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  • Ken Newman

Got Swag?

“Hey Newman. What the heck do people do with all that swag that’s left over after the trade show is done? T-shirts? Stress Balls? Flying Monkeys? Is there a final resting place for all this stuff??” – JB from LA

That’s a darn good question, JB. Instead of trying to answer it myself, I got in touch with some of my fellow trade show professionals. Andy Saks of Spark Presentations, turned me on to a great piece that just appeared in the Boston Globe:

Convention Center Repurposes Leftover Swag

I was really happy to see that some Convention Centers are doing the responsible thing and not just letting all this stuff go straight to the dump!

I also wanted to find out what people were doing (and could be doing) on a smaller scale to deal with this Swag Surplus. So I got in touch with trade show veteran (and fellow blogger), Jennifer Canale. She not only has hundreds of trade shows under her belt, but she is very active in helping out her local community. Here’s what Jennifer had to say:

“I can’t understand why people would EVER just dump all this trade show swag. It makes me NUTS !! Let’s face it, somewhere out there, closer than you think, are people who could use a few new t-shirts. So go GET them! On the last day, walk the floor, grab an extra shirt or two from each booth. Women’s shelters are perfect places to drop off clothing! So are Child Care Centers. And, if you mention to the booth that you are giving their merchandise to a shelter, they usually will load you up on a variety of sizes after the show. It’s been my experience that companies are thrilled to have people not only WEARING their branded merchandise, but NEEDING it.

And while you’re on swag patrol, here are some more ideas:

  • Schools always need pens, pencils, notepads, and thumb drives.

  • Soup kitchens love 20 pounds of mixed candy collected from the booths.

  • Stress balls and stuffed animals become toys at a low-income day care or preschool.

After the Fancy Foods West show, my client, Maria & Ricardo’s Tortilla Factory, had about 50 pounds of tortillas left over, all of them still in sealed packages. I couldn’t bear to see them thrown away, so I loaded them up in my little “Trade Show Granny Cart” and hauled them to Glide and the Tenderloin Outpatient Clinic.

At the NADA show, my client, Elead, had about 6000 cookies leftover—again, all in packages. I suggested that she let me take them to Glide, and she was thrilled! Everyone at Glide got a wonderful dessert, courtesy of Elead.

And the company even got a nice tax write-off.”

Want to hear more from Jennifer Canale? Check out her blog at BRANDED FOR LIFE. Great stuff there. And we would love to hear what some of YOU are doing with all those shirts, hats, bears, monkeys, thumb drives, and other branded baubles that are part of our trade show life. Just put it in the comments section. Thanks.

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