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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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