How to Dress to Impress at Your Next Convention

Feb 28, 2017 9:30:00 AM

Kim Estep

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First impressions are important. This isn’t new information, nor is the fact that what you wear in a professional setting conveys, at least partially, who you are and what you are about.

As Carol Kinsey Goman points out in an article for Forbes magazine, your attire not only makes “a strong visual statement about how you see yourself,” but dressing appropriately is “also a way of expressing respect for the situation and the people in it.”

You don’t have to abandon your individuality or personality to dress the part of an industry professional. Rather, you should bring those two identities together and personally develop a visual representation of how you want to look in your particular role. Also, consider the image of the company or brand you’re representing when selecting outfits to communicate your professional message.

While various conferences may have different dress codes or guidelines, the most common is business casual. Here are a few concepts women and men can apply when choosing how to dress to impress.

1. Styling That’s Comfortable

At a conference, expect long days of walking, sitting, standing and mingling. That being said, prioritize comfortable shoes. Unless you are someone who regularly wears high heels, avoid them in favor of flats or close-toed, low-heel pumps. Unless you are attending a posh event at the conference, an outfit as formal as a three-piece suite likely is unnecessary. However, you should bring at least one structured outer jacket, such as a blazer or sports jacket, in a traditional color. Purchasing a majority of your clothing in wrinkle-free fabric also is a good idea to avoid looking sloppy.

2. Using Colors

Color plays a significant role in visual presentation. Color psychologists generally agree black, red, navy and dark gray are powerful colors that demand attention, and darker colors insinuate authority. However, the color green is associated with creativity and growth and the color blue establishes trust and credibility. Ultimately, you must decide which colors promote an association with your values or those of your business. Empowered By Color, an online resource, shares more details about how color psychology relates to business clothing in this post.

3. Building Confidence

What makes you feel good about yourself? If it’s a smart pantsuit, wear that. If it’s a teal flute skirt, white blouse and chic blazer, go that direction. You should choose fitted articles of clothing that will stay in place, since conferences are about establishing connections and learning new information relevant to your field. Constantly having to readjust, tuck or pick not only makes a poor impression but also distracts you from engaging wholeheartedly or devoting all your attention to your surroundings.

4. Incorporating Versatility

Attending conferences generally involves travel. For that reason, and to simplify your wardrobe, bring pieces you can mix and match. No one will remember if you wear the same pants or use an accessory more than once. For both men and women, focus on staples that can be recycled throughout the conference, and then add in a few statement pieces or accessories that inject subtle flashes of color, unique design and, most of all, personality into your ensemble.

Whether we like it or not, people are evaluated by their clothing, particularly in professional settings. If you’re striving for success, dress like it. This is especially important when putting yourself in public situations, such as conferences, where you have an opportunity to network and make a lasting impression.

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