The Young Entrepreneur Council asked 11 successful young entrepreneurs for their best (and least obvious!) examples of giveaways or swag are actually worth investing in before heading to an industry trade show or conference. Here's what they said.

1. Care About Care Packages

The best type of swag is the type that provides value. Conference attendees are on their feet all day, spending hours running around to different panels, I've found that the best way to make a statement is to offer a branded care package, complete with aspirin, bandages, a quick snack, pen, notepad and a maybe a USB drive with your company information.
--Lauren Fairbanks, Stunt & Gimmick's

2. Skip the Business Cards

Almost all vendors get pens. Tote bags can get pricey. What else is your target customer or client likely to use over and over again? I like to get bookmarks done up. They contain all the info my business card does, plus a little bit more. And because my clients are word nerds, I know it's something they'll use (and see) repeatedly, for years and years.
--Steph Auteri, Word Nerd Pro

3. T-Shirts Get Worn

Doreen Bloch

Giveaways and swag at conferences are usually money down the drain because they're not targeted to the individual nor do they usually help in making a sale. A safe bet is a T-shirt — they usually do get worn around town, so it may generate some publicity. Or you can always just invest in an awesome grilled cheese sandwich station, a la GroupMe at SXSW.
--Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

4. Go Small to Pay Off Big

Swag is expensive and bulky to carry. A hundred individually-wrapped tea bags have worked for us. We stamp our business information and a coupon on each wrapper, and the potential customers love them!
--Nancy T. NguyenSweet T


5. Community-Focused Giveaways

Every company at conferences wants to transform attendees into walking billboards for their company. Instead, think about why people are at conferences--they want to network. Give attendees a reason to network around your company or brand. Give them a way to remember people they meet, a way to keep in touch and follow up. You'll definitely be remembered.
--Arielle Patrice Scott, GenJuice

6. Earn Favor Through Their Hunger

Get something unique to give away that you know nobody else has seen. We used Coffee Cereal to offer people little bags of a unique product and it worked out great. People like things that they don't see everyday.
--John HallDigital Talent Agents


7. Who Says It Must Be Tangible?

Papers get lost. Swag gets left in hotel rooms. Instead, offer something that attendees will have a harder time losing, such as a digital download. My favorite is offering a free whitepaper or eBook that can be sent around after the conference. I ask the organizers to send it out to ticket holders and offer to email it personally. That I can easily follow up later.
--Thursday BramHyper Modern Consulting

8. Step In as a Sponsor

Carmen Benitez

Trade shows serve a great purpose: to get to decision-makers fast and easy. But instead of spending money on swag, invest the money to sponsor tradeshow promotions that drive attendees to your booth, where you can collect and scan their data while speaking directly to them. Instead of leftover candy, you leave with real ammunition to drive post-event sales.
--Carmen Benitez, Fetch Plus

9. Offer Something Useful

Caitlin McCabe

The swag worth investing in is the type item that attendees will find useful. If you're at a conference for pet owners, give away branded leashes, or portable dog bowls. Think of the items that people at the conference will need but might have forgotten to bring, and give them that. You'll not only be a hero, but they'll remember your brand too.
--Caitlin McCabe, Real Bullets Branding

10. Make a Case

Danny Wong

From my experience, people enjoy using cases after conferences. Just don't overpromote your brand on the case, otherwise, people won't use it.
--Ben Lang, EpicLaunch


11. Stay Away From the Usual Swag

Matt Mickiewicz

Having attended my fair share of conferences and collecting hundreds of items, I can tell you that not a single giveaway has made an impact on whom I buy from or do business with. T-shirts, pens, wristbands, brochures, tote bags, USB sticks, mousepads, notebooks, candy or packs of gum are all overdone. If anything, give me a nice iPhone or iPad cover.
--Matt Mickiewicz, 99designs