Name tags may seem simple, but they are often designed counterproductively. Used effectively, name tags can be a powerful tool for creating a great meeting experience.
It's important to remember the goals of name tags:
- Know who other people are
- Give people an opportunity to express their identities
- Encourage mingling and networking.
Make Them Readable!
The most common mistake people make in designing name tags is using a font that's too small. If the point of the name tag is to see each other's name, you're not doing anyone any favors by using tiny, unreadable fonts. Use big, bold fonts! Make the first name bigger and bolder than the last name -- if you use the last name at all. Don't waste space on branding, unless you're planning on using a really big name tag.
If names tags are on a lanyard, make them double-sided so that the name is always visible, no matter which way the tag flips.
If you are doing a meeting with people from different organizations, think carefully about whether you want to include organizational affiliation. Doing so may reinforce power dynamics that you might be trying to neutralize. Also, omitting affiliations and surnames can encourage mingling at events where the participants don't know each other.
You can also use name tags as a palette for people to express their own identities. People can do this on their own based on the name they choose to use, their contact information, or their stated organizational affiliation (if you give them these options). For example:
You can create other opportunities for people to either express their own identities or to "tag" other people. For example, a RecentChangesCamp tradition is to make stickers representing all sorts of different identities and affiliations, and then to encourage people to decorate their name tags.
Note that in Pete's case on the right, he has both tagged himself via the stickers, and he has been tagged by others (the Post-Its) through a social tagging exercise.
If possible, use badge holders with lanyards or clips to reduce the chances of harming nice clothing. If you must use sticky badges, shoot for adhesive that's not too sticky.
Plastic name tag cases are expensive, and they do no one any good taking up landfill space. Recycle your badge carriers! Better yet, encourage people to reuse the same badges. (Pete would often bring his same badge above to different wiki-related events rather than get a new badge each time.) It's a good practice to announce at the beginning of the event that you'll be recycling the cases (and lanyards, if relevant) so that people know to leave them behind. This increases the chances that everyone will hear the information, and that people who leave early will leave their badges behind.