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Shel Horowitz's Monthly Frugal Fun Tip

How to Work a Trade Show for the Freebies

This is a couple of days late because I just got back from Chicago, where I scarfed up about a dozen brand new books, ate lunches and dinners for free on the show floor, prowled around on a free commuter train pass - and averaged all of $14.81 a day for food, lodging, and ground transportation. That would have been even lower, but on Saturday, I joined friends in a restaurant not of my choosing (I spent $13 vs. the average of $30) - and had to factor in a couple of short cab rides, including home from the restaurant. If I subtract Saturday, I spent only $10.95 per day.

Over the years, I've acquired numerous goodies at trade shows: At least 20 shirts... my warmest winter sweatshirt... hats... umbrellas... books, magazines, CDs, tapes... free trial advertising... software... refrigerator magnets... literally hundreds of pens (haven't bought one in many years)... all sorts of goodies to eat right then and there, from gourmet chocolates to - I kid you not! - matza blintzes. None of this cost me a cent; they were all freely given. Then, of course, there are the discounts on things I was going to buy anyway. "Show specials" are a great way to lower costs on all manner of things.

Show admission can range from zero to several hundred dollars - but I find there are enough shows with free or cheap admission to keep me happy! Actually, all the shows I go to are shows that are helpful in my business, so I don't mind spending a small amount to get in. Still, often it's possible to get in for free. either cover the event as a journalist or volunteer in someone's booth for a few hours.

Freebies come in a few different types;
* Free to all: there's a big display in the front of the booth and you just reach in and grab one (um hmmm, just one; don't be greedy, either!)
* Free to a select few: when I walk the aisles wearing a press badge, people often thrust samples at me - without even bothering to find out if the publication I'm writing for would want it. (Who am I to object? Well, it has to be interesting and worth the weight - I just turned down two large hardback mystery novels, brand new, autographed by the author - they were too big and I don't care much for mysteries)
* Given away in a drawing (enter as late as possible, fold your entry distinctively, or use a non-standard form, bright marker, or other way of bettering your chances)
* Given away to enthusiastic audience members during a product demo - cheer loudly, raise your hand quickly and often, show lots of excitement - or just ask quietly, between demos, if you could have one)
* Free to everyone who sits through a product demo: your feet will be tired anyway, so enjoy the demo as a chance to relax.

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