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How To Get Free Stuff At Trade Shows

written by John Chow on October 19, 2006

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Free Stuff!

One of the nice things about attending a trade show like Computex, or the upcoming CES in Las Vegas, is vendors likes to load you up with free stuff. Pictured above are some of the free stuff I got from the last trade show I attended. Some of the more noteworthy items include a 1GB flash drive from Corsair, 2 GB of really fast DDR2 RAM from OCZ Technology, a 700 Watt power supply, also from OCZ, a nice watch from Abit and a nice saddlebag from MSI to carry it all. There were also a bunch of golf shirts and T-shirts that are not in the photo and I got an extra saddlebag from MSI because I really dig that big zipper it has on it.

There is a good chance that if you attended a trade show, you won’t make off with as much free stuff as I did. This could be because you don’t know the art of getting free stuff. Well, you are in luck because I’m going to give you the step by step to getting tons of free stuff at any trade show.

Ask For The Free Stuff

If you want something, you have to ask for it. Don’t just walk up to a booth and expect them to hand free stuff out to you. It is not going to happen. And if it does, it normally means some cheap free stuff like a notepad or a pen. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. If you’re too shy to ask then go to the next step.

Attend The Press Conferences or Product Demos

One of the easiest ways to getting free stuff is to attend the many press conferences or product demos that companies put on during a trade show. They usually have something good to give everyone who attends. And many will hold a contest for some really big prizes. Yes you have to sit through a demo to get your stuff but hey, it’s free!

Make An Appointment

While all vendors on the show floor will talk to you about their products, you will score major points and free stuff if you make an appointment to talk to them. This way the company is expecting you and will be prepare to give you their booth tour. After the tour, they always present you with a goodie bag fill with company information and, you guessed it, free stuff!

Crash The Parties

Many companies hold parties during a trade show. I will be hosting my own CES party in January. Companies that put on parties always have something to give to their guests when they leave. The problem is most, if not all, of the parties are invite only. Don’t let this stop you however. Many times, you can get an invite by emailing the company or going to their booth and asking for one. This really is the best way to get free stuff because you also get to attend a party as well.

Walk The Show Floor On The Last Day

The last day of a trade show is moving out day. This is best time to get your hands on tons of free stuff. Companies are packing things up to take home and many times, they will lose their packing boxes. This is the best time to approach them to ask if there’s anything they want to give away and not take home? It’s amazing the amount times they will say “Help yourself to whatever you like.” This is because it can cost more to ship the products back home than the product is worth.

You won’t get big items, like plasma TVs, for free but many times the companies will sell it to you for a stupidly low price. I remember one year when RCA was the official TV of CES and had their displays scatter throughout the convention center. Instead of packing the $3,000 TVs home, they offered it anyone who was willing to pay $500 for it.

Another reason to walk the show floor on the last day is you will find many abandon booths with stuff still left behind. Most of the time, the stuff is junk but you will come across some nice stuff occasionally.

Get A Media Pass

There are many levels of trade show passes, but the best is the Media pass. Media pass holders are treated like kings and are given the most free stuff. Most trade shows cost money to attend. However, no matter what kind of show it is, Media gets in free. I did not pay one cent to attend last week’s SOHO SME show.

If you run a website or blog, there is a good chance you can get a Media pass. Some of the bigger trade shows will require you to show more proof than just a website. For example, E3 Expo wants to see a copy of your website business license and Fed Tax number before giving out a Media pass. However, most other shows only require a business card and one or two industry related articles written by you.

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{ 27 comments }

Wes Novack October 19, 2006 at 11:50 am

Very similar to your Get Free Stuff at CES article that you posted earlier this year on the TechZone.

Sharon October 19, 2006 at 11:51 am

Hey John. I tried digging your article by clicking Digg it, and it gave me an error page. I was able to get in through the number of diggs. I dont even know if this matters.

John Chow October 19, 2006 at 11:54 am

Wes – Ya, I updated a little

Sharon – Ya, the Digg it button doesn’t seem to work in IE. It works fine with Firefox however!

Joe Smith October 19, 2006 at 12:37 pm

man, *golf shirts* and t-shirts w/shitty corporate logos? cheap flash drives? this is “good stuff”?

