Ideal conference badge

I don’t even know how many conferences I’ve been to in the last decade, but it’s probably 30-40. In that time, maybe 2-3 conferences have really nailed the conference badge for attendees. Here’s what the ideal conference badge should look like, in my opinion:

Best conference badge

I’ll walk you through the important features of this badge:
- Each attendee’s first name needs to be large and easily readable. When you’re walking up to someone and they look half-familiar, you want to be able to glance down at their badge and see a first name that will jog your memory or allow you to greet them. The last name and company name don’t matter as much, so they should be smaller to make more room for the first name.
- Make the badge big. Four inches by six inches maybe.
- At every conference, about half the people are walking around with their badge facing backwards so that no one can see their name. That’s why conferences should put the attendee’s name on the front and the back of the badge.
- If your conferences costs hundreds (or thousands) of dollars, throw a little hologram sticker up in the top right to keep people from creating fake badges. If fake badges aren’t a problem, don’t bother.

There you have it. Conferences, please don’t write the name in a tiny 12-point font or put the name only on one side of the badge. See also Mike Davidson’s take on the right way to do a conference badge.

56 Responses to Ideal conference badge (Leave a comment)

  1. This has always been a favorite topic of mine. Thanks for writing it down. Like you, I’ve attended a staggering number of events and seen some very useless credentials. I agree with your suggestions, but would add a couple more.

    1) Sometimes, in an effort to make the badges friendlier, the first name is huge, but the company name is in very small font. Company names matter an immense amount to me at a trade show. When I am trying to make friends? Different story. But, at a conference, one’s employer gives me much of the context I need for a solid conversation.

    2) The lanyards by which the badges hang should be attached on both ends to prevent constant swinging around and should also be shortened to a height where the badge becomes readable without having to materially disrupt the flow of the interaction or even bend over.

  2. Good idea. Rather than a hologram… why not a QR code so an Android phone can capture it and grab your blog, twitter and friendfeed details?

    I was dead chuffed when I managed to get my twitter address on my business cards!

  3. Typically large conferences have designed name badges for the exhibitors, not the attendees. The size and shape of the card corresponded to the magnetic stripe needed to scan your presence at a particular booth.

    The move to RFID should make things a lot simpler. I can stick a RFID in between the two pieces of paper on your two-sided badge for easy scanning and verification.

  4. it really depends on where you are at. for instance at certain conferences or the like it would make sense to add also the knowledge-level which you are on.

    like you are beginner and you want to find out who is intermediate..

    in rest, i totally agree with you. often it is difficult to find out someones name, because of all the sponsor logos. :)

  5. That double sided printing is great, but possibly will increase printing costs, but totally worth the effort. Big names are a must. Its like you read my thoughts the last time I went to a conference.

  6. I agree with Matts ideal badge. The major issue is room on the badge for everything.

    Many people want their position and company name on the badge. A vocal few, get extremely upset if they don’t get it.

    Names. Trying to come up with the “perfect” algo (I know you see where this is going) to fit everything from “Sue Tate” to four word 50 character international names on a badge is very tricky. Our algo has 8 decision points in it for length of first name alone.

    That all said – here is what is coming to a conference near you:

    RFID badges with auto identification monitors. You walk past a monitor at the show and it recognizes you just like Minority Report. It simply reads the rfid and looks you up in the conference db quickly.

    “Hello Mr. Cutts, thanks for coming to PubCon today. Your next session is at 3:30 in the Red Oak Ballroom. Your presentation is on the session laptop. Goodluck and have a nice day.”

    I’ve seen the system in action and it is an attendee mind blower. We got a quote for pubcon last year, and it was just too pricey at $30 per badge. I am sure that price point is going to come down.

    I think we are going to try to use the old “wallet” style badges like we had at PubCon boston for this springs conference. They only hang one way – are large – and can hold a beer in a pinch.

  7. @ Matt,

    I didn’t think YOU even need to wear badges anymore at conferences?

