No more squeeze balls! Why we ditched swag for Pure //Accelerate 2019 Posted on Sep 6th, 2019 by Peter Eicher

Categories: Pure Storage

With trade show season in full flight, an IT person’s fancy turns to… swag! You know, all that free giveaway stuff from tech vendors. Stuff with logos on it. Squeeze balls, pens, water bottles, and countless other tchotchkes. Who doesn’t love swag? 

Well the Earth doesn’t love it all that much. What is swag but junk waiting to happen? Its half-life can’t be more than a few weeks. So this year for Pure //Accelerate 2019, Catalogic decided that we were going to ditch the swag.

At the same time, we saw that Pure was sponsoring a great charity idea for //Accelerate: Plant a Tree! For each dollar donated, a tree gets planted by the organization One Tree Planted. Pure is matching all donations up to $5,000. For our part, we decided to join in (you should too; please click the link and donate!).   

When you visit our booth at //Accelerate (#608), instead of handing you a squeeze ball we’re going to make a $2 donation to Plant a Tree. And by answering a simple four question IT survey online, we’ll add another $3. So by visiting our booth you can actually plant up to five trees! 

Image: A representative sample of trade show swag. How much of this do we really need?

A representative sample of trade show swag. How much of this do we really need?

But let’s be honest. The reason tech vendors sponsor shows – at considerable cost of dollars and staff time – is to talk to potential customers. And swag is designed to get potential customers to visit you. We’re hoping we can alter that mindset just a little, and maybe attendees will find it’s better to give than receive. And do you really need another squeeze ball?

In the larger scheme of things, it’s time for organizations to start thinking about swag. I still recall my first trade show, back in the mid-1990s when I was working for the late, great Ascend Communications. I was agog at all the free STUFF you could lay your hands on. I also had a couple of nine-year old twins at home: perfect swag age! On the last day of the show I had some free time, so I made a swag run (if you never saw internet boom era trade show swag, you haven’t seen swag). I ended up with two shopping bags full of stuff. How did I get it all home? I don’t remember. 

The kids were sure excited by it all. And then in about two days, it was just a lot of junk laying around, and it all got tossed out pretty quickly. Such is the lifecycle of swag. And I think we can all come up with some better way to have fun with our kids then bringing them squeeze balls and light up yo-yos, but I understand the temptation, believe me.

This is a reasonable approximation of me at my first trade show.

For a while I was also one of those Lanyard Guys. You know, the guy who has twenty-five different show badges hanging by his desk. Every tech company has these guys. But what about lanyards?

At VMworld this year, there were some 20,000 attendees. That’s a lot of lanyards and badges. If you laid them end-to-end, they’d reach from Pittsburgh to São Paulo. Ok, I just made that up. But it’s still a lot of lanyards. Can you recycle them? Would it make sense to have bins out on the last day of the event, so people leaving the show can toss their lanyards into the recycling bin?

I’m not trying to bash trade shows. I think they’re great events. With all the information available on the internet, there’s still nothing as effective as having a direct discussion in front of the computer screen and helping someone figure out their IT challenges. Loads of learning happens at them; people get technical certifications. Shows are a vital part of the tech ecosystem for both vendors and users.

But when it comes to swag and waste, we can do better. In our own little way this year, we’re trying something new. If you’re attending //Accelerate, please drop by and show your support.