Conference Swag: Great Expectations

With conference season coming to an end, we took the opportunity to survey developers and get their impressions. Now we are going to take a closer look at the conference swag that goes hand in hand with these events; both the tchotchkes that are practically the lifeblood of every trade show booth, and the big ticket items that hosts reveal during their keynote.

These days there is an expectation that you can’t have a conference without the requisite swag for attendees to take home. In an interesting twist, there were no major hardware giveaways for attendees at either Microsoft’s Build or Google I/O this year. It was reported that Google I/O had branded merchandise available for purchase, as well as a goodie bag to keep attendees protected under the California sun. 

Our survey respondents have strong conference swag convictions. For starters, over three-quarters expect swag as an attendee, and over half also expect a host/sponsor giveaway. In fact, only 16% said they do not expect either swag or a sponsor/host giveaway during these events. Let’s be honest, for many conference goers, the new shiny object is assumed to be rolled into the cost of attending the event.

What types of swag entice developers to stop at the booth? Pack carefully before heading to the show floor! T-shirts/clothing was the most popular, chosen by more than three-quarters of our respondents. Toys and mugs/cups also go over well. USB devices (such as chargers, flash drives and general accessories) and stickers were popular, too. Feel free to leave candy, mints, and stress balls behind – those were not high on the list.

Ever wonder what people say is the best conference swag they ever received? Many have fond memories of hardware, in particular mobile devices such as the HTC Evo, Lumia 920, Nexus 9, and Samsung Note 3. We also heard things like the Raspberry Pi, smartwatches, a Surface Pro, and even gaming consoles. The second most popular choice was branded clothing. There was also a mention of a t-shirt with an embedded NFC tag.

If you’re ready to get creative with your swag, other items on the cool list include: mini-drones, Lego kits, gift cards, Sphero, Bluetooth speakers, a HackPack (which had a built-in, programmable Arduino Board), and even a set of “Magic the Gathering” game cards. Sometimes it does help to think outside of the box.

After the show ends, and the developers have all gone home, what do they do with the goodies? Seven out of ten told us they keep it for themselves. Less than 30% share the loot, and even then it depends on what they received. Almost 8% claim they bring stuff home to the kids… It could happen.

Finally, we asked how long people are willing to wait to get their hands on coveted swag. Two-thirds will wait up to 10 minutes, but the majority of our respondents are only willing to wait approximately 1 – 5 minutes. Here’s hoping the demos are quick and to the point!

Believe it or not, almost 8% of our respondents can be lumped into the hard-core collector crew, and claim they are willing to wait over 30 minutes. Good things come to those who wait?

Where do you stand when it comes to swag at developer conferences? A must have, and part of the cost of doing business for the host and vendors? Or is it is just junk that you have to schlep home? And if you’re on the other side of the aisle – you know, the one handing out the goods in the first place – what does it all mean to you?