Name Tag Etiquette-Part 1: How to write and wear one

A guest blog by Syndi Seid

Names tags/badges are the best way to identify yourself at any event, especially when networking is a primary focus. Follow these guidelines and you will never be in jeopardy of sabotaging your own success.

1. When preparing a name tag, think through the purpose of the tag… which is of course to identify yourself. Always show your name in spoken order…  that is your given name, followed by your surname or last name, and affiliation. Think twice about the need to provide any more information beyond these basics.

2. Use only big, bold block letters in all caps or with upper and lower case letters. Avoid script or cursive handwriting and do not add personalized touches that could be confusing.  No matter how well lit a room may be, it is always more difficult to decipher cursive handwriting, particularly by those from other countries or ethnic origins whose first language is not your own.

3. Forget any honorifics: Except for specialized events where honorifics and titles are a part of the event’s protocol, they are not necessary; to the point its gives the impression of self-importance. These include Mr., Mrs., Ms. Dr., PhD., or M.D.; General Manager, President. Because name tags are intended to quickly show a person’s simple identity, they should only indicate first and last (surname), and affiliation.

4. “Hello, my name is” name tags: I confess to personally not liking this particular style of name tag. To me they only serve a purpose for kids, is a waste of space, and is out of place in professional settings. Its best to use clean, professional-looking sheets, either with or without colored borders.

5. Squint Factor: There is nothing more disappointing than to arrive at check-in to see the name tags terribly under-presented — names are printed too small, company affiliation so small you can’t make it out, and every other detail shy of your birth date is loaded onto the badge, plus the logo of the hosting organization is displayed really big. For information on how to properly print name badges, please see a separate article exclusively dedicated to how to print badges properly.

6.Handwriting your own tag: Write your information in a size at least one-quarter inch high.  Allow as much white space as possible; it helps others to read the badge more easily.

7. Printed Tags: When generating pre-printed tags on a computer,  take care when choosing an appropriate font and font size.  For tags I produce personally, I find 40-point Ariel type is a good starting point for first and last names and affiliation.  Sometimes it take a little extra time to employ a little trial and error to find the correct font size and balance.  I assure you it will be well worth the effort for the optimum results.

8. Use of an affiliation and logo: Even though it’s important to give due attention to the sponsoring organization, always remember that the most important information on the name tag is the person’s name.  By this I mean, the bulk of the space should be devoted to presenting the person’s full name; thus, the scale of the logo or sponsoring affiliation should be much smaller in comparison to the attendee’s name.  It should never be the reverse.

9. Printing the first name larger than the last name: While there are no hard and fast rules governing whether to enlarge the person’s first name, I submit that it’s best to print both the first and last name in the same size font.  With so many men and women sharing the same first name, it can be confusing seeing lots of Susans or Stevens walking around. This underscores the value of regarding one’s own name as one’s personal branding vehicle.

10. Using your own reusable name badge at various events: While arriving with your very own custom-designed name tag assures your name and affiliation will be printed to your absolute liking, it may not be in your best interest to do so. Consider this: event planners usually create name tags specific to a particular occasion as a way of identifying—at a glance—those who legitimately belong at the event and those who don’t. By wearing your own personal name tag, you may inadvertently convey the impression of being a party crasher.

11. Where to place a name tag or badge: Networking — whether at professional functions or at social events, always wear it on your upper right shoulder. Here’s why:

  • By wearing the tag or badge as high up on your right shoulder as possible it gives other people the best and easiest view of both the tag and your face.
  • As you extend your right hand for a handshake, your eye and arm are already being drawn to the right side of the person you are greeting.
  • Because the upper most part of your chest is the flattest area below your shoulder, this helps your tag to lie flat and be more secure.

This third point is especially relevant to women.  Most of us feel awkward drawing attention to an area of our body most people prefer not be stared at. By placing the tag high up in an easy to read and visible place, it keeps the focus on the tag where it should be.

12. Company ID badges:  Many companies require the staff to wear name badges for instant identification purposes. In this case, it is appropriate to wear such badges on the left shoulder.

BONUS: Placing name tags straight and in plain view:
Never allow your name tag to be worn crooked, sideways or upside down. It sends a negative message to others, usually implying a lack of respect for the occasion or lack of care or interest in your personal appearance.

Question: What other tips do you have to add to this list?  Let us hear from you!

Happy Practicing!!!

Byline: Syndi Seid is a world’s leading etiquette expert on international business protocol and social Etiquette. For more information on Syndi and other tips, see www.AdvancedEtiquette.com.

