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Has any invention done more to prevent acute social embarrassment than the humble name badge? We’ve all been at an event, got into an in-depth conversation with a stranger that somehow slides from the canapés to catastrophic relationships, then realised we haven’t a clue who we’re talking to. That’s where the name badge comes in. A quick squint at bosom or lapel, and your blushes have been saved. It’s Natalia from Smersh!
Too often, however, this vital piece of party armoury is left to the last minute. How often have you turned up to a party and been forced to circulate with a freezer label slowly peeling off your Prada? Not glamorous.
Quite apart from the style hit your guests have to endure if you label them like a bag of frozen Bolognese sauce (be sure to just write their name, not their best-before date), think of the psychological impact. The name badge is almost certainly the first tangible object they’ll handle when arriving at your event, before that much-needed glass of Champagne. A badge that feels cheap and nasty sends a clear signal about your event. One that pretty much screams: ‘cheese-and-pineapple hedgehog ahoy!’
So, we’ve convinced you to put a little forethought, effort – and budget – into your name badges. The first thing to think about is timings. Badge-printing companies can turn orders around in just a few days, but why put them (and you) under that kind of pressure? Remember, each badge has to be proof-read. And there could be a cost implication, too. If you want to attach your badges to branded lanyards, for instance, most suppliers will need about four weeks’ notice, as nine times out of 10, lanyards are made in China. A short-notice order will have to be made in the UK, often for at least twice the price.
The days of four-colour screen printing are long gone. Most badge suppliers are used to receiving professionally designed artwork. If you haven’t got a designer in the team, don’t worry: more and more suppliers have programmes on their websites that make it easy for laymen to design badges themselves.
For those who won’t have a confirmed guest list until late in the day, don’t think you’ll have to forego branded badges and resort to clumsy handwriting instead. The best badge companies can provide complete systems that allow you to print branded badges in seconds as and when your guests arrive.
A word of warning – not all your guests have perfect vision. Test out different font sizes on your dullest-eyed colleagues to make sure names are legible, as there’s no point in wearing name badges that can’t be read from distances of more than four inches.
Consider whether you want a bar-code or (more likely nowadays) a QR code on each badge. For an event with seminars in break-out rooms, these make real sense as you can easily track who’s been where.
If your company hosts a lot of events, then think about your team. It makes real sense to have solid, branded, badges made for each staff member to wear. You might want to look after the badges between events, otherwise they soon go missing.
And finally, make sure your support staff aren’t wearing the same badges as your guests. Few things are more embarrassing than engaging a bright young thing in conversation, only to find they’re supposed to be clearing glasses.
This article was first featured in Square Meal Venues & Events Guide 2013.