Name badges. Many people perceive them as ‘necessary evil’. Pinning badges can damage your clothes, stickers leave traces, and badges on a lanyard often end up on a woman’s breasts - which is not desirable either. But apart from these practical points, I honestly wonder whether wearing badges facilitates networking!
Why people attend events
There is a number of reasons why people consider events valuable: inspiring new speakers, strengthening existing relations and the opportunity to meet new interesting people. You as an organiser should keep this in mind while designing your event - and facilitate networking where possible. People often think that simply handing out badges will guarantee networking. I disagree. I think that name badges in some cases even hinder networking, instead of facilitating it. I will explain why.
Sneaky name badges scanning
The other day I was standing with a group of people at an event I was visiting - wearing a name badge. One of the people addressed me, asking me who I was. While I reached out my hand in order to introduce myself, the only thing the other person did was stare at my badge. Although this is understandable, it disturbed a natural and relaxed first acquaintance. It felt like I was being inspected - not a pleasant feeling.
This ‘sneaky scanning’ of names and job titles on badges continues throughout the event. Some people openly stare at your name badge, others pretend they’re not looking at all. The result: people feel watched, leading to a closed attitude, like when people ‘hide’ behind their smartphones.
Dare to ask
A person’s name and company or title don’t guarantee an interesting encounter. I myself have had boring conversations with people working in popular organisations - and inspiring talks with people from organisations I had never even heard. It’s the personal connection and the shared interests or differences that make the conversation valuable. Though it doesn’t always result in direct business, it does give you valuable insights.
“Who are you?" and “What do you do for work?” are accessible conversation starters. Remember: people love talking about themselves. Try to really listen and ask questions that show you’re interested. Networking is paying genuine attention to others - this goes beyond creating direct business opportunities. If you ask questions and try to help others, a true connection is formed. This will probably generate new business in the future.
Sometimes, name badges are indispensable
At some events, name badges are essential. This goes for big conferences or fairs, where it is necessary to check in and check out the attendees at specific program elements eg. related to accreditation or education. This is usually done by scanning the QR-code on the badge. Also, badges can be used in identifying the attendees for security reasons.
Nonetheless, the most common reason to use badges for your event is certainty. The badge gives an indication of what to expect from a person- or so many people assume. Besides, it helps when you have forgotten someone’s name. I still think these reasons do not always stand. Forgetting a name is only human. So if needed, there is no harm in just admitting this.
If you as an event organiser still decide to use name badges, think about the purpose of the badge, and try to find a creative solution. There are many ways in which badges can actually contribute to networking. In my next blog, I will share some creative ideas with you.
Facilitating valuable encounters goes beyond handing out name badges. Wearing badges can promote ‘sneaky scanning’ for organisations or job titles, leading to superficial judgements. Make sure you determine what purpose the badges should serve, and try to create an environment where people engage in conversations. In my next blog I will give you tips on how to break the ice in a friendly way.