Friday, June 10, 2011

Conference swag question

Here is a question for any lemming loungers who may have attended a scientific conference at one time or another during their careers (scientific or otherwise). What is the best “swag” or free commercial promotional giveaway, that you have received? Has the digital revolution changed this? For example, is there any point giving out pens and notebooks at a conference in 2011, or is everyone using usb sticks or handheld devices? Or are old-fashioned pens and paper notebooks vital for the later afternoon sessions where everyone’s device batteries have faded away?

On a broader note, do y’all spend much time looking at commercial booths at all? Or is the lure of the oral sessions too compelling for such time wasters? How do you divide up conference time anyway?

Back when I was a student, I would spend most of my time in talks or informally chatting with people in my field from far off lands whom I had never met in person. Evenings would be drinking beers with old friends. These days, I spend most of my time in a booth, or talking to potential customers.

In the 15 years since I first went to a scientific conference, I don't think I have ever been to a plenary session.


Emily J. Chin said...

Definitely the sweet laptop bag/backpack they gave out at the Chapman Conference on lherzolites a couple years ago. In my opinion, bags and backpacks are the best type of swag. I've seen people with Thermo backpacks and I wish I snagged one on time before they ran out!

Evelyn said...

I like free mass spectrometers :-)

More seriously, my favorite conference swag is fun nerdy stuff. Like foam rocks with a company name/logo on it or a plastic geological timescale (or periodic table) or a clever pencil with a scale on it. That sort of thing.

Maria said...

I miss getting the NASA calendar from AGU.

As a student I usually found time for a sweep through the booths to pick up swag. The swag I still actually use consists of pens, a couple of nerd-cool *high quality* refrigerator magnets (the cheap ones don't stick and/or disintegrate), and a little desk clock. Oh, and a swag CD sleeve from a job fair back in the dotcom boom, but you can't give those out anymore, you'll look stupid.

I got really excited about some rocket ship shaped postits one year, because omg rocket ship!, but they're pretty much just rotting in my big box o' postits now.

Does anyone make swag rite-in-rains?

C W Magee said...

Maria, if you can find a cheap bulk producer of WitR's, I'll pitch it to management. But I don't fancy my chances, sine most of our instruments are not weatherized.

And I think it is fair to say that NASA swag is in a league of its own.

A related questions is the best/ nerdiest place to put a geologic timescale. I reckon it would make a great tie.

Elli said...

I have to agree that the laptop bag I got a Goldschmidt ages ago is my favorite swag -- haven't managed to find an equivalent commercial one & mine is now falling apart due to heavy use.

I use the other swag (foam rocks, dinosaur eggs, etc.) as either presents for kids or wacky prizes for students.

Sarah said...

I got a rubber duck at an SPE conference about 10 years ago. It's the only one we've ever had that floats properly, and my kids are still using it at bathtime

Anne Jefferson said...

Best swag bar none is Steve Gough's scale bar pencil. I think they could run a profitable company just selling those to geologists.

WitR gives out tiny swag WitR notebooks, but they are too small for much practical use.

How about a hand lens?

At AGU and GSA, I usually do a browse through the vendor area when there's part of morning or afternoon of tech sessions that don't interest me much. (Or I'm burned out.) GSA's opening reception in the booth area (with free beer) also helps promote visiting the booths.