Mr Butterscotch October 19, 2006 at 12:43 pm

This is some great advice. I just wish I could actually get to go to some of the trade shows – especially the computer games ones.

funky monkey October 19, 2006 at 12:50 pm

Hey, anyone have any good trade shows that go on in toronto?

I used to go to a lot when i lived in california, but now that i’ve moved here, i don’t know where any of them are.

Mr Freebies October 19, 2006 at 12:55 pm

seems like a cool way to get free stuff

Gustav Mörtberg October 19, 2006 at 12:56 pm

The Digg button works for me in Opera, and i would love attending a trade show! :D

Mr. Lame October 19, 2006 at 1:09 pm

No offense, but people that go to trade shows specifically to feed on the free stuff they give away are annoying. At Cisco Networkers it was amazing to see how many lamers (such as yourself) were willing to do anything for a 5 dollar shirt or a 2 dollar pen.

David Lithman October 19, 2006 at 1:12 pm

Awesome tips John, I hope in a year’s time or so I can take advantage of them by actually attending some conferences.

shawn October 19, 2006 at 1:55 pm

“and, you guest it, free stuff!”

or…”guessed”…

thankfully, spelling isn’t a prerequisite.

Dave October 19, 2006 at 2:09 pm

Thats so cool, freebies are the best!

Are there any suggestions on finding tradeshows?

mark October 19, 2006 at 2:14 pm

Wow! Nice tips! I’ll be sure to try this out next time I go to a conference.

Ian October 19, 2006 at 2:45 pm

“website business license” – what the heck is that???

Ian October 19, 2006 at 2:49 pm

funky monkey: yeah, TO sucks for tech shows now. I haven’t been to one here since Comdex abandoned us about 8 years ago. I guess that’s what the internet is for.

/Fondly recalls World of Amiga at the International Center

Ian October 19, 2006 at 2:53 pm

Oh yeah, and John…. shame on you, the first rule of media passes is you don’t talk about media passes….

Keith October 19, 2006 at 3:09 pm

I think the last one that you’ve mentioned is totally true. Get a Media pass and get in for free.

BJ Guy October 19, 2006 at 3:41 pm

Cool! Now I need to find an appropriate trade show in my country.

John Chow October 20, 2006 at 12:47 am

If you want to know where all the trade shows are you can check http://www.tsnn.com

It contains data on more than 15,000 trade shows, exhibitions, public events and conferences.

Eli October 20, 2006 at 1:25 am

I’d like some of that free stuff :P

JuanFlaiter October 20, 2006 at 5:26 pm

I´m tired of freebies, I usually give them all away. And what´s worst I have to leave stuff at the hotel room many times because my luggage usually is full…

Instead of using spare time in collecting freebies at CES, I´ll be at the “other show” 8)

Jsh October 21, 2006 at 11:55 am

I’m going to CES in january, so based on your ‘rules’, can I get an invite to your party? ;-)

EVORiCE October 24, 2006 at 8:33 am

Maybe next time when there’s a show like those that you have mentioned. You can sign sign us up and invite us with the MEDIA PASSes you have mentioned. That way we can all have some FREE FUN.

Dave October 30, 2006 at 3:49 pm

Thanks for the link about the tradeshows, probably register when i get home

colbert November 2, 2006 at 3:02 pm

thanks for the great tips. No more just getting pens for free…I want the big items

Jon January 4, 2007 at 7:48 pm

Thanks for the info man – though the post is a little older, gotta love it – the retail website I work for is flying a bunch of us down – free swag is the name of the game (aside from actually trying to negotiate new suppliers for out site.
First time CES goer though, so any tips to help enjoy the show and time there?
-jon sanderson
http://www.areallygoodname.com
( replies might be best in the e-mail I used to make this post )

Evan D. Owen January 16, 2007 at 11:08 am

Nice post and comments. Promotional products are an integral component of trade shows. Yes, there are those individuals who just want free stuff to give away during the holidays, however, when you give something away and you then get free exposure on someone’s blog or they wear it out in public it becomes very hard to determine the actual cost this exposure might have cost you. Overall, giveaways are a must for most exhibitors, it’s just hard to track what value they add to the organization. I’m sure all the companies you mentioned above appreciate the exposure.
-Evan
http://www.smashhitdisplays.com