The Seven Deadly Sins of Ineffective Nametags


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Your nametag can be your best friend. It can be a lifesaver in meetings, trade shows and events to start conversations when you meet groups of new people. It will also identify you as well as your company in the minds of others. As a result, you will become more approachable and transform strangers into valuable connections. Unfortunately, nametags can become useless and ineffective when they are designed and worn without careful consideration.

By avoiding The Seven Deadly Sins of Ineffective Nametags, you will be certain to maximize your approachability by making your nametag will become more visible, more accessible and more efficient. You will also discover that when you invite people to “step onto your front porch, ” they will cross the chasm between a stranger and a friend, or a prospect and a customer.

How many times has someone rudely squinted at your chest desperately trying to make out those tiny letters? This can be self defeating, embarrassing and actually work to decrease your approachability. Not to mention it makes the other person feel ridiculous! So, much like a retail price tag, your nametag should be readable from ten feet away—both the font and the nametag itself.

According to a nametag survey done by David Alder of Biz Bash, 50% of a group of meeting planners claimed that “illegible font size of nametags was a major problem. ” And, considering the 75 million baby boomers that have reached, or will reach their bifocal days, this should your top priority. The recommended font size is 24 point, which is at least one inch per letter. Also be certain to avoid cursive, script or other fancy lettering.

Avoid nametags with overly thick borders, unnecessary clutter or too much text. It should be easy on the eyes and all of the information contained should be readable and memorable in less than five seconds. Although including your company name, position and logo is an excellent way to position yourself from a networking standpoint, having some empty background space is vital for contrast. However, if you include anything other than your name, make sure that supplementary text is significantly smaller than the name itself. Remember, they call them nametags because the name should be the focal point.

The most effective background color for nametags is white. This will allow maximum visibility for your logo, name and position. Dark blue, green or red backgrounds can be used occasionally, but they have a tendency to “steal the show” from the rest of your nametag.

The font itself should always be black or dark blue. Never use yellow, orange or any other light color. Even if a dark color choice means an aesthetic digression, fashion must be outweighed by your nametag’s approachability and visibility! Finally, unless you work in an academic capacity, avoid gold nametags.

This is one of the most frustrating problems that most people have faced: “the nametag turnaround. ” No name. No logo. No company. Just the blank back of the badge! While lanyard or necklace style nametags may reduce clothing damage, there is no doubt these will get accidentally turned around and tangled at some point!

Therefore it is vital to always write the exact same information on both sides. And, if someone who doesn’t know your name sees your reversed nametag, they might shrug their shoulders, turn away and find another person to talk to! (NOTE: Writing the information on both sides also eliminates the possibility that some of us will purposely turn our nametags around. “Lead us not into temptation…”)

The horizontal placement of your nametag is a function of the context in which you wear it. Nametags will be easily visible in the line of sight correlating to your handshake. Most businesses handbooks will instruct you to wear nametag in this manner. And, it is a good visual aid for people who have trouble remembering names—which is everyone!

On the other hand, for mobile and populated events such as trade shows, expos and conventions, it may be more effective to wear your nametag on your left side. This allows people who approach in your opposite direction to see your nametag with significant ease, since we traditionally walk on the right side of the road/aisle/hallway.

Although horizontal placement of your nametag is an important consideration, vertical placement is certainly the most important visibility characteristic. Wearing a nametag in the middle of your chest is likely to get covered by your arms, papers or some other obstruction. Furthermore, central placement of your nametag will make you unavailable to people outside of your conversation, thus limiting your ability to meet more valuable people.

So, your nametag is pointless if it’s worn below your breastbone. The most effective location is two to three inches below your collar bone on whichever side most fitting for your function. This allows maximum eye contact. Furthermore, high vertical placement of your nametag eliminates the possibility that it will be covered by something. For example, if your nametag hangs too low, it will be impossible for other people to read it when you: sit down, cross your arms, wear a jacket, write down information or use gestures while you talk.

Have you ever seen a five inch nametag with tiny letters the size of sunflower seeds? What a waste! Utilize any and all blank space provided by your nametag. Make it huge! Don’t worry about looking silly, because everyone looks silly! And, although font size should be consistently large anyway, don’t hesitate to increase the font commensurate with the size of the nametag itself. Imagine your nametag is a personal advertisement. Maximize your space efficiently. Think about this: you will never see a billboard on the highway that only uses half the space provided!

The next time you go to a meeting, convention, seminar or trade show, remember that your nametag is your best friend. In other words, think of your nametag as your “front porch. ” It invites people. It makes them feel comfortable. And, it initiates conversations that transform strangers into valuable connections. But, like any good front porch, it’s important to create and wear nametags that are visible, accessible, and efficient so you can maximize your approachability.

LET ME ASK YA THIS. . . Have you ever NOT wanted to wear the nametag given to you?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS. . . Nametags aren't about you - they're about everyone in the world BUT you. If you refuse to wear it, you're only hurting yourself!

© 2006 All Rights Reserved.

Scott Ginsberg is a professional speaker and the author of HELLO my name is Scott, The Power of Approachability and How To Be That Guy. He helps people MAXIMIZE their personal and professional approachability - one conversation at a time. To book Scott for your next association meeting, conference or corporate event, contact Front Porch Productions at 314/256-1800 or email


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