    Maybe you should get a facticious name badge plus those Groucho Marx glasses to keep the hordes away from you ;)

    ,Michael Martin

  8. I would add a QR code and it would be perfect. Of course most people, at least in the US, don’t know what they are…

    mp/m

  9. I think that you should also mention the font type. No fancy fonts! Just a simple sans serif font – something like Tahoma that’s really easy to read.

    I can’t decide if the first name should be all caps or in proper case…

  10. Having the first name HUGE is important I think…and double-sided badges are awesome because the badge always swings around and faces the wrong way…good ideas. :) Todd

  11. How about mentioning current relatioship status on badge? That will make the conference productive!

  12. I go to a lot of LA Tech events and half the time all you see is a twitter handle on name tags. I think at tradeshows should have that as an option too.

    @jeff419

  13. That’s pretty much how I designed our company badges (for site visits) but I went with a portrait badge instead of landscape. Depending on the conference, your company name may be less or more important than other times.

    Overall, double sided and larger fonts should be standard on all badges.

  14. Sounds like you my want to look at a Brother Label Printer which will allow you to easily design your own name badges! Check out http://www.brother-usa.com/business/retail/name-badge-labels.aspx

  15. Hey Matt, I completely agree that good badges make a big difference in everyone’s confidence in introducing themselves to strangers. What you described pretty much is what the Carsonified/Future of Web Apps passes tend to look like.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/wpcandy/2356297394/

    First name in large font, company name clear and a colour to define developers, designers, marketers, founders… Makes it easier for everyone to avoid the marketing bods, you can see them coming a mile away ;)

  16. Good idea ill pas it on to our guys running or football biz conference (footy biz live) later in the year the most interesting badgers where the red dot ones at First Tuesday a red dot indicating you where a VC – boy did they get swamped

    Once kibitzed some guys pitching to a red badger and thinking i know that guy from some where only when i looked at his name did I realise it was from my copy of haythornwaite (a standard text on the Napoleonic was) I looked down and saw the name…..

    “Rothschild”

  17. oh bugger we dont need any stinking badgers – I ment badges

  18. I`ll keep it in mind for thinkvisibility :).. you are coming right Matt?

  19. For something like the search marketing industry, where many attendees may have some kind of established online “identity”, I’ve always thought that it would be great to be able to include your most known avatar and username.

    I might recognize even more attendees that I might have communicated with online if I saw their avatar or username, and likewise, more would probably identify me by my avatar and the username “identity” which might prompt even more spontaneous interaction between attendees.

  20. @ Matt, PS; after re-looking at your design skills (in MS Paint? :D), I’m starting to think you are the brains behind Salad Fingers http://www.fat-pie.com/salad.htm !

  21. Great stuff.

    Two sided — never thought of that one. Yes!

    Big font — yes, critical. It is embarrassing in mixed company to stare at someone’s chest to make out their name.

    At many marketing conferences, participants can be sorted into distinct types, such as retailers/advertisers; vendors/serviceproviders/agencies; press; etc.

    The attendee “type” is also important, all ways around, and should be coded onto the badge with a clearly visible color.

    Cheers

    Alan

    http://www.rkgblog.com

  22. Dave (originial)

    Might pay to give T-shirts with all the info on the front AND back. That way, you don’t need to stand-up against a wall all day/night to be recognised.

  23. I definitely have to agree with your comments about putting the attendees name on the front and back of the badge!

    We typically use different colour badges to indicate different things too – ie, one colour for conference attendees, and another colour for demo room staff, etc.

  24. Dave (originial)

    At every conference, about half the people are walking around with their badge facing backwards so that no one can see their name. That’s why conferences should put the attendee’s name on the front and the back of the badge.

    Wouldn’t that cause them to take the badge off?

  25. G-Mail to shut down user accounts in 24 hours?

    Matt, I hate to be off topic, but myself, wife and many friends are getting this e-mail and I know my mom actually replied with her account info.

