Well, that’s a stupidly arrogant thing I just asked, isn’t it? Who am I to tell you you’re wearing your nametag wrong? But here’s the thing: you may not be, but I can make a good case that many of your colleagues are.
Two weeks ago, I groused about poor nametag design. I left you, then, with the teaser that there’s a lot the nametag’s wearer can do to facilitate, or to interfere with, the nametag’s function. What’s amazing to me is that most attendees at most conferences seem to wear their nametags in their “default” configuration: exactly as issued at the registration desk. There’s no way that default is the optimum for all people, so this is strong evidence that my (admittedly buzzfeedy) post title isn’t that far off base.
So: how can you wear your nametag better?
Wear it. Seriously, just wear the &^#(@ thing. Don’t put it in your pocket. Don’t leave it behind in the hotel room. Don’t take it off when you go off to get lunch or out to get a beer* (believe me, people who live and work near conference centres are used to this kind of mild dorkiness). If you’re an old fogey like me, here’s what not wearing your nametag says: “I’m famous. You should know who I am. And if you don’t, I don’t care to talk to you.” (You may not mean that, but you’re saying it anyway.) If you’re early-career instead, leaving your nametag off isn’t obnoxious, but it does sacrifice opportunities for others to notice you and for you to make the resulting connections.
- Customize it. If there’s blank space (and there usually is), add your Twitter handle, e-mail address, or a brief message (“Looking for Postdoc!”). Print it neatly and make it big, of course. Add a colourful sticker of your study organism, if you have one – anything that draws the eye will help people notice your nametag, and therefore you.
- Put your name on the nametag’s back side. Few conferences bother to print nametags double-sided, but they frequently get flipped over – presenting an uninformative blank rectangle to the world. You can fix this.
Think about where your nametag is sitting. It’s there to be seen, and it’s both difficult and awkward for someone to read your nametag if it’s riding somewhere south of your navel. I typically shorten the provided lanyard with a simple knot (pictured above) to move it a lot closer to my face** – and I’m always surprised that people comment on this MacGyvering as if it were clever and original. It’s neither, but it works. Ease of reading may not, I acknowledge, be your only consideration. People will look at your nametag (that being its whole point), and you may want some influence over which body parts their gaze passes as a result. Fair enough. You have options: for instance, shortening a lanyard or (if you’re prepared) lengthening it, or bringing along a safety pin to convert the tag to a lapel pin. You can do more than one thing, too, as your wardrobe changes from day to day.
- Wear it. Yes, I know this was my first bullet too; but it just drives me bananas how many people leave their nametags behind.
Do you have other suggestions? Please leave them in the Replies.
Look, I realize that suboptimal nametag wear isn’t one of the Big Issues Facing Science Today. But it’s low-hanging fruit. Just a moment’s attention can make a difference, and why wouldn’t we do that? It puzzles me that many of us don’t.
© Stephen Heard (firstname.lastname@example.org) November 10, 2016
*^Some women (at least) prefer to remove their nametags away from the convention centre because leaving them on makes it easier for strangers to be overly familiar. That this is even a consideration saddens me, but it is.
**^I look forward to the day that holographic name displays will hover next to people’s faces – either projected by them, or more likely simulated in some kind of Google Glass-like system using RFID-equipped nametags. This will be a game-changer, and it won’t be science fiction for much longer.