Tradeshow Tchotchkes: Trash or Treasure?

Our group recently shuffled seating arrangements and I, like most of my coworkers, emptied drawers, cabinets and desktops into boxes and bags. I consider myself a fairly digital person, so there weren’t a lot of papers and physical files to keep track of, and moving my computer just involves remembering which cords go where, but what really disturbed me was the number of trinkets I had accumulated from tradeshows, conferences, trainings and other assorted events. So I was faced once again with the decision that every move begets: keep or toss?


It wasn’t the first time I faced such a dilemma; I suffer from an inability to say “no” to free stuff. I mean seriously, it’s free! Who couldn’t use another grocery bag? T-Shirt? Flash drive? Key chain? Magnet? Stuffed animal? Pen? Eraser? Ok… so some items are less essential than others (I can’t remember the last time I needed to erase something), but for some reason I always want them, whatever the item may be. As a kid, my dad often brought home these “tradeshow treasures”. Now that I have my own kids though, passing the giveaways along to them, seems like teaching them to collect “junk” and explaining what DNA is to a 5-year-old is a feat beyond my patience quota.

At first I thought the knickknacks were a great way to add personality to my desk space, but I had to face it, the generic souvenirs didn’t exactly represent me. So, I kept a few things that were actually useful and gave my coworkers the option of salvaging the rest. Dust covered stuffed animals migrated to someone else’s desk. Several pathetically weak magnets fell into the trash. And as I recycled countless pages from partially used notepads, I bowed my head in a moment of silence for the trees whose sacrifice was in vain. The truly useful and less prevalent items made it into the keep pile: a mini flashlight, invaluable for seeing what is going on with the cords under my desk; a magnetic clip, strong enough to hold a calendar; and a doodad that works as a coat hanger.

I know we’ve all seen some unique items given away at conferences and tradeshows (and I’d love to see pictures of your craziest!), but which ones have stood the test of time for you? Which ones have you actually found value in?

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One thoughtful comment

  1. My favorites:

    A USB charger with multiple different charging port adapters (2x micro USB, mini USB, and new and old Apple device chargers) from Li-cor

    A cell phone stand from Avanti Polar Lipids

    Mints from Luminex (AWESOME idea)

    Because we are a laser company, we give out laser pointers that are also pens!

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