CUMBERLAND, RI—In keeping with a tradition he started nine years ago, Bearing Service & Supply sales representative Steve Carlson told reporters Thursday that he will once again don a humorous name tag at this weekend's annual Rhode Island Fluid Power Distributors convention.
According to the 44-year-old, his sidesplitting name tag will not only be the highlight of the convention, but will ultimately lead to increased sales of industrial hose connectors with M23 thread locking and internal strain relief.
"I'll admit I have a reputation for making some pretty hilarious name tags," said Carlson, who started relatively small when he debuted "Steve-O" at the 1997 convention. "But this is the 10th anniversary, so this needs to be one for the ages."
"People will be expecting something hysterical," he added, noting that he set the bar high with last year's name tag, in which he replaced the two lowercase e's in his first name—one with Pac-Man and the other with Ms. Pac-Man.
Though Carlson would not divulge his idea for the 2007 design for fear of ruining it, the husband and father of two said he was certain his plan for the 2-by-3 inch, self-adhesive name tag would be appreciated for its cleverness, its creativity, and, most importantly, its ability to induce uproarious laughter.
"2007's [name tag] will be more conceptual," Carlson said. "I think the convention is ready for that."
Carlson stated that his humor has, over the years, ranged from subtle—1999's model in which he added the Roman numerals "XV" after his last name—to completely outrageous, like 2001's gut-busting configuration of five name tags plastered across his chest, spelling out "S-T-E-V-E."
"I had to go all out that year," Carlson said. "It was after 9/11 and people needed to laugh."
According to Carlson, a humorous convention name tag is not only a conversation starter, but also an indispensable tool for putting others at ease, making them more susceptible to a friendly conversation about purchasing higher-end, sub-miniature connectors.
"Folks in this business tend to be a pretty serious bunch," said Carlson, who credits his 2005 sale of 7,000 hose connectors with quick bayonet locking solely to his decision to label himself Hulk Hogan for the entirety of the two-day convention. "My name tags remind them that just because we are talking about transparent bend protection sleeves doesn't mean we can't have a little fun, too."
Though the vast majority of his name tags have "gone over huge," Carlson admitted 2003's model rubbed some convention-goers the wrong way. That particular year, Carlson crossed off the o in the "Hello, My Name Is" section of the label, causing it to read, "Hell, My Name Is."
"I figured I'd built up enough of a positive reputation that I could do something a little more edgy," Carlson said. "But some people were offended by it. That was an important lesson for me. There's only so far you can push the envelope sometimes."
Accompanying Carlson to the convention for the first time this year will be his wife, Sharon Carlson, who over the past decade has served as a sounding board for her husband's name-tag plans.
"Steve's a real kook," Mrs. Carlson said. "He's actually not that funny in person, though. I think he saves it for the name tags."
Friends and interested colleagues are invited to join Carlson this Saturday for the 2007 design's unveiling, which will be held at the registration desk immediately following the 9 a.m. Kickoff Welcome Breakfast.