Every once in a while I start to feel like I'm taking myself a bit too seriously and I have to slip in a more cheeky post. But to every jest there is some truth. So here's what really winds me up ... .
It OUGHT to be really obvious how to create a proper tag for a conference, but my observation is that 98% of conferences suck at name tags. Maybe more. It makes networking much more difficult / awkward. And it's so damn solvable—no rocket science degree required.
It completely baffles me, actually. I would think these suggestions would be a BGO (blinding glimpse of the obvious, for those TLA fans) but I guess not. If you agree with me, please forward this post to people organizing conferences to save us all the future hassle.
1. If you can, avoid "hanging" name tags - I'm not a big fan of name tags that hang from your neck. One reason is that the length is hard to estimate and therefore the tags usually end up somewhere close to your belly. It is really impractical to try and glance at somebody's name / company when it's by their belly. It's even more embarrassing if you're already supposed to know the person and you're looking for a prompt to remember their name or when you're trying to figure out the name of a woman. Bit awkward, hey?
My preference is to have a name tag that has a magnetic device so that each person can attach it to their shirt, blouse, lapel or wherever they want it. But I guarantee the people will place it higher than the hanging name tag and thus readable.
2. If you have hanging name tags make them two sided - The magnetic name tags are more expensive so I know some people won't opt for them. If you DO go for hanging name tags, for fuck sake print the names on both sides of the tag. It seems a universal law that these tags flip over and more than 50% of the time seem not to land on the side with the name. It's so easy to just print two-sided. If you're going to bother having name tags, you want people to read them. Let's just call it "BothSidesoftheTag."
3. Make the name big. Really big.—And another thing (I'm feeling a bit like Larry David right now ... ) why do people print out name tags and then make the names in a really small font so only 16 year olds can read them? Names ought to take almost 50% of the space on the name tag. The whole point is to be able to READ the name tag. In the same way you don't want people to present at a conference with 12 point fonts, why do you print out their name tags with similar sizes? Go big!
4. Make the company name just as big.—And while you're at it, make the other 50% say their company name. Those are the two things every single person who is networking at your event wants to know—name & company. Make all of our lives easier. My personal suggestion is to make the company name a slightly different color so it's easier on the eye to distinguish.
5. Don't waste space with meaningless information - I know you want to put your event name really big on the tag. I understand that urge. But we're already AT your event. We know it's your event. We chose to come. We love you already. Your big logo / name / event description on the name tag is taking away from its functional utility. It is distracting. It steals space from the main event. And we're not going to save it as a keepsake after the event, so why bother? If you must put it, please consider putting it at the bottom and in really small writing.
6. Don't have name tags we need to pin to ourselves - Very few people have these kinds of tags any more. That's great. This is the worst kind of tag overall for obvious reasons. It ruins people's clothes. Obvious.
7. Have a thick pen handy - Finally, there will always be somebody that somehow got left off your list or is conference crashing (i.e. the kind you're OK with being there). Nothing worse than being the only person at a conference with no name tag.
8. Oh, and ... —I was prompted by Al in the comments. We don't need all that extra VIP junk where you say if we're a speaker, moderator or sponsor on our name tags. It doesn't really make us feel extra special. It's just a distraction.
End of rant. Get back to work.
Reprinted from Both Sides of the Table
Mark Suster is a 2x entrepreneur who has gone to the Dark Side of VC. He joined GRP Partners in 2007 as a General Partner after selling his company to Salesforce.com. He focuses on early-stage technology companies. Follow him at twitter.com/msuster.