As a fan of unique and different ways of doing things, I’ve never been comfortable with a conference name badge. It’s a hard one to innovate/disrupt, don’t you think?

In my creative thinking workshops I will often have blank name badges on the tables at the start of the day and people can choose whatever name they’d like to put on them and be that person for a day. Rarely people use their own name when given the scope to have a bit of fun. People have written celebrity names like Beyonce, occupations like Vet and titles like Dr Snooze. Sometimes it can be fun to have people pair up and name each-other too. I’ve even had people use a colour as a name for a 2hr workshop. When you’ve got a mixed room of seniority, it’s a great way to level the playing field at the same time as setting a fabulous foundation for thinking outside the box.

Hello my name is - conference name badge

Did you know the ‘Hello my name is…’ sticker/badge was created by a company called ‘C-Line Products’ in 1959? These days, at conferences you’ll see name badges often hanging off lanyards inside a plastic pocket which also contains a mini agenda plus tickets to any special events such as cocktail parties or breakout workshops. Sometimes delegates will have coloured sticky dots or ribbons on their name badges to signify a specialist area such as ‘beginner’ or ‘VIP’. At the recent #PBEVENT Problogger conference on the Gold Coast, delegates were invited to select their own sticky dot from a table to signify their blogging niche such as ‘food’, ‘fashion’, ‘beauty’, ‘pre-blogger’ etc.

The lanyard itself has an interesting history – originating in 15th century France and used in the military to connect a weapon to a uniform.  Of course, they are super useful at conferences and some event organisers will even colour code the attendees and crew. At a recent conference to bring clients together with vendors, the 2 groups had different coloured lanyards and the event team had a 3rd colour.

Some years ago, my great friend and colleague Andrew Horabin and I put together the National Speakers Association annual event and we called it an UnConference. One of the things we were determined to do differently was to banish the lanyard and facilitate many ways to encourage people to REMEMBER each others names. This is something Andrew is particularly known for – he can study the names of 40 people in a workshop he’s about to conduct and reel them off one by one without skipping a beat! One of the things we encouraged people to do was to remember at least a handful of names and also to always know the name of the person you were standing with so you could introduce them by name to the next person who came along. It really went well!

Another speaking colleague Kerry Doman (stage name : Nigel) taught me a very effective technique for remembering names. First, repeat the person’s name when they introduce themselves to you : ‘Hi Nicole, great to meet you!?’. Second, take something about the person’s appearance and relate it back to their name somehow. For example: if you’ve just met Shirley and she has curly hair, say in your mind: Curly Shirley. Nigel will even go to the lengths of picturing Shirley as a sheep. As she’s approaching later, he’ll see a sheep, think curly then get to Shirley!

At events which bring together people who know each other from social media platforms, I always wish the name badges had a large picture of the person’s social media avatar (photo) – that’s all you’ve seen for years so it would give instant recognition.

The most common mistake I see event organisers making is that the first name is way too small. It’s the single most important part of the name badge. The first name should be HUGE and, as brilliantly suggested by Matt Cutts of Google, printed on BOTH sides (how many people have you seen walking around with the blank side showing?). There is a great post by Mike Davidson about building a better conference badge which includes design notes and a downloadable template.

Big first name on name badge

Big first name on name badge

You could try big.first.name for lots of awesome templates for printing name badges.

I’d love to hear about even more alternatives to the name badge and lanyard…. what do you think? Up soon, I’ll be blogging about ways you can create massive value for sponsors at your event so they don’t try to do tricky and cheeky things when they are not supposed to. Speaking of sponsors – don’t forget you can sell your lanyard space to a sponsor.

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