    This is a real emergency and I am hoping you can explain, or appropriately warn G-Mail account holders. It appears a hacker is using Google calendar to get private info saying they are Google. I didn’t know who to tell and figured this is a job for Matt Cutts.

    [Invitation] ACCOUNT VERIFICATION !! @ Fri Jan 9 5:30am – 6:30am

    Michael Ehline, you are invited to
    ACCOUNT VERIFICATION !!

    Fri Jan 9 5:30am – 6:30am
    (Timezone: Pacific Time)

    Calendar: issuethewrit (at) gmail.com [@ omitted]

    Owner/Creator: customercaregm9@gmail.com

    This is customer care cent re of the G-Mail customer care services.It’s been great to have trusted G-Mail and have had an account with us,we have done all that’s necessary to have all customers get the very best of G-Mail and we have been successful all these years.
    G-Mail,at the moment is having a congestion due to the anonymous registration of G-mail accounts,and to solve this we are shutting down some G-mail accounts and this account has been a victim among the ones to be deleted.But then we are sending you this email to allow you verify and let us know if you still want to use this account.If you are still interested please confirm your account by filling the space below.We know your account information is private but not against the G mail Group as we are always here to keep you satisfied with every service,”note”don’t hesitate putting in your password,you are very safe with us.Due to the congestion in the G-mail environment,we would be shutting down all unanswered Accounts Holders, You will have to confirm your E-mail by filling in your Login Information below after clicking the reply button, or your account will be suspended within 24 hours for security reasons.

    * User name:

    * Password:

    * Date of Birth:

    * Country Or Territory:

    *Specify Own Name :

    After following the instructions in the sheet, your account will not be interrupted and will continue as normal. Thanks for your attention to this request. We apologize for any inconveniences. Warning!!! Account owner that refuses to update his/her account after two weeks of receiving this warning will lose his or her account permanently
    Thank you .
    More event details»
    Will you attend?
    Yes |Maybe |No

    ACCOUNT VERIFICATION !!
    When
    Fri Jan 9 5:30am – Fri Jan 9 6:30am

    20090109T053000/20090109T063000

    Where
    Click to add a location
    Created By
    Customer
    Description

    This is customer care cent re of the G-Mail customer care services.It’s been great to have trusted G-Mail and have had an account with us,we have done all that’s necessary to have all customers get the very best of G-Mail and we have been successful all these years.
    G-Mail,at the moment is having a congestion due to the anonymous registration of G-mail accounts,and to solve this we are shutting down some G-mail accounts and this account has been a victim among the ones to be deleted.But then we are sending you this email to allow you verify and let us know if you still want to use this account.If you are still interested please confirm your account by filling the space below.We know your account information is private but not against the G mail Group as we are always here to keep you satisfied with every service,”note”don’t hesitate putting in your password,you are very safe with us.Due to the congestion in the G-mail environment,we would be shutting down all unanswered Accounts Holders, You will have to confirm your E-mail by filling in your Login Information below after clicking the reply button, or your account will be suspended within 24 hours for security reasons.

    * User name:

    * Password:

    * Date of Birth:

    * Country Or Territory:

    *Specify Own Name :

    After following the instructions in the sheet, your account will not be interrupted and will continue as normal. Thanks for your attention to this request. We apologize for any inconveniences. Warning!!! Account owner that refuses to update his/her account after two weeks of receiving this warning will lose his or her account permanently
    Thank you .

  26. Deb

    Matt – I am from India, so this post not for us, still I read, I thought you will come to India one day

  27. Dave (originial)

    panzermike, just one scam of MANY. If you are sincere, why not pass the email onto the gmail team?

  28. Roberto

    And what about those people like me, who love discretion and intimacy? I feel very embarrased when I’m obliged to publicly announce who I am, where I work etc. I should be interesting for myself, for what I say and do and not by what a card promises… yes, I know it’s not fair but shy people deserve also to participate in big events…

  29. You read my mind Matt! Conference badges are so important. I meet so many people all the time that it’s impossible to remember all the familiar faces I see. If the badge is one sided, they frequently get flipped around. When my wondering eyes go looking for the person’s name, I’m forced to look like a fool, smile and pretend.

