Hans Moritz Günther is a research scientist at MIT. He works on high-energy emission from young stars and their jets and outflows. As part of his day job, he maintains MARX, the Chandra ray-trace code. He was the chair of the local organizing committee (LOC) for the Cool Stars 20 workshop in 2018, which had 550 participants, and was on the LOC for two TESS-related conferences in the summer of 2019. This post is the first in a series of posts on tips for organizing conferences.
On name tag design
With the number of conferences that astronomers attend every year, it’s understandable that conference organizers may want to emphasize the conference name on the name tag. However, a name tag design that emphasizes the conference logo leaves little space for attendee name and affiliation, making it impossible to read without the use of a telescope from more than 30 cm away. At conferences, most astronomers want to know the name of the person they are talking to as quickly as possible. So please, keep the logo small and the attendee name BIG.
On name tag colors and fonts
Just as font style and color has a big impact on audience absorption of slides in a presentation, these choices can affect the comprehension of name tags as well. Unusual fonts in bright colors make the brain work harder to read text that on a name tag should be able to be processed quickly. All in all, treat the name tags at your conference the same way you treat the figures in your articles: choose large fonts for what’s important (name and affiliation), print them in black or dark blue on white, and print them double-sided because they will flip around. People attach their name tags to scarves, necklaces, or collars, all of which may flip your carefully crafted little paper slip on its back. If you absolutely need to print information like the WiFi password on the tags, print two name tags and put them in the holder with names facing outwards and slip the extra details on a paper in between.
On name tag holders
The LOC should provide some type of name tag holder. There are different varieties: safety pin, clip, or lanyard (string around your neck). The last one is probably the most common, because it works on all kinds of clothing. Pins and clips can damage leather jackets or light fabric. So, in my opinion, the name tags in most conferences work reasonably well, but there is still room to improve in many cases.
What particularly memorable examples of name tags have you seen in the past?
Editor’s Note: When making name tags for conferences, the ability for attendees to identify their pronouns is very important. This can be done by providing space on the name tag for people to write their preferred pronouns, or by including a ribbon that can adhere to their name tag with their pronouns. We apologize for the oversight in not including this in the original post.