SWAG Bragging: The Best of Technical Communications Conferences

Shot Glass from Michael Opsteegh (@stubbornlywrite)

Freebies. Promotional Materials. Giveaways. Most people simply call it swag. Short for Stuff We All Get. Even the word SWAG is fun to say.  A lot of us get cool trinkets when we attend technical communications conferences, and we thought we could “crowd source” this project as part of May’s TechWhirl theme. Thanks to those who participated via social media, and the technical communicators sent us pictures of their favorite conference goodies.

Besides the free pens and sticky notes, we’ve found some extremely interesting conference swag that really makes our day. From socks adorned with the Doc-to-Help owl logo to colorful USB hubs provided by Adobe, they remind us of the companies we love and the products we use as technical communicators.

The conference-going technical writer can sometimes grab these cool conference goodies and almost always the more utilitarian variety. Whether it’s something to wear at home or something to use at work, we use them day-in and day-out. Our biggest question is one that most technical writers must wonder about: “How can I score such sweet loot?” It’s a matter of timing, good luck, and creative marketing.

So, who in their right minds would give away socks with their logo? Doc-to-Help of course! It’s a smart marketing ploy. We wish we could get TC-related apparel too. We would be sporting their swag every day, perhaps tweet the fact we’re jumping up and down with joy wearing such awesome socks.

There is a difference between high-end swag and low-end swag. It depends on a company’s marketing budget. Some can afford socks, shirts, USB drives, sticky notes, coasters, and pens. Does an expensive giveaway mean anything? Could the smallest button pin be more valuable? Depends who you ask.

The results of Connie Giordano's suitcase unpacking

After the conference is over and we unpack our suitcases, we take these cool trinkets to work  and show them off along with the other items collected over the years that decorate that ominous corner on the office desk. You can tell a seasoned technical writer by the rare items they pull out and show off.  The coveted “pen > sword” t-shirt gets oohs and ahhs and questions of “Where did you score that?”  The older the technical communications conference, and more interesting the swag, the better.  No matter how tacky it looks, free means a lot to us.  We make a sport out of scoring the best swag.  The more unique, rare, or funny, the better.

Flying monkeys...'nuff said

Here’s some the swag technical communicators have collected at conferences (in no particular order):

  • Doc-2-Help Owl Socks
  • Pen > Sword T-Shirt
  • Adobe Backpack
  • Stress Ball
  • Leather jotters with a USB pocket on the front
  • Leather padfolio
  • WebWorks reusable mini-screen cleaner (unbelievably useful)
  • Keychains
  • Pedometers
  • Flip Video Camera
  • iPods
  • Kindles
  • Notebooks with matching pens
  • Rubik’s Cubes
  • Laser pointers with slide advancer
  • Ball caps
  • Desk clocks
  • Windbreaker jackets
  • Flying monkey slingshots with monkeys that shriek
  • USB drives of all shapes, sizes, and varieties
  • The coveted TechWhirl Lapel Pin (best item on the list by far)
  • The TechWhirl Flyer from 2011

    The TechWhirl Flyer

  • STC Umbrella
  • STC CD Case
  • Webworks.com cell phone screen cleaner cling-on
  • OfficeMate Software Solutions Shot Glass
  • Stopwatches (for scrum masters, probably)
  • Metal water bottles
  • Reusable tote bags made from recycled materials
  • Books written by the presenter

To all the vendors and awesome sponsors, thank you for providing such wonderful conference freebies. We’re waiting with baited breath to see your latest additions and grab them to add to our collection. Free is good, free and nifty is absolutely the best!

Tony Chung’s Conference SWAG

See the infamous Doc-to-Help Owl socks, courtesy STC-Washington DC

 

Lauren Hart

Lauren Hart is currently working as a Technical Writer for a Software Development company called 2Is Inc. (www.2is-inc.com) in Boston, MA. She previously worked for a university doing technology strategy proposal writing, and in corporate banking writing policies and procedures. Her interests include; content strategy, user assistance, user interface design, usability testing, and emerging technologies in Technical Communications. She also writes a tech comm blog at http://www.writeeditrepeatblog.wordpress.com and is a member of STC. The upcoming Writers UA event will be the first conference of its kind that she has attended. Since she is new to software UA, she is eager to learn and share ideas with the software UA community.

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Roger is relatively new to the technical communication field; however, he works extremely hard to network and develop professional relationships among colleagues. He also posts articles regarding technical communication on his blog at WriteTechie.com. If you are interested in hiring Roger, feel free to view his resume on LinkedIn.

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