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Monday, May 8, 2017

Red Hat Summit Conference Giveaway Strategy

I've been spending a few days this week at the Red Hat Summit conference in Boston. It is a highly technical conference that is probably of little interest to most of the readers here. Having said that, many of us have gone to various conferences for work. What I'm sharing here is my strategy for getting free stuff at the conference and winning any of the giveaways available. Hopefully, it will help you in planning your next conference outing in getting only the best swag available and having a chance at winning the various giveaways.

I'm local to the Red Hat conference and able to carry any goodies home with me each day. If you're going to an out-of-town multi-day conference you may need to bring some extra luggage. Another option if you get too much swag is to just ship it home. However, if the goal is to get stuff free, having to pay for shipping or extra luggage might defeat the purpose. Plan accordingly and don't be afraid to leave some of the lesser goodies behind for the hotel cleaning crew. They may welcome the items or will just throw them out (or donate them) if  they don't want them.
Conferences are a great place to get freebies. Every vendor wants to draw you into their booth. Under most circumstances, they'll have some kind of a draw so they can get your ear and talk about their products and services. Between sessions, be sure to hit the show floor and see what you can get. Consider doing a walkabout once around the floor as you plan your approach. Also look through the welcome package to see if there is anything in there to turn in and swap for an item.

Many of the vendor booths will hold drawings for prizes. These drawings are typically end of day. For some drawings, you must be present to win. Before entering any drawings for prizes, make sure you can be present to attend the drawing. It isn't worth your time listening to a sales spiel if  you know you can't be around for the drawing. If are lucky and you do win something and it is too big to carry, consider asking the vendor to ship it home to you. Check end times carefully. If end times for must be present drawings coincide with something else going on, be sure to enter those AND make sure you are present. A prior conference I attended had a drone giveaway drawing DURING one of the keynote sessions. Actually, it was immediately after but the session ran long. Hardly anyone attended the drawing, thus increasing the odds for those who attended. More importantly though is the don't waste your time on things you can't attend rule.

Drawing "passports" are really big at this conference. I've seen them on a smaller scale at other conferences but nearly every company has something like a passport here that you must fill out in order to enter to win their prize. If you're not familiar with the concept, it is like a regular passport. As you visit each stop, your passport is stamped. Fill up the stamps and you can submit the passport as an entry into the contest or to get a free item like a t-shirt.
Sometimes you have to do stupid things to get your stamps for your passports. Decide for yourself how much you want the prize. Also, some passports have different levels of prizes. Get five stamps, get a basic prize. Get 20 stamps, get something more. Typically, when there are multiple levels, there is also a grand prize that anyone who gets any stamps and submits their passport can win. At this show, the grand prize was only available to those who filled up their passport book.

Another important thing to mention is don't waste time entering for prizes you don't want. There was a time where I had the mentality of any win is a good win. That changed after years of winning little crap that for the most part I tossed in the end. I already own an Amazon Echo Dot. Many of the booths were giving them away. Unless I really wanted to learn about the product or service the vendor was pushing, I was able to go right by those booths. Sure, I could sell it if I were to win a second. That's a decision you have to make yourself. Is it worth your time entering to have to spend more time in the end to sell. An Echo Dot is a $50 item. You can get one with free shipping from eBay for about $37. So, less fees and shipping costs, you might get around $30 selling. Perhaps you can enter to win that in a second time around the show floor, after you've entered in everything you really do want to win.
Some giveaways require you to do external tasks. By this, I typically mean a post online to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest. JFrog is giving away a TV. You have to tweet a picture of their staff at their both, tagging them online with a specific hashtag and @tagging their company, too. At the last trade show I was at, when you tweeted with a specific trio of hashtags, something actually came out of a vending machine.

Surveys, surveys, surveys. For some giveaways, you have to fill out a survey. Just consider the time required to fill out the survey and if it is worth the value of the item you'll get. For one booth at the Red Hat conference, you could get a t-shirt or a hoodie. If you wanted the hoodie, you had to walk through a technical tutorial of their product that took roughly 15 minutes, while the t-shirt required nothing of you. People had to decide if it was worth the time. Of course, there were only a limited number of seats, too. So, now that 15 minutes could grow to 20-30 depending upon seating availability. Remember you can always come back to get an item if seating is full.

One way of winning items has been around for what seems like forever. Sit and watch a presentation and anyone who attends can win a prize. These I typically skipped. In the few times I attended, I broke out my laptop to check email instead of listening. Find seating in the back if you plan on doing that.

Nowadays, many conferences have their own apps to download. The apps include conference agenda and other scheduling aids. Check the apps out for their own set of giveaways you can enter. For the Red Hat Conference app, you were to visit the major show sponsors and scan a QR code where each sponsor had their own prize. Again, use your time wisely and only hunt out the prizes you want before spending the time finding the different vendors.

In the end, I came home with two hoodies, six t-shirts, a small black duck, and lots of other little swag. Unfortunately, with all the work I put into it, I didn't win any prizes. The one prize I really did want was the BB-8 drone, but low-and-behold the winner wasn't me.

Next time you're planning on going to a conference, do plan out your time before reaching the show floor. It is too hard to try to best manage that time from the show floor. It seems like it should work but never does.


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