I had a surfing phase growing up — quite natural for a Clevelander. I read the magazines and listened to the music. I even learned the lingo.
One of my favorite surfer expressions was “shoebie.” This is an insult toward outsiders who come to the beach wearing shoes.
It was interesting that something so simple as footwear could signal one’s membership in a group. It doesn’t many physical cues to signal whether you “get” something.
No beach time for me this summer, but I have attended many conferences and networking events. My teenage admiration of surf culture now makes comparison to seminars and summer school.
The big takeway: Don’t be a name tag shoebie.
Name tags are a serious problem.
Wear a nice name badge…
The standard plastic name tags you get at most events are flimsy and hard to read. They droop and fall off. They’re often handwritten, bad for poor penmen like me.
Everyone looks like a shoebie in a “Hello, My Name Is ____” name tag.
I’ve avoided the name tag drama by buying an engraved custom name badge. You can get one on Amazon for less than $10.
A nice name badge looks professional and signals that you’ve done this before.
It’s much easier to read an engraved than a written name, and the magnetic backing will provide a strong, steady hold to your lapel.
Sure, you may get some questions about it. Actually, I’ve not yet met anyone else to wear a custom namebadge to an event.
But so what? Are you at the conference to blend in or to make an impression? It’s smart to wear a conversation piece anyway, so here’s your chance.
A couple more pointers on the namebadge.
Wear it above your navel…
Some people think they are clever by planting their namebadge on their purse, tie, etc.
Please don’t make us search for your name!
It is uncomfortable. It doesn’t feel great to have to scan your whole body in search of a nametag.
Sometimes it’s not the person’s fault. Standard-issue lanyards are often preset to their lowest length, causing the name tag to hang awkwardly near the belly button and not near the shoulders.
So when you get the dread conference lanyard, try pulling it up so it’s easier for others to read. I often will wear the lanyard AND my nametag, thus cutting in half the potential of the awkward “I’m-trying-to-read-your-name” moment.
…Wear it only when necessary.
This just looks awkward.
Wearing a namebadge around town is a bit like wearing shoes to the beach.
Wear the namebadge only on site during scheduled hours of the program. Don’t walk around town wearing a namebadge. Don’t wear it to an impromptu meetup at the hotel bar.
Not knowing when to lose the namebadge shows that you are unaware of your physicial cues.
There could be potential security problems, too. You don’t want someone seeing you walk out of your hotel room with the badge. Now they’ve got your name and room number — would you like to pick up the tab, please?
Surf’s Up, Nice Badge!
You might think this all eccentric. A manifesto against nametags? But physical cues often determine our influence far more than our words.
At first I felt a little silly wearing a custom name badge to conferences.
But it’s been a great practice for a small investment.
Try it and let me know how it works for you.