Up Your Name Badge Game

Name badges are a staple of association conferences. Three elements to keep in mind when designing your next attendee badge.

Do you remember the first time you wore a name badge?

I don’t. But I was reminded a few months back when I was going through some boxes at my parents’ house.

This box was full of art projects, report cards, book reports, yearbooks, and so on—mementos of my childhood that my mom had saved. My favorite item I came across was the autobiography I wrote in third grade (!!!) that predicted I would own two houses, including a vacation home in Vermont, by my early thirties. (For those wondering, I am not a real estate tycoon today, but if an eight-year-old can’t dream big, who can?)

One other relic in that box: an orange fish, cut out of construction paper with a red yarn necklace glued to it, that had my name on it. It was the badge I was given on my first day of preschool.

I imagine I wore it proudly—much like your attendees do when onsite at your conferences. That’s why associations often put a lot of effort into not only what their attendee badges look like, but also what information they contain and what elements can be personalized by attendees. Here’s a look at three things to keep in mind when designing your attendee badges.


A badge may look good, but here’s the first question to ask: Is it practical? In other words, can fellow attendees and exhibitors easily read the person’s name and title? If you’re curious how big that font should be, head to Ex Ordo for 10 design tips. Also, use different colored paper or badge holders that allow various attendee categories to be easily identified (e.g., vendors, exhibitors, guests).

In addition, consider how you can make use of the back of the badge to help attendees navigate the conference. I’ve seen associations print an abbreviated schedule on the back or include other information that attendees may want easy access to, such as the WiFi password or table numbers if events have assigned seating.

Technology is making badges even more practical. For example, smart badges, which include location-based technology, allow attendees and associations to more easily track continuing education credits. At its 2018 meeting, the International Society for Technology in Education allowed attendees to opt into wearing a smart badge. Those who did received a journey map at the end of the conference that included a listing of all the sessions they attended and links to any digital resources the sessions offered.


Over the past few years, associations have put more of a focus on making all attendees feel welcome, safe, and included at their events. One way they’ve applied this to name badges is by including gender pronouns. For instance, the Association of Moving Image Archivists added gender pronouns to its conference badges in 2018.

“We not only want people to be comfortable being themselves; we strive to build a culture where we don’t make assumptions or pass judgment on each other,” AMIA wrote on its website when announcing the new badge addition. “Having pronouns on our badges—or if a person chooses to tell you their pronouns—is simply letting you know how you can refer to colleagues, without you having to make any assumptions.”


Associations often want to give attendees the chance to have some fun with their badge by offering options for personalization. A common way is to offer a choice of colorful add-on ribbons onsite. The text on these ribbons can vary from traditional labels—like “board member” or “donor”—to nontraditional messages—“My ribbon is better than yours” or “Colors outside the lines.” To up the ante, many groups are starting to host ribbon stations, where attendees can choose from dozens of options and add as many as they want. You could also supply crayons and markers and let attendees add an artistic touch to their badges.

And if lots of conversation happens on social media during a conference, allow attendees to include their Twitter or Instagram handles on their badge. You can also add a personalized element  by having attendees answer one question and then printing their answer on the front of the badge. Those answers could serve as an icebreaker and help attendees connect.

What interesting or fun elements does your association include on its conference badges? Tell us about them in the comments.

(FrankRamspott/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images Plus)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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