’t arrive at all. Good transport, such as the reliable freight services we offer to all customers at Cardinal Expo, ensures that all your assets arrive in a punctual and professional manner. We also take care to provide accurate tracking information to keep you in the loop every step of the way.

Plan Your Next Trade Show and Giveaways with Cardinal Expo

An example of an exhibit planned and built by Cardinal Expo, including advice on how many giveaways to order

Your giveaways are far too valuable to risk getting lost, delayed, or damaged by shipping with FedEx or UPS. In addition to designing, building, and managing your trade show booths, Cardinal Expo provides our customers with reliable logistics and shipping services.

Send all your promotional materials to us in advance of your next trade show, and we’ll make sure it arrives in good condition and on time! For over 30 years, the couriers and commercial airline services we use have provided business owners with reliable freight offerings at competitive rates nationwide.

If you order in advance, you can also use us as your broker to store and ship goods on a dedicated truck along with your entire exhibit, rather than repeatedly ordering and shipping for each separate show. Partnering with Cardinal gives you peace of mind over your assets. Not only that, but by taking responsibility for the management of your entire exhibit, we can give you more time and energy to devote to the core of your business.

Talk to our experts to learn exactly how we can help your business thrive during your next big expo. Get in touch today by filling out the form below.

Contact Us Today

We at Cardinal Expo are here to answer any questions you may have, provide you with additional information, and create an effective solution for your exhibit needs.

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