Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now in Washington, DC.
Attendee badges can do much more than share names, titles, and organizations. In fact, they can spark engagement thanks to ribbons and ribbon walls.
What’s one staple of any association meeting? A name badge.
Although a badge can look pretty boring, many organizations allow attendees to personalize them by offering a choice of colorful add-on ribbons. These ribbons can vary from the traditional—like “board member” or “donor”—to the nontraditional—“my ribbon is better than yours” or “colors outside the lines.”
But what’s the best way to let your attendees bling out their badges?
For the Association of Otolaryngology Administrators, it was by introducing a ribbon wall at its 2015 annual meeting where attendees could choose from 30-plus ribbons. Previously, AOA staff added predetermined traditional ribbons to its attendee badges. “The ribbon wall was a huge time saver for staff, as the process usually takes several hours,” says Caitlin Price, AOA’s communications coordinator. “It was also great because people could really express their personalities through the fun ribbons. Our attendees loved it!”
Kristen Gleason, director of professional development at NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation, says its ribbon wall came with another unexpected benefit. “The wall served as a visual representation of all the volunteer and recognition opportunities the association offers,” she says. “We had some attendees remark how they didn’t realize how many opportunities the association has available, and the ribbon wall inspired them to think about some other engagement opportunities in the future.”
Besides personalization and association awareness, a ribbon station can come with another value-add: sponsorship.
The North Carolina chapter of the Community Associations Institute offered sponsors the opportunity to staff the station as a way to engage informally with attendees. “Their signage and smiling faces made the area seem more welcoming to attendees as well,” says Executive Director Leslie C. Blum, CAE. “That drove more traffic and networking and fun.”
[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Pop of Personality."]