Holy cow, those TechReady attendees really love their tchotchkes

I was at the Ask the Experts event last night at TechReady11, and if I didn't know better, I would have thought the purpose of Ask the Experts was for attendees to wander the room collecting the coolest swag they could get their hands on as quickly as possible. My table was equipped with about two dozen Windows 7 frisbees, and the moment they came out of the box, they disappeared into the hands of passers-by, most of whom didn't even bother reading the sign on the table much less make eye contact with me.

The table next to mine started with a mountain of mugs, but it wasn't long before it was reduced to a molehill.

To try to convince people at least to make eye contact with me, I hid the remaining frisbees under the table, handing them only to people who actually stopped to ask a question, or at least tell an interesting story.

After the frisbees were gone, the swag fairies dropped a few dozen battery-powered light stick thingies. They didn't disappear as quickly, perhaps because the initial surge of swag-hunters had subsided.

I was kind of surprised at how aggressively people went after the swag. This is, after all, a Microsoft internal event. You'd think these people would be jaded by now, having been surrounded by Microsoft-branded doodads for years.

Comments (16)
  1. BOFH says:

    Don't underestimate the value of regifting.

    Those frisbees make excellent gifts for a son or nephew, while at the same time maintaining the status of the gifter as Greatest Dad or Greatest Uncle in the eyes of the giftee.

  2. nathan_works says:

    That and there's always some mystical geek cred associated with how many trade show badges, branded crap etc you have on/at/around your desk.. A way of showing you've been around a long time, or are a big important person etc..

  3. weloytty says:

    That, and most of the TR attendees are from services (as opposed to the product groups or sales).  We don't get a whole lot in the way of SWAG anymore.

  4. David Moisan says:

    People act weird at trade shows and show-like events.  Myself not excepted.  I don't know how many times I tried to make up a story in my head to get something like a coffee mug from some vendor I have no hope of doing business with in real life.  Sometimes I fess up and the rep will laugh, and tell me to go ahead and have some swag anyway.

  5. Toddsa says:

    Damn, I missed it. How was the advanced debugging talk, Did you give out frisbies too?

    [The talk isn't until tomorrow, so there's still time. We'll see about the frisbees. -Raymond]
  6. Joe Dietz says:

    I attended SC'09 (SuperComputing) because it was in my home town last year (PDX), and was fairly actively avoiding picking up a bunch of swag (though I did enthusiastically take the offered Register t-shirt!).  SC 09 unlike most trade shows I'd been too before had a lot of 'vendors' that where not really selling anything aside from how cool their academic institution's supercomputer was.  Some of these where getting fairly aggressive about off-loading their suitcase of swag on anybody that happened to be within 10 feet of their exhibit space; whereas the few commercial vendors where experienced and playing coy with the cool stuff they had.

  7. You should see how fast teachers pick up swag at education trade show events. As you might expect kids are the worst and middle school kids will sweep through like vacuum cleaners. But ever research faculty from large universities will take anything not nailed down at a conference. It may be something about the kind of event  or perhaps just the idea of "free stuff."

    I pick up swag as gifts for others sometimes. Over time I have found that otherwise it is just too much trouble to get things home. Unless it is a USB storage fob. You can never have too many of those.

  8. dgt says:

    no live feed for the talk?

    [That's what the TechReady Web site says. I'm inclined to believe them. -Raymond]
  9. Fred Foobar says:

    You should see college career fairs sometime, especially the engineering ones. Take a large quantity of college students – people who have "free" as their (second-)favorite four-letter F-word – and surround them with recruiters all giving out swag. Inevitably, the length of the line at a given table will hold a direct correspondence to the coolness of the swag being distributed, and have almost no relation to the actual company.

  10. tsrblke says:


    Heh, agreement there.  I've seen companies that are little more than mediocre staffing firms line up people out the door with cool swag.  (Ironically, the companies they were staffing for were also there, with less swag and less lines.  Perhaps the middle mad should have been cut.)

  11. It took me about 3 years at Microsoft before I realized I was an adult and was allowed to dress myself. All those free t-shirts quietly became gym clothing. But until then, most every piece of MS-branded gear was part of my everyday uniform…

  12. James Picone says:

    At an industry open-day thing at my university, there was a table giving away rulers with calculators built into them. I have no idea what the company trying to recruit me was, but man, calculator ruler? That's nearly as cool as a slide rule!

  13. Paul says:

    I thought it was the law that you had to get as much free stuff as possible.

    I know someone who at a trade show a few years back managed to even talk his way into getting £30 worth of goods as a freebie as an "interested customer" wanting to "make an order"

    The fact his order would have consisted of just that one item was not mentioned!

    Often when I'm at an event with other people, we have a competition to see just who can get the most free stuff.

  14. Brooks Moses says:

    Paul: That somewhat reminds me of a time I needed a replacement BIOS chip for a small ancient 486 motherboard where the designer had done the incredibly clever trick of incorporating the battery into the BIOS chip — where it, of course, eventually died.

    The company that made the chip had a place to request samples — so I requested one, and truthfully stated that my expected order size was "1 chip".  (I think I even explained why I needed it.)  So they mailed me two of them.

  15. Mihai says:

    Of course they do, especially if "tchotchke" is used as "desirable young girl" ;-)


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