Nametags at Conferences: Three Fails

Three errors conference organizers often make with nametags, and how to avoid them.

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Nametags at conferences have one main purpose, and one related subordinate purpose:

  • Make it easy for attendees to identify each other.
  • Make it easy for attendees to pretend to remember people they've met, but whose names they've forgotten.

This yields three possible ways nametags can fail:

  1. The type is too small, often because the nametag focuses on things like the conference name -- even though everyone knows what conference they are attending -- rather than the participant's name.
  2. The nametag is hanging down on a lanyard by the participant's bellybutton, so one has to look there in order to pretend to recognize someone.
  3. The nametag is flipped around, which is especially common with those hanging-down-by-the-bellybutton nametags.

The solution to #2 and #3, of course, is to have the traditional clip-on nametags or things like them (some versions use magnets) and not the hanging nametags. If you want to offer both a clip and a hanging option, that's fine, and it might be helpful for the people whose clothes lack lapels, and who can't attach the nametag to the clothes' neckline. But absolutely have the clip as at least one of the options.

And if you're wearing a nametag with a clip, clip it up as high as you can (e.g., on the lapel rather than on the jacket pocket), so people can see it easily with a minimum of looking down. You might even deliberately clip it on the right, so it's extra easy to see when people are shaking your hand, though that's not strictly necessary.