Career / Career Progression

7 Tips for Nosing Out the Best Conference Swag

by Michael Hess
7 Tips for Nosing Out the Best Conference Swag picture: A
Published on March 1, 2017

What's the best thing about conferences? Oh sure, there's the networking and education. You also probably meet a bunch of your far-flung peers. And then there's the swag.

CBT Nuggets attends half a dozen of the best 10 tech conferences each year, so our Event Coordinator shared some tips on how to collect your biggest swag haul yet.

Follow the event hashtag. Event marketers are very active on Twitter. If your event has an app, download it. Or, connect on both. Event hashtags are about one-third session notes, one-third swag selfies, and one-third event marketers pushing swag. It's a virtual swag menu. Follow, respond, and reap your rewards.

Enter every contest. In your typical conference show hall, you'll find any number of vendors offering a contest for high-dollar items — hardware, software, lego sets, or even cash prizes. Enter every one. You'll likely end up getting sales calls and emails for the next four months, but there are some great giveaways. What do you have to lose?

Barter with vendors. Based on the mileage you likely walk in a single day at a conference, you might take free range of movement for granted. The range of movement for the booth folk? 100 square feet (if they're lucky). Bring snacks, soda, or a bottle of water to barter for swag. Unless they're a sign that says, "Don't feed the vendor." In those cases, it's for their own good.

Talk to your fellow conference goers. See someone carrying a life-size BB8? You better go ask where they got it because there might be more. Probably not though. (See "Enter every contest.") You probably missed your shot. However, there are typically awesome wearables. If you see someone wearing something you like, go ask them. They can point you in the right direction, and also be a good opening for the introvert to meet new people at the conference.

Wear as much as you can. We're taking this tip from lessons learned at the swagfest known as Spiceworld. (It might not apply to all conferences.) Day 1: Start collecting the easy-to-access swag. Day 2: Don every piece of swag that's comfortable. Now, you're a collector. At swagfests, many vendors will have a little something special for the collectors and VIPs. You're both, so don't be afraid to ask.

Quantity, not quality. If you're looking for a year's supply of thumb drives, then make your final rounds in the last hours of the conference. Or even better in the moments after the show ends. Whatever the booth folks haven't given out will be shipped back to their respective cities, so give them a helping hand, open your bag, and they'll start shoveling swag your way.

Swag isn't everyone's thing. For the rest of you conference-goers, you might consider a quality over quantity method. That's commendable. Even if you personally aren't interested in swag, bring some tchotchke back for your co-workers. A small swag gift to your boss as a thank you might go a long way toward justifying the expense to your company.


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