Trade Shows: How Many Giveaway Items do I Need?

  • Feb 10, 2023


You've booked your spot, figured out your staffing and what will be in your booth but now it's time to figure out how many giveaways you need. Just like food samples at Costco, we've all been trained to expect free stuff at Trade Shows so you know you need something, but how do you determine how many items you need? While any potential number is simply an educated guess, the more you know about the show and your goals, the more effective you will be at spending your budget effectively.

Here are five things to consider when determining how many items you will need:

1.       The projected number of attendees.

You won't need one item for every attendee, but depending on the type of show, knowing how many people are expected to attend is a key piece of information. Once you know this, it's important to identify how many potential customers you expect to see. 

Depending on your business, a consumer Trade Show (home and garden shows, general admission events) generally has broad appeal across retail and business customers and your potential for leads and future customers may only make up a small percentage of the attendees. When attending an industry trade show or a trade show connected a conference, you would expect to have a higher percentage of attendees as potential customers. A general admission, multi-day Trade Show can also "over-count" attendees if they come multiple times and couples or families don't often need more than one giveaway item.

For example, if you are participating in a general admission, public Trade Show that has a projected attendance of 10,000, if you take into account multiple visits by the same person and groups of people together, you can easily divide this number by 3 or 4 to get a preliminary idea of the potential contacts you might make. If it's an industry trade show connected to a conference with 1,000 attendees, you can assume, based on the nature of the conference that a higher percentage of these attendees are potential customers that you want to have something for them to take away.

2.       The value of the swag you want to bring.

Are you bringing the cool stuff? Will it be noticeable around the show? Expect that the cooler or higher valued items will be sought after once people see them around the show and it will bring people into your booth looking for the item (and have them pretty eager to wait and go through whatever process you have in place to get it). If you're bringing the same Trade Show items you've always had and are at many other booths, you will not go through as many of the items.

We suggest having a mix of items - inexpensive Trade Show staples for the "trick or treaters" (not your customer, just attendees going booth to booth to see what free stuff is available), things like pens, mints, stickers, etc. Inexpensive to purchase, easy to take a lot of them with you and they appease the individual just looking for something free. Then, look to have a more limited supply of higher value items to hand out to your key customers and potential leads. At the end, we have more information on how to decide how much to spend on your giveaway items.

For example, I was once at a conference Trade Show where a vendor had custom stuffed animals of their mascot they were giving away. This was a pretty popular mascot and they were a great quality 18" plush toy and as attendees saw these around the Trade Show, there was a constant line up at their booth to play the game that would give them the plush toy! No one was lining up at the next booth to get a pen or notepad. That said, whether the line ups translated into good leads for them is another story, but if they were looking to make an impact at the show and build brand awareness, it was definitely a winner!

3.       Your plan of action for giveaways.

If you are putting your giveaways out on a table where attendees can access them, you will go through a lot more product than if your staff are handing the items out or if you have a specific criteria or activity that needs to be completed to get an item. You'll want to know what your intended plan is for giveaways - are you hoping to get something out to as many people as possible or do you want to qualify recipients in some way in order for them to get something, for example, ensuring they are in your target market. Whatever your plan of action, it'll help inform how many items you should bring.

For example, if you're a business that has broad appeal to a variety of customers but they may not need your services on an ongoing basis, like a handyman or other service people might use infrequently, your goal will be to hand out lots of items and get your brand in the hands of as many potential customers as possible. Whereas, if you are in construction and focus only on larger construction projects, you may want to have something more significant to hand out but only to those who you've spoken with and are potential decision makers for those types of projects.

4.       Where your booth/display is located on the trade show floor.

Location Matters. Size Matters. Not every booth will have the same level of traffic or the same type of traffic. Are you on a main walkway? Near the entrance or exit? Do you know what other booths or activities will be around you? 

For example, in our local Trade Show, it's so large, it takes two floors. 100% of attendees will see something on the ground floor (because that's where you enter) but not all attendees will make it up to the second floor. Most of the booths on the main floor are larger and it's more spacious, whereas many of the booths on the top level are smaller and have more limited space for walkways so when attendees walk around the show, there is a tendency to check almost every booth on the ground floor but many will walk by more of the booths on the top floor unless something draws them in (could be show fatigue or simply that it's more overwhelming as you're walking by). 

5.       Your business goals for the show/promo, potential value of the relationships you might make.

What are your key goals coming out of the show? Brand awareness, education, leads, selling at the show? Your goal will also help to determine how many items you need (and the type of items). If your goal is about brand awareness, you'll likely want to give away a lot more items than if you are looking to qualify strong leads. 

For example, if you're a new business and want to get your name out or a large company wanting to ensure people see your community participation, you will likely want to give out lots of items. If you are a niche business looking to get a few strong leads to follow up on, you will not likely need as many items.


You may be curious about why budget didn't come up in the list. It's because you can use a budget in many different ways - lots of smaller items or less items but a higher value - but it's best to start with how many items you want to give out and your overall goals for the show. Your budget will likely inform the type/value of items rather than the number of items you are going to give out. And determining budget, unless it's already fixed, can be better informed once you know how many items you wish to give away.

So, how do you decide how much to spend on giveaways?

First, you generally already have an idea in mind based on what you can afford and your overall budget for the show. Just remember, to make the most of the investment you have already made to participate in the show, sending something home with potential customers will go a long way to realizing a return on your investment. And just sending people away with printed material or brochures (unless they've asked for them) is a wasted opportunity as most will end up in the garbage without being read.

Although the value of the giveaways is will be highly dictated by the budget and goals for the show, a mass giveaway item is generally going to be under $2 each. That said, some larger companies who are really wanting to make an impact at the show, really want to drive traffic to their booth and be especially memorable may look at spending $2-$4 to get something really unique and sought after.

Items being handed out for having completed some type of activity or to strong prospects will likely be higher end items. The value of these will relate more to the value of earning a potential new customer – the larger the sale or lifetime value a new customer could represent, the more you will wish to spend.


In the end, there is no right or wrong answer on how much to spend or how many to buy. If you remain unsure, the best advice is to aim higher on numbers and purchase items that can be repurposed for ongoing giveaways or a future trade show or event. (That’s better than running out in the first couple of hours or a missed opportunity with a key new lead.)



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  • Tags: Trade Show, Marketing, Giveaway, Promotional Product, PROMO, Branded
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