Free beer, the ultimate trade show freebie?4 min read

Wouldn’t that be nice? “Sorry sir would you like a nice frosty pint? I saw you slowly working your way down the aisle, so I thought I’d pour you one. It’s so noisy and hot in here. Sit down here on our beer couch and rest your weary limbs a while.” Ok back to the real world. What are the most effective freebies we can give to a potential prospect that will either make them stop at our stand and talk to us or think of us fondly in the weeks and months after the event is done and dusted? Here’s a few examples of the most popular at trade shows and exhibitions:



A pen seriously? Yes, this little classic still carries weight. In the era of VR, the internet of things and the onset of 5G, people, believe it or not still like to write stuff down. Ok it’s not going to bring the masses stampeding towards your stand but when you’re speaking to a prospect, once they hear something they like, they often reach for a pen to make a note. Also anyone in close proximity to your stand engrossed in an interesting conversation with someone may spy your pens and ask you can they take one. I have a considerable amount of pens on my desk from different events. Especially if it’s a nice one, people can get attached and there it sits retargeting the person in question every day.


Bottled Water 

At first, branded bottled water at a trade show this seems like a good idea. I attended a digital marketing event in London and there was a stand across from me with tons of personalised bottled water. All day long the exhibitors were handing this out with smiles on their faces. I thought this original at first but then followed it through to its logical conclusion, prospect takes said plastic bottle of water, drinks the contents and bins it, the end. It may bring people to your stand, but they don’t stay long or engage in conversation and they certainly have nothing to remember you by.


Sweets or Candy

Everyone is addicted to sugar, some more than others I grant you. Over the years it’s always amazed me how fully grown men and women will come over to your stand, looking bashful and ashamed, ‘Can I have one?’ Once you give them the nod some will play it cool and simply take one, others go for the snatch and grab technique. Regardless, try and get them to stay for a while by engaging them in conversation. They will oblige, after all you gave them something in return it’s only fair.


USB Keys

So practical and useful. We always loose them or else somebody ‘borrows’ it. They have a high turnover rate so a new one is always welcome. Comes in handy for sales presentations etc. and so give great brand visibility over their lifetime.



Tote bags, put them on your exhibition stand with a nice design and they go like hot cakes. Let visitors advertise your business for you during the event and while they stand in line at at the shops.


Baristas + Free Coffee

It’s one of the latest trends at trade shows and fairs at the moment. Free cups of coffee from a dedicated barista served directly from the booth. It’s amazing to watch, visitors forming orderly queues at stands waiting patiently to be served. We’re not quite in free beer territory here but we’re not far off. Where event organisers don’t have enough areas serving coffee this can really pay off. This is a decent investment of course, I have seen different levels, from trained baristas on the stand to fully blown coffee lounges. People are relaxed and chat while they wait for their coffee, they’re happier to stick around and drink it with you if you make it inviting for them to do so. You’re offering something of real value.


It’s hard to try and be original. Take the time to brainstorm and come up with innovative freebies at your trade shows, always with the goal of getting somebody to stop at your stand or to remember you once they’ve left. In an ideal world your freebies do both. Practical items that provide real value. It’s difficult to come up with something new, the next best thing is to spot a great idea that’s trending and reuse it at your next event. Become an early adopter and reap the rewards. Unfortunately there’s no magical formula for freebies. Preparing your exhibition stand is key as this is your centre of gravity for the trade show so don’t leave it till the last minute.

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