Going to a Conference? Skip the Swag.

Last Updated Jun 18, 2011 8:00 PM EDT

In preparation for moving to a different state later this week, I'm going through closets and drawers and trying to chuck anything unimportant. I'm amazed how much of this "unimportant” stuff seems to be freebies I picked up at conferences.

Why is swag so appealing? Most of us aren't lacking for pens, and yet a vendor's cheap but free pens can have us loading up. We don't really want a certain program's literature, but it comes with an appealing little desk toy. Well, appealing for a day or two. After which it just sits there gathering dust while the literature takes up space. My tote bags alone are consuming their own medium-sized packing box. They once seemed useful. But, looking over my life, I'm having a hard time seeing a need for more than two.

If you're like me, you probably have your own stash of swag. It got to the point, last summer, where I decided that I needed to go cold turkey.

My no-swag policy started just as a way to fight the clutter. But then I realized that it had more useful side effects. Because swag weighs you down. The point of a conference is to meet people. When you're carrying bags of stuff, you're more likely to stay wherever you are, rather than walking around. You may run back up to your room to drop things off -- rather than use that time to meet a new contact at the coffee station. You may also use the vendors' booths as a way to avoid the awkward feeling of not recognizing anyone in a crowded room or cocktail party. But a better way to combat that awkward feeling is to walk up to a group that seems lively and introduce yourself.

Oh, I know most swag is harmless. And some may even save you cash. I will admit that I picked up a free tube of toothpaste after instituting my no-swag rule, because I knew I could use that.

Except, upon coming home, I realized it was a flavor I wasn't going to like.

From now on? Better to skip it.

Do you take conference swag?

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Photo courtesy flickr user, Matt McGee

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