Excuse Me, Madame, I’m Not Gazing at Your Bosom, I’m Just Trying to Read Your Damn Name Tag
You know the cliché that goes “If they can put men on the moon they should be able to (fill in the blank)? Well, I have one for you. If they can put men on the moon they should be able to make a conference name tag that works. But if wardrobe malfunctions at the recent Book Expo America are any indication, we are as far from producing a sensible name tag as we are from establishing a colony on Neptune.
The book conference’s name tags, suspended around the neck by a lanyard, were certainly large enough – about 4 inches square – and the typeface a highly legible 18-point sans serif bold. The problem was that the tags tended to twist on their lanyards, displaying their blank reverse sides and forcing the viewer to resort to a variety of unsatisfying strategies to identify the wearer. Such as…
- hoping an errant breeze will spin the tag back to obverse
- hoping a third party will address the person by name
- presenting your card and praying the presentation will be reciprocated
- asking the person’s name and learning that he or she is the CEO of a major publisher
- asking the person’s name and learning he or she is someone you recently dined with…or slept with
The solution is obvious: print names on both sides of the tag. But it’s clearly more obvious to me than to the Expo’s planners and it’s not a laughing matter. In this age of social networking, the failure to know whom you’re talking to is not just embarrassing, it could mean lost business.
But I’m not through.
Lanyards are poor devices for displaying identification. Name tags depending from them hang down to the nether regions, requiring one to gaze awkwardly at the bearer’s belly. Short of pretending to tie one’s shoelaces to effect a surreptitious glance at the name tag, it means another business opportunity missed.
It does not require an advanced engineering degree to perceive that the best location for name tags is the chest, but even that solution is fraught with issues. Many people like to show off their attire and resent having their fashion statements compromised by a name tag. Some of us worry that the tags’ pins will leave unsightly and irreparable holes in dresses, blouses or jackets.
That problem led to the creation of paper “Hello My Name Is” tags with peel-off backings, which are great unless the adhesive is so strong that it leaves a rectangular patch on one’s clothing, or so weak as to cause the tag to curl up or simply fall to the floor. It can be jolly fun to attend a conference and count the number of paper name tags adhering to attendees’ shoes. I once observed a significant publishing executive walking about with someone else’s name tag stuck to his behind like a Kick Me sign.
But I’m still not through.
If you attend a party or conference that uses paper name tags you owe it to fellow attendees to print largely and neatly. All too many people write their names in tiny script or illegible scribbles, forcing one to gape boorishly at a woman’s embonpoint when he’s simply trying to get a good gander at her name. Honestly, lady, I’m not staring at your bosom. I’m just trying to read your damn name tag.
And talking of boors, are there any more pretentious than those who feel they’re so notable they do not need to wear a name tag at all?
So yes, if they can send men to the moon, can they not produce a sensible name tag? I hope so, and maybe they could have it ready for next year’s BEA?
(Hello. My Name Is) Richard Curtis
This post was originally published in 2010 as Wardrobe Malfunctions Plague BEA