  30. It’s interesting just how often organisations get it so wrong with conference delegate badges, it crazes me how some use barcodes at the expense of actually human readable text. I think it’s only going to get worse with RFID badges.

  31. Some conferences (B2B exhibitions to be fair with mini-conferences held through the day) have badges with bar codes on (even more room on the badge needed) – if you talk to an exhibitor, the first thingthey do is “scan you” no doubt to track interest intheir stand, so forget names etc: perhaps we all just have a bar-code stamped on our foreheads!

  32. Matt,

    Great post and great comments. For the record, I’m distributing this throughout our events group here at TechWeb (producers of Web 2.0 Summit, Web 2.0 Expo, Interop, Enterprise 2.0, SD, Voicecon, Defcon, BlackHat, Mashup Camp, Cloud Connect, Mobile Connect, Startup Camp, etc.)

    Thanks Matt.

    David

  33. As addressing people by first name is not acceptable for everyone I prefer to have both first and last names printed in the same size.

  34. @Dave (originial)

    Yes I am being sincere dude. I just didn’t know there was a g-mail team. I thought Matt handled the spam.

  35. What about a cup holder? I think your hand drawn one would be great as well. Definitely get peoples attention.

  36. Submitted pre-order for box of 500.

  37. Dave (originial)

    panzermike, Matt handles Wespam in his *work* time. I’m pretty sure gmail and email spam would be a whole new Department.

    And what about those people like me, who love discretion and intimacy?

    I posted earlier those who turn their badge around so others can’t read it will simply take it off.

    Back to drawing board, Matt :)

  38. Haha, I have this “two-sided” problem too by conferences, especialy in Asia, where the names are hard to remember.

  39. I hate wearing badges BUT do wear them upside down as a sort of personal statement – also it’s fun watching people try to read the badge at funny angles and the amount of people that let you know the badge is upside down is like 90% + and a fine opportunity to card them.

    Wonderful at Chamber of Commerce mixers….

    Cheers

    David

  40. steve

    Geek tags would be great as well. A for interested in apache, seo for well.. you know, php, py, prl, web, etc. That way you can get to brass tacks right away! Also good for avoiding seo people!

  41. Matt, I have some question regarding my site’s pr, I hope you can help pointing me to right direction. http://www.uuzip.com is a shopping forum I am working on. recently I saw some of page went from pr2 to pr0. I didn’t find anything on google webmaster central that indicates problem on my part. I did some normal seo on the pages which is nothing outside of normal seo task(meta tag, h1,h2 stuff ). so it is really puzzling me what went wrong? thank a lot for your help.

  42. Dave (originial)

    xin chen, with a homepage TBPR of 1, you really don’t have any TBPR to distribute to your inner pages.

    IMO, the sooner Webmasters STOP worrying about PR & SEO in general and use that energy on making their site THE site for Humans, the sooner you will start to prosper.

  43. While we are on the subject of name badges at conferences, I’ve a pet peeve to share – lanyards.

    I hate them. I understand some people like them, but unless you are wearing a polo or t-shirt, they are really annoying, particularly if you have a jacket (like a suit jacket), since the tag always slips under the jacket (or between cleavage, if you are female).

    It’s particularly galling to me because I’m well aware that advertising space is sold on lanyards for conferences, and I dislike being turned into a walking advertisement for the amusement and profit of others, especially since I’ve paid to be there.

    It’s a simple fix – offer a name tag that has a lanyard *and* a clip or pin. If you want to use the lanyard, fine, if you prefer (like myself) to use a pin so people can actually see your name, you can remove the lanyard and do so. the remove lanyard part is important to the use of the clip. The ones I’ve seen that worked well clipped the lanyard to the pin.

