Why You Should Not Organize Badges by Category

BadgeOne of the most common reasons for long lines at a conference is the inability of the staffers at the registration desk to find an attendee’s badge. This happens frustratingly often, even to a person that has successfully pre-registered for the show. There are many causes for long lines, but one of the most common is organizing badges in an inappropriate fashion. In particular, planners often sort attendees by the category of registration, rather than by name. Let’s see why this is not a good idea and the confusion it can cause.

  • Member versus Non-Member. Because it is important to identify attendees by whether or not they belong to the organization, one might make the mistake of separating badges by member status. This is a bad idea because the attendee often is not sure if he or she is a member. Even worst, that person may have formerly had an active membership, but it has lapsed. So the attendee bounces from line to line with increasing frustration. Easy solution – do not organize the badges by member, but indicate membership on the badge if appropriate.

  • Full Conference versus One Day Registration. There are many good reasons for indicating on the badge if the person is registered for the full conference or a single day. However organizing the badge based on this can cause a number of problems. First of all, the attendee may not remember the nature of his or her registration. The registration may have also changed from full to one day or vice versa. This is also a bad idea because the registration staff may forget to look into one stack of badges versus the other. Like the Member distinction, this is best handled on the badge and not in the organization.

  • Unpaid registrants. These people certainly should be spotted out so you can settle accounts before admittance. However, keep in mind that the attendee may not be aware of the lack of payment. To expedite things, you can indicate the unpaid status with a sticker or placing the badge in a special envelope, for example. The registration staff can then escort attendee to the payment station where the account can be processed. This prevents a trouble registration from slowing the main line.

  • Speakers. This class of registration can cause a variety of problems for different reasons. Speakers often get limited registration, such as the day of speaking. Because of this, speakers often then upgrade to fuller registrations, causing them to be removed from the “speaker” stack of badges to the attendee badges. Consequently, if they are separated out into another pile, they often get lost. Indicate speakership on the badge or a ribbon, but not by the badge organization.

  • Exhibitors. Needless to say, these are the worst class of registrations for a multitude of reasons. Many exhibitor attendees are not determined until the last moment, and there are frequent substitutions. You may be tempted to separate pre-registered exhibitors for this reason, but this too would be a mistake. For one reason, exhibitors – like speakers – often have limited registrations, such as exhibit hall only. Some exhibitors, however, will want to go to the full conference and upgrade. Thus you get into the same confusion as the other categories. It is okay to designate them on the badge or via ribbons and even have a special line for exhibitor issues, but it is best to mix pre-registered exhibitors into the main attendee list.

In most cases, your line will move quickest if EVERYBODY is on one badge list, sorted by last name and then first name. It is okay to have separate stations for problem registrations, but the basic idea is 95% of the attendees are not a problem and so you should be able to get them in and out of the registration line in rapid fashion using this simple name ordering and organizing convention. KEEP IT SIMPLE – SORT BY NAME!