Trade show swag hunt lures mayor, multitudes

Iqaluit's favourite free-for-all


It's the stuff of trade shows everywhere, the currency of schmoozing, the way to ensure a potential business client remembers your phone number long after they've forgotten your face.

It's called swag – commonly considered to be an acronym for Stuff We All Get – and it just might be the single biggest reason to spend an hour wandering the disjointed floor of the Arctic Winter Games arena during the Nunavut Trade Show.

Ooleepeeka Shoo, in for the trade show from Ottawa, even had a particular item in mind when she hit the trade show floor last Wednesday.

"Blue pens," she said. "Blue pens are hard to find at work." She tests them. Pens with black ink are thrown back. Shoo is also a fan of the free lapel pins that are likely second only to pens in the swag hierarchy.

Even Iqaluit's mayor, Elisapee Sheutiapik, could be seen making the rounds with a bag full of swag and son Iola in tow, with a bag of his own. With myriad businesses and agencies from every level of government present at the trade show, the mayor said the scores of pens serve as a makeshift database of phone numbers and websites.

"I grab every pen and every notepad and I'm a pin collector so I've got to grab the pins," she said.

Nearly every table has something to give away. Pens are by far the most common item, but pins, pencils and fridge magnets are also easily had.

But swag has made the jump from the office to the bedroom and even the fishing hole: the Department of Health and Social Services was giving away "country food flavoured" condoms (just a Durex with a beluga on the wrapper), while the Office of the Languages Commissioner had its own fishing lures.

Helen Klengenberg might be Nunavut's high priestess of swag. She owns Akhaliak Office and Supplies, which will put your company's name on anything from pens to mouse pads, and much of the swag at the trade show came from her company. She also knows why pens are the leading form of swag.

"When [organizations] advertise in Nunavut they have to think of the whole area, not just one location so the budget is kind of stretched," she said. "So that's probably why you see a lot of pens because they're the most inexpensive way to advertise."

Hal Timar, one of the trade show organizers, said the distribution of swag between delegates is less important than to the general public.

"For the people looking for the more direct-to-public kind of dealings, the swag takes on a higher level of importance," he said. "But it's always important."

But not everyone is taken in by that which glitters. Iqaluit contractor Lenrick Taylor said he's looking for information handouts and contacts more than fancy stuff.

"I get a lot of information that will benefit me," he said.

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