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Trade Show Booth 101: What Registrants Really Want

The SXSW Trade Show is a great place to network and learn about all the cool new companies with a message to share.  With that in mind we have come up with what we’d like to see from the Trade Show companies.

Booth Design

Booths should be inviting and allow for space for visitors to enter the booth instead of just talking across the table from the aisle. This allows for better traffic flow and provides for better interaction.


Some visitors will want to chat about the product, others may just want a pamphlet. To avoid scaring away the masses, don’t play used car salesman (ie; don’t jump on each visitor with a canned spiel). Instead introduce yourself and offer to answer any questions they may have.

SWAG (What everyone *really* wants)

We’ve seen every sort of SWAG, some that stick around and others that just get discarded. For the best impact and long lasting brand recognition, we suggest the following pointers:

Stuff we can use DURING SXSW:

  • Sharpies – either the regular ones or the baby ones. These are almost a necessity during SXSW and are guarded jealously
  • Pens (but Sharpies are better)
  • Small notebooks – not everyone comes prepared for class :)
  • Blistex – This is really useful, and if you use the name brand item it is more likely to be held onto past SXSW (ie lasting brand recognition)
  • Sunglasses – cheap is okay, there are going to be lost, broken, forgotten shades, and they will be retained past SXSW
  • Gum
  • Bandannas

Stuff we can use AFTER SXSW:

  • Bottle openers – unique shapes will catch the eye.
  • USB drives – these are a great resource. We’ve even seen some companies provide content on them, which is very useful, but don’t make it so that the drive cannot be formatted for general use after the content has been viewed, otherwise it winds up in the landfill.
  • Phone cases
  • T-shirts – These are always a favorite, but try to have “SXSW 2012” somewhere on it, it’ll mean more and be less likely to wind up at Goodwill.
  • Reusable shopping bags

Stuff that doesn’t have staying power (stay away from this, if it is taken it will most likely not stay around long)

  • Lanyards – everyone already has one. Suggestion: pony up to sponsor official SXSW lanyards.
  • Mints – especially in non-recycleable containers
  • Mini flashlights – most people just use their iPhone so these wind up in the trash when the battery dies
  • Hand fans
  • Stickers, magnets, sweatbands, guitar picks, lighters etc. (unless your marketing plan is to advertise on guitar cases)

By the way, SXSW announced their list of Trade Show Exhibitors yesterday. Go check it out.


2 Responses to “Trade Show Booth 101: What Registrants Really Want”

  1. M-D November says:

    I’d add hand sanitizer and refillable water bottles (preferably with some form of clip/carabiner)  to the list of things that are useful during the conference.

  2. [...] were happy to see several booths take our advice and offer items that had staying power; bandannas, mini Sharpies on lanyards, notebooks, and a new [...]