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November 2, 2010
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John Hooker:The role of the humble badge




The founder of jhcp ponders on the merits of swapping traditional trade show ID, the lanyard, for speed dating.

The new British Coalition Government, in the recent Queen’s speech, dropped the planned introduction of ID cards. So when I got to IMEX, as usual I picked up my ID – this year in the shape of a badge and green lanyard (I take my own black lanyard as it blends better with the suit). However, with EIBTM just around the corner, the role of the badge has got me thinking, as it will no doubt again hang a suitable distance above the trouser line but low enough that if you were short, then you would know who I was.

As a marketing professional, I recognise the need for data and covet the DNA of the potential customer. However, does the humble badge have a value as it tries to perform a myriad of functions? Let's consider its roles:
•    Branding of the show: How many people really consciously wear the badge in public places outside of the show to advertise their attendance?
•    Security pass: If you want to be truly secure, then a picture of the person is required. We work in a global industry and who knows whether Dorsaf is a male or female name?
•    Personalisation: Because it has your name on it and you can call me Dorsaf.
•    Fashion accessory: Hardly a must-have in this year’s Paris fashion week.
•    Readable: No really, when the average person walks at two to three miles per hour. How many stooping visitors do you see in the exhibition aisles unless you are from Japan and formally introducing yourself?
•    Useful at the time and a legacy memento of your visit: Well the jury is out of this one. However, I do rather like those badges that have the ribbons hanging beneath them to show you are someone different. It looks like the rosette you win for being best of breed at the annual pony gymkhana.
•    Wasteful: We are suppose to be sustainable and I know who I am.

So what is the serious point in all this?

Registration for shows like EIBTM asks enough questions to determine your credentials and ability to transact business. Pre-scheduled appointments cut to the chase for those who wish to meet. The bar code contains the DNA, and these days, with satellite technology, the big brother world can track your every move in the show. So all you need is a bar code – just like a can of beans. Maybe you should call me Heinz?

Seeing so many stands bereft of traffic reminded me we need to get back to talking to people, asking them who they are and what they do. After all, people buy people and walking around coloured-coded at waist height is hardly the way to engage in, what is, a great people industry.

Exhibitors need to try that bit harder, too, and badges off to Monaco at IMEX, whose staff made the effort to canvass you in the aisles.

At times like this I feel speed dating has a lot to offer, because you look at your 'dates' straight in the eye, say: “Hello”, and have three minutes to determine if there is a match. Now surely this is a lot more fun than being implanted with a bar code.

John Hooker is the founder of JHCP and specialises in change management programmes in the meetings, events and hospitality sectors globally.


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