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What’s wrong with your badge design?

On the show floor, you find yourself spending a lot of time squinting at people’s names on their badges. Why are they written in such a tiny font? Uh oh, you think, I hope that guy whose name I forgot didn’t notice me looking.

And what is going on with the schedule on the back? The font is so small, and there’s so much packed in, that you have no idea how to make sense of it.

Sound familiar?

For many event planners, badge design is an afterthought. After the hard work of planning a conference, it seems like a minor detail — you set up a basic template where attendees can fill in their names, title, and company; and call it a day. However, sloppy badge design can hurt budding business relationships, stunt your conference’s image, and confuse your attendees.

The good news is that badge design doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, the best badge designs are far from it! It’s all in the details — a simple, elegant badge with everything you need to know (and nothing you don’t) sets a good impression for your event. Most importantly, it communicates the identity of attendee and conference alike. Here are some common mistakes — and easy fixes.

  1. What’s in a name?Lots of badges include all kinds of information about the attendee, including first and last name, title, company, city, and so on. Why clutter it up? You only have so much space, and you want a clean look, so ask yourself what’s really needed.For one thing, items like title and city can crowd out the most important piece of information: a person’s first name. This should be in a large, clear font that makes it easily and immediately legible from a distance. (Oh, and be careful about the alignment — it wouldn’t be the first time that people have had their names cut off by the badge’s border).

    Human connectivity is central to a successful event, but you can’t get very far if it’s a struggle to find out people’s names. Make it easy for your attendees and exhibitors.And if you think about it, much of that extra information is irrelevant anyway. City, state or country of origin are all pieces of information that individuals can collect in friendly conversation, if they care to — they’re not so important that they need to take up valuable space (especially if your event is local!).When it comes to titles and designations, though, it’s a tough call. On one hand, title can be irrelevant and, at worst, can mean preferential treatment: exhibitors will cherrypick people that seem like they have bigger spending budgets and snub your other attendees — and, for those attendees, an experience like that certainly won’t reflect well on your event. But, on the other hand, having an idea of title can help narrow the focus when you’re looking to form key relationships. One exception to this issue is distinctions like Dr., CMM, or CMP — these can’t really be overlooked.

    Finally, depending on the values of your event, you might want to include a space for Twitter handle. You can learn a lot about someone by reading their Twitter feed. Twitter is gaining huge traction in the trade show industry, and it’s a good idea to integrate Twitter into your eventso this is a good measure to take.

  2. The badge in action: orientation, schedules and more Think carefully about what your badge is going to look like in action. Lots of people complain that the badge ends up flipping around, hiding the person’s name. There are a few solutions to this.

    You can opt for a wide clip to attach the badge to the lanyard so it doesn’t spin, attach the lanyard at both sides of the badge, or you can simply print the same information on both sides.The latter option means that you can’t include the schedule for the event, which is a consideration on its own. If your event is only a day or so, and the schedule is simple enough that you can clearly and simply reproduce it on the back of the badge, then go ahead. If it’s too much information to print it clearly, then don’t. Opt instead to place a QR code on the back of the badge to make it easy to download a mobile app.

  3. Keep it consistent: conference values, image and identity. The badge is an important element in the branding of your event. If the brand of the conference isn’t reflected in the badge, then that speaks volumes — and what it’s saying isn’t good. This isn’t just about logo and graphics, either, though your creative director should be making sure that both are represented in harmony with the vision of the event. It’s about the choices you make for materials, design, and technology.For example, is your conference focused on environmental sustainability? Let it show. The cost for green lanyards has dropped drastically in recent years, so you may want to go with these.

    To cut down on waste (and save money), you can also make a few announcements at the end of the event to collect plastic badge holders for future reuse.Same goes for technology. If your event is populated by forward-thinking people, consider using barcodes, QR codes, Beacons or RFID technology on your badges. These technologies can reflect well on your event and help form business relationships.

Remember, it’s all in the details.