I just left a financial services show in Chicago that had every conceivable giveaway available present. Most were out for the taking. Some were positioned so they were controlled. But, why have any? Did any of the bank or credit union executives need more golf tees, luggage tags, cellphone caddies, stadium blankets, notebooks, pens, water bottles, stuffed animals, Tootsie rolls? The answer is no! Then why offer them? To attract visitors? Then why just give them or allow them to be taken with no dialogue. After all these events are called trade shows because exhibitors trade their resources for the opportunity to sell something. And, virtually nothing is traded, it is just taken or given. I actually stopped to get a bag from an exhibit because I was tired of carrying my portfolio. As I reached for a bag, the neighboring exhibitor thrust a branded spiral bound notebook at me. “take one of these too”. And, I have no idea of who the two exhibitors were. At one exhibit you had your choice of a thermal coffee mug, a metal water bottle, golf balls, a blanket, luggage tag or a cellphone caddie. It was like going shopping and never having to take out your credit card. Giveaways are used to support four strategies: communicate a message, reinforce a message received in the exhibit, recognize attendees for participating in an activity or reward visitors. If you need a tactic to support these strategies a giveaway might be it. The most effective one I saw was a marketing company whose theme was, “raise your bar and energize your brand”. Their promotional product was a power bar with a custom wrapper with their theme and an invitation to get a free branch critique. Great tie in and it was not out for the taking. Distribution was part of the close and given as the attendee departed. It’s ok to give something away to accelerate the achievement of your exhibiting objectives, but get something in return – an opportunity to sell something.