Distribute a blank index card to each person in your group.
Using coloured pens or markers, ask everyone to write their first name on the top-half of the card.
On the bottom-half, draw three (or four) images which represent something about who they are, eg where they live, zodiac sign, favourite things, occupation, etc.
When ready, distribute pins or sticky-tape to your group to fasten the cards to their chests.
Ask everyone to greet as many other people in the group for 5 (or more) minutes, engaging in short conversations to get to know one another better.
Video Transcript for Name-Tag Game (also known as Name-Tag Mania)
presented by Mark Collard
We’re gearing up to a break very shortly, but in a moment I’m going to ask each of you to grab yourself, and I have the equipment just over here, an index card. Let me tell you what’s about to happen because over the next few minutes you’re going to go crazy and we’ll tap into your creative juices.
But one piece of creativity that’s not required is I’m going to ask you to focus on your first name. My first name is Mark. I’m going to ask you to write that just in the top half of the index card. And you’ll notice I’ve got these sort of squares. I’m going to ask you to add four symbols, drawings, images, illustrations, whatever you choose reflecting four elements.
So to repeat I’m going to ask you to write your first name just in the top half, and in the bottom half ask you to draw with as many of the different colours as you choose, and I’ve written it down because four things can be tough to remember sometimes, but you’re going to have birthday or date, a symbol or something that represents your birthday or date. Also a favourite food, draw something that relates to a favourite food. A favourite movie, you might pick a movie that’s easy to draw. And finally a value, something by which you might live your life by. We’re not going to reveal… we’re not going to drag any skeletons out of the closet here but to put a value that you hold dear. Maybe it’s from a leadership perspective or just in your general run of the day life.
(people getting ready to prepare their Name-Tag Game)
So to repeat, first name, top half of the card. In the bottom half in any way creatively you choose, in all of the 36 array of colours that is available to you in the text box, four symbols, birthday or date, food, movie, and value. I’ll put this in the centre to remind you.
Take a couple of minutes. This is not one of those art and craft exercises where you’ve got three days to spend. I’m going to take a couple of minutes and then I’ll invite you to take the next step. This is what we need to begin with. Got it? Great. So I’m going to bring this stuff out. Grab yourself a card. Grab yourself a pen and go at it.
(people preparing to play Name-Tag Game)
It’s listed in the centre. It’s your birthday, food, movie, and value. BFMV, alphabetical order if that helps you as well.
So to recap to this point you’ve spent a few minutes creating your own effectively name tag. In a moment I’m going to give you some sticky tape and you’ll be able to place it somewhere on your clothing. It’s the standard name tag but clearly this is a little different. It’s a little manic now.
The mania that’s about to embark in this space is with your little name tag on and we’ll dispense the sticky tape in just a few moments, hold on to your tag in the meantime, I’m going to ask you to have a series of conversations in which you introduce yourself to other people. But clearly your objective is to be able to share something about the symbols.
The first step is so for example if I’m going to engage with Chase first, I’m going to look at his symbols and try to guess what was it about his symbol… I’m seeing number 12 for his birthday or date. What might that suggest about his birthday or date?
Could be December, or…?
(Could be the 12th.)
Could be the 12th of something as well. So that just… it gives us a conversation starter. But I invite you to unlock it first. If you can’t clearly let the person who did it will be able to tell you what it is and continue on through the symbols.
Do that with as many pairs as you can over the course of the next few minutes. Before we move to the break we have another quick experience that we’ll share with you, but for now I invite you to interact with as many people as possible, unlock the secrets of the illustrations, and then move on to the next person.
Here’s if you’re playing for bonus points, an extra bonus point you get added here. Capture as many of the names as you can as you’re going around. So when I’ve met with Chase I’m going to move on to someone else but I’m going to work hard to remember Chase’s name. There’s no test but it’s a little extra bonus point.
Capture as many names in this next few minutes as you can. You’ve already started that process earlier today, how many more could you gain? Go.
