Name tags: backwards presentation?

Ever notice how most conferences get their information presentation backwards when it comes to name tags?  My colleague Ross Mavis and I had a chuckle about it when we both attended the MagNet magazine conference in Toronto this past week.

All conferences do it

Ross squinted to read my name, which was presented in about 14-point type half way down my name tag, while above it, in screaming 60-point type was “MagNet 2010”.  Now, let me be clear: I’m not picking on the conference organizers.  Those people worked their tails off to bring us a super conference and they succeeded.  The presentations and networking were terrific.  So my issue isn’t with MagNet; it’s with every conference I’ve ever attended.  They all present name tag information backwards.

I know where I am

Ross said it best “Why do they do that?” he asked as he bent over to get a better look. “They present the conference name in huge type at the top and your name in small type beneath it.  I already know where I am, so I don’t have to see the conference name. I need to see the name of the person I’m talking to.  Some day I’m going to write an article why name tags are designed that way.  And every conference does it the same way.”  He laughed and I told him that, with his permission, I’d like to blog about it and, because we both believe conference organizers need to be made aware of the error of their ways, he agreed.

Both parties feel awkward

So, here’s the issue, all you conference organizers:  We attend your conferences mostly to meet people.  Yes, the presentations are informative and they provide value, but not as much value as the contacts we make in the halls, at receptions and other events.  The more smoothly we can connect with each other the better. And, let’s be honest, both parties feel a little awkward when they have to crane their necks down to read each other’s names.  And it’s particularly awkward for guys like me, who may have to don reading glasses to read the small type.

There’s another issue . . .

There’s another issue here and – how can I put this tastefully? – when I have trouble reading a name I may have to stare for a few seconds.  And, because of where name tags tend to hang, when I’m first meeting a woman I have to wonder if she’s becoming suspicious about what I’m actually looking at.

This is a quick fix

So, that’s the problem. Now, here’s the solution: simply switch the type sizes and positions.  Present our names, particularly our first names, in huge type at the top of the name tag and put the conference name discreetly across the bottom.  As Ross so eloquently pointed out, we don’t need to be reminded where we are.  We already know that.  But we need to be able to see who we’re talking to at a glance.  Help us out here, folks.  This is an easy fix.
What do you think?  Do you think conference name tags present information backwards?  Let’s hear from you.

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About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

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