In praise of name tags

I had a lovely time at an event the other night — Lindsey Pollak’s book launch party for Becoming the Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders. It was a good group, and a nice venue in the Lower East Side. But I had a “near miss” on a conversation that I’ve been thinking about.

I was standing near the cheese table during the toasts (it’s a common place to find me at parties, really). The venue was packed, and a woman leaned over me a few times to grab cheese. She apologized and laughed about this. She looked slightly familiar, but I wasn’t sure. After the toasts, she started talking with someone else in a way that seemed like they went back a while, so I probably would have walked away to find someone else drifting between conversations, but the other person said “Manisha,” and so I stuck around and nudged in and introduced myself: “Hi, I’m Laura.” She said “Wait, are you Laura Vanderkam?”

I had met Manisha Thakor, a personal finance writer and now owner of a wealth management company, shortly after 168 Hours came out. She and I have kept in touch via social media since then. It was wonderful to catch up with her (and tag along as she talked to Gloria Feldt — also cool to meet.) Manisha lives in Santa Fe, I would have kicked myself if I’d found out on Twitter or some such that she’d been at the party and I hadn’t said hello.

Indeed, it turns out there were a few other people at the party that I knew from social media — and saw tweeting about the party after — but I didn’t see. I’m not sure the best way around this. I don’t really like pulling out my phone in social situations, even though seeing tweets with the party hashtag would have then led me to hunt around for those folks. But my take-away is that even if other people aren’t “labeled” with a name tag, I might start carrying one around to stick on in these situations. Yes, I may look a wee bit less glamorous (not that I look glamorous anyway) but since I have a distinctive name, maybe people I’m connected with on social media would see the name tag and say hello.

How do you try to maximize on bumping into people you know virtually?

5 thoughts on “In praise of name tags

  1. Make a formal permanent name tag with your “brand” on it. This way its not a “Hello my name is” sticker, and looks professional. I agree, short of having a photo book with cheesy LinkedIn pictures and names it’s hard to shuffle through a crowd well.

    1. @holly – so true. And I think even if I had the LinkedIn photo book, it’s still somewhat hard to pair people’s real life appearance with their social media thumbnail photos. I mean, it’s possible that some of us are using shots from, like, 5 years ago 🙂

  2. I’d wonder why someone has a fancy name tag on and no one else does, not that it really matters what I think 😉

    If I wanted to “see who’s around”, I’d probably sneak a peek at social media, and then go around and actively introduce myself way more than I normally would (which is pretty much never!). Look for interesting-looking folks and talk to them. Even if you don’t meet your social media friends, you’ll still come out ahead and have lots of interesting conversations.

    I guess I’m just not a fan of name tags unless it’s a conference or something and everyone has them 🙂

  3. I think it’s a fantastic idea! I wish everyone was required to a name tag, all the time. I would even consider getting a tattoo for the purpose.

    We went to a family camp in Upstate New York this summer, and were required to wear name tags everywhere. It made life SO MUCH EASIER. Plus, the colour of our lanyards indicated that we were newbies, so folks were extra nice and helpful.

    It’s a toss-up what I would like more — for everyone to wear name tags, or uniforms.

  4. Hi Laura,
    You’re right – wearing name tags is not going to be the popular (or the most glamorous) choice at a party but it undeniably helps make connections that might not happen otherwise. Especially for those of us who might need a little nudge to initiate conversations, unique name tags can help tremendously.

    The host has a perfect opportunity to create name tags that would connect cyber friends (i.e. “The person behind the Twitter handle:
    @kelsiemedel is:
    KELSIE”… This works even better when the twitter handle isn’t his/her actual name 😉

    Or a great conversation starter is putting where they are from: “The Potato State” or a quirky attribute “Has been to 44 states.”

    In my opinion the risk of missing out on great connections and spirited conversation is much greater than a party attire faux pas!

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