Are you preparing for a trade show and wondering what attire will make the best impression? Are you unsure how to coordinate your team’s outfits without looking too matchy-matchy? Have you not refreshed your professional wardrobe since before the pandemic like the rest of us?

Dressing professionally and making a great first impression at trade shows is crucial for promoting your company and personal brand. In this blog, we provide practical tips on how to dress your best, stay yourself, and make the statement you need to at your next trade show.

Although live events went away for a while — they’re back and they’re likely here to stay (in some form or … fashion!). Regardless of how you feel about them, they are a great way to reconnect with familiar faces, make new connections — and most importantly represent yourself, your company, and your brand. So, make a statement.

Here are some tips my team and I have picked up over the years both hosting and attending professional trade show events. We may be experts in data and analytics, but we always make it a priority to also look good and feel comfortable while doing it.

Tip 1: Aim for a balance between professional and approachable.

In the technology industry, attire is generally on the more casual side. However, if you’re hosting or sponsoring an event, my rule of thumb is that your team should be slightly more dressed up than the event attendees. Wear jackets but not full suits to balance the casual and professional look. Other ideas are button down shirts, slacks, loafers, and quarter zip sweaters. If you’re unsure about the formalness of the event, look back to photo galleries of prior years on the show’s website as a reference point. Insider tip: Although things have gotten a bit more casual, you still want to aim to be above average.

Four light blue bullet points with check marks state go to outfit pieces. Text next to the bullets state: black or grey slacks, white or light colored blouses, button own shirts, and grey, black, or navy blazers.

It’s always smart to be prepared with outfit ideas in hand — here are a few go-to pieces that we love.

Tip 2: Create a cohesive look with your team and accessorize strategically with company branding (especially, if you’re hosting a booth or presenting a session).

When it comes to coordinating outfits, it’s all about striking the right balance. Instead of matching outfits, select a set color for each day (good options are navy, white or grey) and have your team build their look around it. This approach creates a cohesive look that establishes your corporate identity without looking too intentional — or “twinning”.

It’s also a good idea to accessorize strategically with subtle company branding. There are lots of ways to do this — from buttons on jackets to stickers on notepads, or even custom-printed pens and water bottles. These can serve as great conversation starters. Keep in mind that the goal is to make a lasting impression without being overly promotional.

Tip 3: When it comes to picking out shoes, always air on the side of comfort.

This seems obvious but I see it happen all the time. A trade show is definitely not the time to bust out a new pair of shoes. 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.

Tip 4: Keep location and setting in mind.

Think about the location and physical setting of the trade show when selecting your outfit — this will guide your packing needs and determine how many layers you need — or don’t. Even if it’s a warmer climate, remember that the AC will likely be on blast, so bring a jacket or sweater.

Tip 5: Don’t be afraid to incorporate a personal touch.

Just because a trade show is business oriented does not mean that you cannot bring your whole self and individualize your look. Be bold — use pops of color in accessories, wear patterned socks, or even change up the same tired hairstyle you’ve been rocking for Zoom calls. Adding a personal element to your look is important because it tell others something about authentic you — while still representing your company.

And, if it’s a virtual event?

Well, remember that style, branding, and comfort still matter. Make sure that your background is neat and professional, incorporate branding when appropriate, and if you really want to go for it — invest in ring lights for your teams.

There are plenty of other tips to ensure a successful event but following these basic guidelines will ensure that you feel your best and look polished while doing it.

In the wise words of Miuccia Prada, “What you wear is how you present yourself to the world.” Good luck!

Examples of outfit boards to send to coworkers:

Four light blue bullet points with check marks state go to outfit pieces. Text next to the bullets state: black or grey slacks, white or light colored blouses, button own shirts, and grey, black, or navy blazers.


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