Tune in next week for part 2!

12 Points on Name Tag Etiquette

By, Syndi Seid

1.  Why Name Tags
When preparing name tags, think through the purpose for the name tags. Always show the names in spoken order that is your given name, followed by your surname/last name and affiliation. Think twice about the need to provide any information beyond these basics.

2. Writing a Name Tag
Use only big, bold block letters in all caps or with upper and lower case letters. Avoid script or cursive handwriting and do not add personalized touches that could be confusing. No matter how well lit a room may be, it is always more difficult to decipher cursive handwriting, particularly by those from other countries or ethnic origins.

3.  Using Honorifics
Except for specialized events honorifics and titles are not typically used on name tags. These include Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., PhD., M.D., General Manager or President. Because name tags are intended to quickly show a person’s simple identity, they should only indicate first and last surname, and affiliation.

4. “Hello, my name is…”
I confess I don’t like this particular style of name tag. Admittedly, they do serve a purpose for highly informal occasions. But, they do seem very elementary and out of place in a professional setting. It’s best to use clean, professional looking sheets, either with or without colored borders.

5. Squint Factor
Nothing is more disappointing than to attend a conference or professional meeting, only to arrive at check-in and discover the name tags are terribly under presented; names are printed too small, company affiliation so small you can’t make it out and every other detail shy of your birth date is loaded onto the badge.

6.  Printing Name Tags
When generating pre-printed tags on a computer, take care when choosing an appropriate font and font size. For tags I produce personally, I find 40-point Arial type is a good starting point for first and last names and affiliation. Sometimes it take a little extra time to employ a little trial and error to find the correct font size and balance. I assure you it will be well worth the effort for the optimum results.

7.  Use of an Affiliation and Logo
Even though it’s important to give attention to the sponsoring organization, always remember the most important information on the name tag is the person’s name, not the organization. By this I mean the bulk of the space should be devoted to presenting the person’s full name, thus the scale of the logo or sponsoring affiliation should be much smaller in comparison to the attendee’s name. It should never dominate the tag.

8. Printing the first name larger than the last name…
While there are no hard and fast rules governing whether to enlarge the person’s first name, I submit it’s best to print both the first and last name in the same size font. With so many men and women sharing the same first name, it can be confusing seeing lots of Susans or Stevens walking around. This underscores the value of regarding one’s full name as one’s personal branding vehicle.

9.  Creating your reusable name badge for use at various events…
While arriving with your very own custom designed name tag assures your name and affiliation will be presented to your absolute liking, yet may not be in your best interest to do so. Consider this: event planners usually create name tags specific to a particular occasion as a way of identifying, at a glance, those who legitimately belong at the event and those who don’t. By wearing your own name tag, you may inadvertently convey the impression of being a party crasher!

10. Company ID Badges
Many companies require the staff to wear name badges for instant identification purposes. In this case, it’s customary to wear such badges on the left shoulder.

11. Placing Name Tags Straight and in Plain View
Never allow your name tag to be worn crooked, sideways or even upside down. It sends a negative message to others, usually implying a lack of respect for the occasion or lack of care or interest in your personal appearance.

Never wear a badge upside down. Though it may sound silly to say, believe it or not I know someone who deliberately wears his name badge upside down. He claims it’s the best way to meet women. Why? Because, he says women will go out of their way to approach him just to help him correct what they perceive as his oversight. My friend claims men are far less likely to mention it or bother helping. Needless to say, I don’t recommend this practice to anyone. In my book this tactic sends the signal: here’s a person who cares little about the image he conveys. Who would want to convey the impression that something as simple as properly wearing a name badge was purposefully missed; what else might be missing? In other words, while it is possible that one person may take this for humor; another person may take it as incompetence. Why risk creating this kind of confusion?

12.  Last, but not least: where to wear a name tag or badge.
Networking: whether at professional functions or at social events, always wear it on your upper right shoulder. Here’s why. Place the tag or badge as high up on your right shoulder as possible to give other people the best and easiest view of both the tag and your face. As you extend your right hand for a handshake, your eye and arm are already being drawn to the right side of the person you are greeting. Because the upper most part of your chest is the flattest area on your shoulder, this helps your tag to lie flat and be more secure.

These points are is especially relevant to women, as most women feel awkward drawing attention to an area of our chests we would prefer not to do. By placing it in an easy to read and visible place keeps the focus where it should be.

Happy Practicing!

Syndi Seid is a world’s leading etiquette trainer, celebrity speaker and founder of San Francisco-based Advanced Etiquette.