Conference freebies: time for a rethink?

Lucy holding an array of tote bags collected from conferences
Share This Post

I love a freebie!

Branded corporate gifts and conference giveaways are staples at events from Freshers’ Fairs to professional conferences.

But as the focus on environmental sustainability grows, what is the real cost of these conference giveaways?

A close look at the conference goodie bag

In a recent conference bag, I sweated with excitement as I pulled out a load of freebies (aka branded items) – some useful, some less so. Whilst a couple of pens and a marketing book were useful keepsakes, a branded tea towel, stress ball, and a plastic trolley token didn’t make the cut.

How many of us even use half of the things we end up bringing back home conferences?

What do customers actually want?

Pens and notebooks are classic conference giveaways that still resonate. Although they may not be the most innovative branded corporate gifts, they are undeniably useful and can be produced sustainably.

It might be time to focus less on what brands want to give away and more on what attendees actually want – and will use.

The environmental cost of branded corporate gifts

Plastic keyrings and synthetic bags are more than just clutter, they also contribute to environmental degradation. As the push for corporate sustainability grows, the environmental impact of conference giveaways must be considered.

Branded conference mug

Let’s think smart

Instead of focusing on items that might end up in the bin, look at higher-quality gifts that attendees would actually appreciate and use over the long term.

Opt for items made from recyclable or biodegradable materials.

It’s not about the flashiest gadget but about the most useful one. Think about items that can be used in daily life or better still, are relevant to the conference’s theme. A notebook and pen are starting to be look more appealing!

Given the tech-savvy world we live in, offering digital goods like e-books, exclusive webinars, or even discount codes for online courses can be just as appealing.

Survey past attendees about the kinds of freebies they actually find useful or would like to see in the future. Sometimes the best ideas come straight from the consumer.


As much as we love freebies, it’s clear that there’s room for improvement. By being more deliberate and responsible in our choices, not only do we stand to create a better experience for attendees but we also contribute positively to wider sustainability goals.

So before you next fill a conference bag with goodies, stop and think, is this a giveaway people will value, or is it destined for the rubbish bin?

I’m looking at some conference giveaways for my own company. All ideas are welcome! [email protected]

More To Explore