A guide for what to pack and what to wear when you're sponsoring a trade show and have an exhibitor booth.

One of the things on my to-do list as we prepare for a handful of trade shows over the next month, is to send out an outfit board for each day of the conference to the staff that will be at the booth. This may seem trivial, but it adds to your brand’s image.

I did this previously for a conference and a few people liked it because they felt it would help them pack more easily, but I mostly got a lot of slack from my team. They did not understand why I would make everyone wear certain clothes and dress in coordinating outfits.  However, once we got to the event and looked polished and professional, everyone understood my vision.

I have been to A LOT of trade shows, both as an attendee and as an exhibitor, and have observed a lot about attire.  How you present yourself and what you wear is a direct reflection for the company you work for and you want to look put together and professional.  Here are some tips for when you’re sponsoring the event as an exhibitor and taking a team along:

1 – Coordinate outfits

I know companies like busting out the company polo shirt and khakis but I think your booth staff can coordinate their outfits without being so matchy-matchy.  Pick a color for each day and build your outfit around that.  Have everyone wear a blue shirt- but let them pick the style.  Building an outfit with a common color scheme creates a corporate identity and helps your staff look like a cohesive unit of company representatives… without looking like Best Buy or Target employees in the same shirt.  It also really helps to build a visual outfit board for each day, so people know what is expected and what types of things they should pack.

2 – Add one item of company branding to your outfit

You want attendees to be able to easily identify who works for your company- whether you are standing at the booth or walking around the trade show floor.  We made small buttons and everyone wore them on their jackets.  The buttons were not as in your face as a company lanyard or polo shirt, but it helped everyone know that we all worked for Analytics8.  The key is to pick something small that adds some flare to your outfit but doesn’t completely dominate it.

3 – Don’t wear brand new shoes

This seems obvious but I see it happen all the time (and I myself have been a victim to this one). A trade show is definitely NOT the time to bust out a new pair of shoes or to be strutting around in your new heels.  Pick something that looks sharp but is also comfortable.  There is nothing worse than standing on your feet all day in shoes that give you blisters.  And don’t forget to polish your shoes… a little bit of polish can go a long way and will make your shoes look new, even if they’re not!

4 – Aim for a the balance between looking professional but approachable

In the technology industry, attendees normally dress fairly casual at trade shows.  As exhibitors, you don’t need to wear a full suit, but my rule of thumb is everyone should be slightly more dressed up than attendees.  You want to look fun and approachable, but you don’t want to be wearing a Hawaiian shirt and ripped jeans.  A lot of times our staff will wear jackets but not full suits to balance the casual and professional look.  If you’re unsure how casual the event is, looking back to photo galleries of prior years on the show’s website is always a good point of reference.

There are plenty of other tips to ensure a successful trade show, but if you follow these basic guidelines in regards to your attire, you know you will at least look good!

Examples of outfit boards to send to coworkers who are staffing the conference exhibitor booth:

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