So, you might be starting to read this thinking I’m biased because badges (awesome badges, might I add) represent a large piece of what we do at TRC. But look at it this way, they wouldn’t BE part of what we do at TRC if I wasn’t truly passionate about how they make events more awesome. Read on, and bear with me; for bias read passion!
A couple of months back I was in a meeting with a senior digital strategist at a global agency.
“Greg,” she said, “I’m sorry, stop right there. I don’t believe in badges at events”.
I gulped, and laughed, and said “ah well, I’m lucky everyone doesn’t think like that!” and we moved on to discussing another Tribe member’s offer for their events. But her words stayed with me. They stung a bit!! but they stayed with me.
I want to share with you what I WISH I had said at the time. The reasons why I believe badges make events, and bad badging makes events bad.
People are tribal at heart
Look at the success of the Event Tech Tribe – deep connections between people (not products, not businesses, but people) who’ve found something in common and want to present that commonality to the world.
Gangs with patches, kids at school wearing the same sneakers – when we’re a little bit out of our comfort zone, like walking into a conference full of strangers, something that allows us to recognize a fellow tribe member makes us feel safe. Which makes us engage with our surroundings.
What’s the easiest way an event planner can leave tribal markers for others to pick up? A badge. ‘Investor’ ‘Media’ ‘Delegate’ ‘Speaker’ – which tribe are you in?
Knowing my name gives you power over me
Anyone that knows me well might think I’ve gone a bit soft, saying this. But the idea that name=power and the use of secret names go back to the Old Testament. Adam had the power to name the animals, and so had some power over them. The Roman naming system had 'private' (family) names and public names partly because of this idea. European cultures gave babies secret names and used nicknames for them in infancy to protect them from harm. Native American cultures gave multiple names to children. Myth and legend use the idea - Rumplestiltskin etc believed that handing over your name, meant handing over a little bit of power to the other person. Without knowing your name, someone can’t find you, remember you, track you down or sell something to you. It is a gift, to hand over that power to a new person and means they can relax and engage with you. Put your name on a badge and you hand over a little bit of power to me, and I’m grateful for that.
We love to store mementos
Who hasn’t taken a lovely soap from a hotel you made great memories in or picked up a shell from a beach where you saw the best sunset of your life, or kept a lock of hair from your little boy when he was two years old…We love mementos, and a beautiful event badge can be just that. One of our Tribe team, Marie-Claire kept 300+ from the events she attended – and in this day of saving money on printing, and the demise of conference ‘proceedings’ as a result – I say, give them a badge to remember you by.
Making people real
I have hundreds of connections on Twitter and LinkedIn I’ve never met. I work with a person in New Zealand as part of the Tribe, whose voice I know, who I spend time online with on a regular basis, but who I’ve never been in the same room as. In our tightly knit events community, there are heaps of people who I ‘know’ ...but I don’t know. And to be honest, their pics online aren’t likely to be what they actually look like (presuming that, because mine isn’t!) So when I finally meet Brandt Kreuger, or Lara from New Zealand or Paul Cook a quick glance at their name badge to confirm s/he’s really who I think s/he is, will save me from making a social faux pas.
I bet you weren’t expecting philosophy from me, but hope my arguments resonate with you. They’re not an expense to manage or another logistical puzzle to solve, but badges are a key component of bringing humans together successfully, in a physical environment. I know as an event planner, that’s what you want to do. So keep believing in badges!