Is there any research/study/survey that looked at whether conference attendees care about conference bags? I.e., would they be ok not receiving anything aside from their badges when they check in?

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    I'm going to ignore your "reference-request" tag because I think this is a question that can be answered from observation rather than scientific study.
    – jakebeal
    Jun 12, 2016 at 2:13
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    I find it hard to imagine anyone seriously undertaking such a study. Jun 12, 2016 at 3:45
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    @AndreasBlass I wouldn't put anything past marketing researches/analysts. Also on the survey, "What are the first three words that come to mind when you think of academic conferences?" "Have you ever attended [insert conference]?" "What do you consider most when deciding between two conferences occurring on similar dates? [location, food, prestige, hotel, conference swag]" Jun 12, 2016 at 6:08
  • @user0721090601 Better add a couple more options, like "topics" and "repeat attendee," both of which have been a reason for me to attend a conference.
    – A. R.
    Oct 20, 2022 at 13:08

1 Answer 1


Having gone to quite a number of scientific conferences, my observation is that the degree to which attendees care about conference swag (both bags and otherwise) is inversely correlated to the number of conferences that they have attended.

Bags and other conference swag is wonderful, magical, and exciting when you haven't gone to many conferences. It's a visible sign of scientific merit that you can even plop onto the counter at the grocery store! Forget bags, I've known people who have even saved their name badges as keepsakes. For graduate students or occasional attendees, for those who go to only one or two conferences per year, these things can be very personally significant markers of acceptance and belonging.

As the saying goes, however, familiarity breeds contempt. At this point in my career, I have a cupboard full of canvas bags. When I go to a conference, I mostly just ignore the swag, and most of my close colleagues do as well. But their graduate students, bright-eyed and so excited to be giving their first poster presentation ever, are likely to feel quite differently.

So, would people be OK receiving nothing but their badges? In many cases, it's just fine to give people nothing but their badges, and for more specialized meetings, that's just what they do. But if people are paying a hefty fee to be there and there's a lot of graduate students or occasional attendees, why not give the little bit of extra to let the people who want to feel special are able to feel special? A decent custom tote bag can cost as little as $1, so it's a remarkably small cost for the conference (far less than the leaden afternoon brownies mandated by the contract with the conference venue). It will make some of the attendees very happy, and the people who really don't care can simply shove it in the back of their bag closet like I do.

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    You can take this as a confession of immaturity, but, after 45 years of attending conferences, I still like getting a bag if it's a good one. I also like getting a pad of paper for taking notes, especially if I've forgotten to bring a pad with me. Jun 12, 2016 at 3:43
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    It was a sad day for me when my very first conference canvas bag started getting holes. I suspect my next conference attendance will be in no small part decided by the availability of a new bag. Jun 12, 2016 at 3:55
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    In my experience, having organized a couple of conferences, decent bags cost a bit more than 1$, around 4-5$. But it was 10 years ago, maybe prices have now dropped. Jun 12, 2016 at 9:45
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    @Raphael The reduction would be really minimal, of the order of 10$ at most: the main costs, especially for large conferences, come from the venue (this is really expensive), lunches and coffee breaks. And support for invited speakers and young scientists, where given. Jun 12, 2016 at 12:16
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    @Raphael Having been involved in organizing a number of scientific conferences, most good conferences are organized on a non-profit basis (beware any for-profit conference!). For all but the largest, the organizers are volunteers who either receive nothing or get to attend for free (a few of the largest are organized by paid staffers from a society). The high cost of conferences is often largely due to the exorbitant charges for venue and catering. Moreover, this is difficult to reduce because many venues put "X dollars of catering" as part of the contract.
    – jakebeal
    Jun 12, 2016 at 13:54

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