    Better yet, get rid of lanyards all together – unlike pens, bags and so on, no one keeps them after the conference, causing needless garbage and waste.

    OK, I feel better now. Sometimes a rant can do that. :)

  44. Dave (originial)

    (or between cleavage, if you are female).

    That is sexist ;) What about those with Man Boobs, the SEO industry has more than their fair share of those :)

    I think everyone will find that Conference badges etc are ‘jobs for the boys’ and “deals” have been made.

  45. “What about those with Man Boobs, the SEO industry has more than their fair share of those”

    OK, I admit it – I have man boobs – I was just trying to spare everyone the pain of having the image of my man boobs in their head.

    Their pain is now all your fault. I think I hear someone trying to claw their eyes out right now…

  46. Dave (originial)

    If it’s any consolation, I have them too. Luckily, I avoid mirrors so it’s not MY problem :)

  47. I come from India and also into organising conferences apart from other travel related itineraries. I think some of your and other people’s comment are worthwhile and helpful. I will keep these in mind next time we plan a conference for our clients.
    AroundDelhi.com

  48. I concur with Dave; forget badges, just do t-shirts instead.

  49. The problem is that not every conference and conference goer is the same – I would never wear a conference t-shirt, for example. I’m not a 20-something tech guy, I’m a CEO and when I’m at conferences I’m generally meeting clients and potential clients. I also don’t wear silly hats, etc.

    Although I’m not European, you’ll find most European business people dress much more formally than in the US. Since I specialize in international SEO, I try to match my potential clients.

    I’ve been to lots of conferences where everyone was in a suit, and also other conferences where jeans and a t-shirt were the norm. In this industry, professional casual is generally the norm, and that’s not a t-shirt. It would also be really, really expensive to put everyone’s name and info individually on a shirt, so you’d still need additional ID of some sort.

    Although many people go to conferences purely to learn, I think many more go for the networking and other person to person communication. If all you want to do is see a presentation, you can buy a book or read a blog. Conferences are social events, and almost every single time I hear someone complaining about a conference it’s because they tried to treat it as course, not a conference. A course is one way, and conference is social (you are “conferring”).

    Of all the possible forms of ID, I think the badge is best. I prefer the pin on ones because then I don’t have to worry about it spinning around (and I hate lanyards) but some people wear clothing that isn’t well suited to pins, and prefer a lanyard. No problem.

    A conference badge should do the following:

    1. Clearly identify how to address the person wearing it. In the US, that’s often first name, elsewhere, it’s by last name, and in still other places there is a real name and then a handle or nickname. Sometimes the handle is an online handle, sometimes it’s an English nickname (ie Fred) for a non-English name: 毛澤東 (Chinese readers will get this jest).

    2. Clearly identify conference data. Many conferences have different passes for speakers, exhibitors, etc. This is where holograms, etc come in, as well.

    3. Identify additional information useful for the context – usually business name and title, but can also be interests, etc

    4. If both sides can be seen, even accidentally (as with lanyards) then the information should be duplicated on both sides. I usually put business cards there, but it’s not a perfect solution.

    5. There should not be too much info, or too crowded. It needs to be read and understood by a normal person at a glance.

    Ian

  50. Dave (originial)

    IF people want to stop their name from showing (which Matt is speaking of) and it is on both sides of the badge, they will take it off and put in their pocket.

    It would only take a little dash of common sense to ensure badges cannot accidently can turn around. Extra cost = $0.00 :)

  51. Depending on the conference/seminar/exhibition, I often deliberately turn the badge around or put it in my pocket. I enjoy the anonymity. Later I might put it back on after I have worked out who I want to meet and talk to.
    Not sure if I am weird!

  52. Matt, I would have thought someone has invented small re-usable plasma or LCD digital conference badges… Maybe Google could think of something.

  53. Chris

    I say a 4 by 6 like you said only this is to be put at the back and then a small one with nothing but just the name of the person over the left breast.

  54. Chris

    Oh and they are stickers. :)

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