SHRM11(Day Minus 2) – SWAG Rant

Our swag is made of metal

Swag. Stuff We All Get. Some people call it CPC (Cheap Plastic Crap), because it usually is. I’m not talking about all of the vendors asking attendees to “stop in and register to win an i-something”, because that’s not something we all get. I’m talking pens. Plastic letter openers. Mini hand sanitizer.

I am going to hate this part of SHRM.

My early experience with trade shows is very different than the type of conference/exhibitions that I have attended since becoming involved in HR. Before HR and employment law conferences, I attended real trade shows that existed solely for buyers to find sellers. The two shows I attended semi-regularly were the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show and the NASFT Fancy Food Show. (In fact, the first trip my now-husband took me on after we started dating was to the NRA Show. Romantic, huh? ;-))

Both of these shows are far larger than SHRM Annual. Last year the NRA Show had around 2,000 exhibitors and more than 42,000 attendees. The Fancy Food Show, while not as large as the NRA Show, is still a behemoth compared to SHRM Annual: 2,400 exhibitors and 24,000 attendees. This year, SHRM expects around 13,000 attendees and 650 exhibitors.

So why don’t the vendors at the NRA Show or the Fancy Food Show use cheap tchotckes to lure those huge numbers of attendees to their booths? Because they sell products or services that the attendees want or need, and the attendees go to their booths specifically to see, touch, observe or demo those products. Or eat. There is lots of eating going on at these shows, which was the primary reason that I happily went. Vendors at most trade shows don’t need to bait the buyer – everyone is there to conduct business, and everyone acts that way.

So when the exhibition hall opens on Sunday, I’m probably going to cry a little bit, because I am going to be thinking about all of the fossil fuel that was consumed in order to produce and ship those tchotckes, and how many chemicals are going to leech into the ground when they end up in a landfill.

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