A Modest Proposal for the Improvement of Conferences

I am at a coffee break at a conference and a person of a certain age has just engaged me in conversation – having mistaken me for someone else, having been unable to read my name badge. The badges are printed in a typeface which, while slim and elegant, is hard to read from more than a short distance, and is, I guess, no larger than 24-point type.

This really will not do.

Name badges, if they are to have any use at all, should be visible at a variety of angles, in diverse conditions of illumination, and on a moving target.

if you are organising a conference, please think about these problems, as well as the fact that some of your delegates will be of varying heights, notwithstanding inasmuch as which, ocular ability. Please therefore sacrifice elegance for practicality and print name badges in LARGE, BOLD TYPE.

Thank you.

And another thing. Please offer, as well as a safety pin, lapel clip or lanyard, a means of displaying the name badge as headwear. A tiara, perhaps, or a hair clip. I made this suggestion after an experience a few years ago, which I have discussed before, but nobody has taken any notice (except a Dr J T of Calgary, who said she’d design a suitable headpiece) so I shall say it again.

Once at a conference I wanted in especial to meet a colleague whose appearance was not known to me, and concerning whom my sole knowledge was of her gender. I expect you can see where this is going. Being of greater than average height I found myself staring intently, downwards, at every woman I met, at chest level – in a vain attempt to read the tiny print displayed on the conventional brooch-style badge. After five minutes I realised that this method of searching might be misconstrued and very likely get me in to trouble, so I gave up. I never managed to meet said colleague.

If name badges are to serve any purpose other than to result in frustration, they should at least be designed for the job.

That is all.

About cromercrox

Cromercrox is a recovering palaeontologist, author and editor who lists his recreations as writing, beachcombing, playing hard rock organ, supporting Norwich City FC and falling asleep.
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15 Responses to A Modest Proposal for the Improvement of Conferences

  1. Sarah Evans says:

    Owen is with you there. He would generally need to be much closer to a strabge female’s chest than would be socially acceptable in in order to read her name badge so he doesn’t bother and runs the risk of looking somewhat aloof

  2. cromercrox says:

    Readers should know that the Owen mentioned above has very poor eyesight indeed. One does wonder why, if conferences try to do their best for physically disabled people, they don’t make the much more modest effort to help people who are partially sighted.

  3. Nico (@nfanget) says:

    Not a conference as such but I was at the eXtyles user group meeting in Boston last week, and although the type on the badges was a little small it legible (bold Arial). More importantly, they had sign interpretors to provide assistance to a deaf attendant.

  4. chall says:

    Maybe they should try and have it “on top of shoulder stand” badge? At least that way it would be a little more out of the way for the boob peak.

    Of course, if we were all more hat people everyone could have a hat and the badge in the front – aka “press badge in cartoons”. Come to think of it, that might not be a bad plan – ball caps for everyone with name tags in front? ;)

  5. Mike says:

    Having avoided using it for some time, I found the twitter an invaluable tool for meeting specific individuals at a large conference earlier this year. Not perfect, but clearly better than appearing to perv over all and sundry.

    • cromercrox says:

      Twitter definitely has its uses. But it hadn’t been invented at the time I described … we were still banging rocks together and sending smoke signals (though not simultaneously).

    • Mike says:

      Staring at bosoms and sending smoke signals? No wonder people got the wrong idea…

  6. Martyn Rittman says:

    In a similar vein: photos on posters. I’ve often found a very interesting poster about which I have questions for the author, but have nothing to go on for locating said author except a name, and sometimes only an initial and surname. A clear head-shot can make all the difference!

  7. Puddleduck says:

    I take my own lanyard to conferences now, after far too many pins creating holes scenarios. As someone who has just entered my 5th decade, I have just realised why it’s not a great idea to use size 18 font for names. Large, bold and clear typefaces would be fabulous. Photos on posters is a brilliant idea – and even a 1 paragraph biog would be interesting and helpful.