(people playing Name-Tag Game)
How To Play Narrative
You are about to ask your group to be creative. There, I said it.
No sooner will you mention this word, and one half of your group will immediately groan, such is the power of our inner voice which has convinced most of us that we are anything but creative.
Yet, despite all this, I am always amazed at the results of this exercise – I’m sure you will be too.
Distribute a blank index card to each person in your group, with suitable pinning device or adhesive. If you have a choice, go for the 150 x 102mm (6×4″) size because they provide more valuable real-estate for what comes next.
Then, offering a large box of coloured markers and pens to everyone, ask each person to write their first name in large letters in the top-half of the card, and then stop.
Next, ask everyone to draw three (or four) objects directly under their name (in bottom-half of card,) which typically represent something about who they are.
Naturally, sky’s the limit, but I regularly ask people to draw objects that represent things such as where they live, their occupation, their home, something about their family, favourite pastimes, etc. There’s no wrong answers here, so encourage people to think creatively.
After a few minutes, and having pried the pens from the hands of the terminally creative, ask everyone to pin their name-tag onto their chest, and you’re good to go.
Now, invite each person to meet and greet as many others in the group as they can in five (ten, fifteen…) minutes, obviously, engaged in a conversation about their respective name-tags. Ask individuals to decipher the drawings of their partner, enjoy a giggle and share, before moving on.
To my way of thinking, the simple fact that people are invited to focus on the name-tags, and not the other person (as such,) is one reason why I think this activity works so well. It’s less threatening, and, oh, folks just love looking at other people’s drawings!
Practical Leadership Tips
There are dozens of interactive ways to make use of these artistically inspired tags. All involve a simple sharing of names and the significance (or otherwise) of the drawn objects. Integrate elements of this exercise with some of your favourite mixing, getting-to-know-you games such as Ice-Breaker Question Exchange, Who, UBUNTU Cards and Partner Introductions.
While a creative exercise, remember the focus of this activity is the interaction which follows. Beware getting sucked into the vortex of people wanting to spend a lot of time perfecting their drawings.
First names, or nick-names, are all that are necessary. Adding a surname takes up too much room on the card to be useful. That’s what business cards are for.
In exercises such as these – name-game types – I like to challenge people to catch as many names of the people they mix with as possible. It’s not a test, but if you point this out in the beginning, you’ll be surprised how many people can remember a lot of the names they were introduced to.
Categories: Use a variety of groupings (see Categories) to invite people to find others of a similar ilk. For example, those who used the same colour marker to write their name, those who exclusively used capitals/lower case/mix of letters, those who drew a similar type of object (eg, animal, building, person, activity, etc,) the number of colours used on the tag, etc.
Random Colours: Use different coloured paper to create your name-tags, to nominate colour as another ‘category’ to randomly divide your group into smaller groups.
Narrow Your Focus: Frame the type of objects you wish to have drawn on the name-tags. For example, draw three of your favourite foods, or sports, or garments of clothing, or – even tougher – personal values.
Express Yourself: Invite people to write their name in a way that reflects something of their personality. For example, if you are typically a shy or reserved person, you may write your name really small in the top corner of the card.
Memory Challenge: Take a look at Identity Crisis if you really want to challenge your group’s name-knowing prowess and memory.
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Useful Framing Ideas
We’ve all seen the typical Hello, My Name Is… type of name-tags, often seen at conferences and seminars. Boring! While these work perfectly well to display your name, they do nothing to express your personality or anything else about you. Until now…
Flags all over the world are often designed to reflect one or more elements of the nation to which they belong. For example, the Union Jack of Britain is a composition of three older flags of England, Scotland and Ireland. I’m interested to know what elements you would add to your own personal flag if you had one…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun name-tag game:
When you first listened to the task, what did you think or say to yourself?
Did you think the exercise was difficult or easy? Why?
Do you think you are creative? Why or why not?
The inspiration for Name-Tag Mania (also know as Name-Tag Game,) and many more ice-breaker name-games, can be found in the following publication: