Designing for dialogue: Creating conference badges that spark conversations

Two hands designing a conference badge

While the average person might see a conference badge as just a name tag, to a conference organizer, it's an unsung hero, a networking cornerstone, a conversation catalyst, and an important factor in building a great event. Its importance in the conference world is second only to the Wi-Fi password.

In other words, a lot is riding on this unassuming piece of rectangle.

But there’s more than meets the eye to getting it right. It’s not just about slapping a name on a piece of plastic –  conference badge design is a delicate balance of art and functionality. 

In this piece, we’ll delve into how to design a conference badge that helps make the attendee experience a great one.

First, let’s get the basics out of the way. Follow the following best-practices to create a fun and functional conference badge.

5 commandments of conference badge design

  1. Attendee names: the bigger, the better

    By which we mean it should be readable from a distance of 15 feet. People should not need to put on their reading glasses to read the badge.
  1. And it should be easily readable

    In other words, please do not use all CAPS.
  2. De-emphasize the conference name

    You can assume that everyone already knows what conference they’re at.
  3. Give everyone another reason to look at the badge

    Extra details like interests or one’s hometown make for great conversation starters.
  4. Lean into the event theme

    Incorporate theme colors, symbols, or slogans to make it distinctive. Remember that attendees often keep badges as mementos.

If you use the commandments mentioned above, you should be able to create a great-looking badge that looks something like the one in the image below.

The anatomy of a conference badge

An example of a fun and functional conference badge

But there’s still more you can do to elevate your conference badge. Read on.

Designing badges that drive dialogue

Just follow these tips:

1) Include ‘Ask me about ____’ or another talking point

Image credit: Business Insider

Let attendees add a little personality to their badges by including a couple of topics of interest or areas of expertise where they're open to collaboration. This lets other attendees get a glimpse into their passions and these serve as potential conversation starters. 

The questions can be professional and/or fun, such as ‘My hidden talent is…’, ‘The emoji that best describes me is…’ or ‘My go-to karaoke song is…’ making it easier for attendees to ask a follow-up question or respond in kind.

But if you don’t have enough space on your badge or need to prioritize other information, you can simply make other smaller badges with this prompt that attendees can wear alongside your official badge.

Make extra smaller badges if you need to

2) Let attendees add flair

Image credit: ONA23

Let attendees add items or objects to badges that employ visual cues, with color coding being especially effective. This approach allows attendees to be swiftly sorted into interest groups, making it easy for them to spot and connect with like-minded individuals.

For instance, badge ribbons can be used to highlight the individual’s role at the conference - as an attendee, guest speaker, sponsor or organizer. These can help attendees quickly identify and connect with the people they’re looking for.

Different ribbon colors can also be used to show how many years an attendee has been to the conference, providing an easy segue into discussing their conference history and experiences. If you're new to the conference and spot a fellow newbie's ribbon, it's a natural conversation starter, making introductions less daunting. On the flip side, if you notice a seasoned attendee's ribbon, it's an opportunity to delve into their wealth of past experiences and get valuable insights into the event.

Stackable stickers are another great option to add to badges too.

3) Incorporate a QR code

Attendee badges at Catalyst '23 by Partnership Leaders included a QR code to enable quick, easy check-in

A QR code badge simplifies the check-in process (it took only 90 Mins for all of the 672 attendees at Catalyst by Partnership Leaderships to check-in + get their badges) and it can be programmed to include quite a lot of extra attendee information. Details such as social media handles or a link to a company website can be easily exchanged via the QR code, boosting networking opportunities and engagement at the event.

Not to mention, using a QR code allows you to provide more information without taking up space on the design of your badge.

4) Don’t forget about the flip side of the badge 

Image credit: CalTech
Fonts In Use – f8 Conference Badges #catalog #print #informational #badges #booklet #conference
Image Credit: Design Inspiration

All too often, badges flip around when you're walking around the venue, which can lead to missed opportunities for connections and conversations. To maximize engagement, consider printing relevant information on the backside of the badge, ensuring that details remain visible from any angle.

Or at the least, use it to share the conference agenda or the layout of the venue.

To sum up

Don't underestimate the power of a well-designed badge. It's the small touch that can lead to big connections and make your event truly memorable.

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