One of the most time-tested tactics at a trade show is to bring along a slew of promotional items to give out to the attendees. While this won't necessarily attract all that many more people to your stall, it is a good way to spread awareness of your brand and to solidify your message in the minds of those you talk to.

However, that does not mean you can throw everything at the wall and see what sticks! You need to be selective about what free gifts you bring along with you, or you could end up incurring significant costs with no real benefit to your business. So, what makes an item worth taking along?

There is no simple answer, as each option has its pros and cons. However, you should be able to prioritise your choices to make sure you get what you want out of your promotional gifts. Here are a few tips on each item you can choose:


Giving away a pen is probably the most stereotypical free gift at a trade show, but it is a cliche because it works. Pens are cheap and easy to brand, while also being useful enough that people will take them away and use them. Think how many pens you've got that you've used for years, looking at the logo each time.

However, the downside is that each attendee will be given dozens of pens throughout the course of the trade show. This means many of them could get lost or discarded, leading to minimal exposure for your brand.


Another common free gift is a mug. Often these are chosen because they provide a large blank canvas for your branding, while also being useful enough to be taken home (or more typically to the office). They are a great option to spread brand awareness, especially if they are used in a workplace where they will often be used by many different members of staff.

Unfortunately, many of the people at a trade show will not feel like carrying a mug around with them for the rest of the day. They are also harder to transport as they take up a lot of space and are heavy, which means you will not be able to take that many, especially if you are travelling on public transport!

Tote bags

These will be welcomed by a large number of trade show attendees, for precisely the reason mentioned above. The people at the exhibition might be carrying around lots of fliers, leaflets, free gifts and other items, and they will appreciate a way to carry them properly. They are light, easy to transport and very brandable.
However, you will need to be very careful about the design if you want to maximise your chances of success. Many people will not want to carry around a bag if it does not fit in with their personal style. You will need to cover all your bases to make sure as many people as possible pick up your bags and carry them around.