Conference Season is upon us. On the one hand, you’ll get a few days out of the office and maybe make some new friends and industry contacts. On the other, you have to come up with a Signature Wardrobe Conference Outfit…
- The venue will probably be big and air-conditioned, somewhere city central, like a hotel or dedicated conference space. As the day progresses, it will probably be either too warm or too cold.
- There might not be a coat check, so you could end up carrying your outer layers all day.
- There will be some sitting for presentations, some standing around chatting, and some walking or sprinting as you change rooms.
- Some presenters might get you on your feet jumping or stretching to wake you up and get your blood moving again.
In general, your conference outfit will fall into the business casual/smart casual side of the dress code.
Something to bear in mind, is that other attendees will be assessing your appearance as they try to decide whether you’re worth getting to know, so if you want to broaden your network, it’s a good idea to dress like you know what you’re doing.
And while you’re thinking about it, consider what you’ll need to help you deal with 300 strangers in one sitting. Clothes that:
A business conference requires a level of business formality – certainly not jeans, sneakers, tightly fitted or exercise clothes. A polo shirt with your company’s logo and chinos is about as casual as you can go unless it’s a fitness conference, and perhaps not even then.
Generally dark coloured fitted clothes in smooth textures, that cover more of your body are best. As are woven fabrics over knitted. At the same time, something durable enough to withstand the necessity of a conference name tag. An easy out is a semi-fitted dress, because they’re a little loose and comfortable, and people almost interpret them formally.
Some conferences are less formal, (e.g., blogging, art, social media), so check the website to see if they suggest a dress code. Even if it’s not mandated, the site illstrations and photos of past events will guide you to what the organisers think is appropriate.
If you’re travelling and staying in a hotel for a few days, consider a small low-crease capsule that will pack well, and can be mixed and matched.
Having said all that, weekend conferences are often much more casual than weekdays, so dark jeans could be a better choice.
And it’s almost always a good idea to wear something a little distinctive to help people remember you by, for example, patterned socks, eye catching jewellery or a bright wrap.
I’d say yes, plain and practical, something that won’t show through your outer layers, (unless it’s a different kind of industry conference). Get a bra fitting to ensure you are wearing the correct size and your girls are comfortable, secure, and don’t bounce excessively.
I’d also suggest not wearing an elastic support garment (e.g., Spanx) becuase you’ll be sitting still for most of the day and you don’t want to constrict your blood circulation any more than it already is.
A conference day may be more active than an ordinary day, so I’d suggest comfortable low to midheight heels.
There will be a lot of sitting and standing, so if you have a tendency toward fluid retention, something low will be better, and try to remember to curl your toes up and down now and again to keep your blood moving.
Neat, clean hair, discreet makeup and fragrance, and neat and clean fingernails.
A watch/activity tracker so you don’t get distracted checking your phone for the time, Perhpas a lightweight scarf or wrap. Quiet jewellery.
And because you’ll be carrying it around most of the day, as small a bag as you think you can get away with containing:
- Business cards. Also consider a one page “media kit” containing your biography, contact details, social media statistics and other relvant details.
- Snacks, in case the conference isn’t adequately catered. Something light and easy to eat one handed like dried fruit, nuts or trail mix. You could also add something shareable like wrapped mints.
- Reusable bottle of water.
- Notebook, and reliable pen. Perhpas a couple of spare disposable pens for people who lose/break theirs. And maybe a sharpie in case your name tag is not correct, you get the opportunity to bag an autograph or need to touch up scuffed shoes.
- Items like a comb, tissues, wetwipes, spectacle cleaner and lipstick to freshen up with during the day.
- The minimum financial needs (cash and just one card) in an RFID blocking wallet. None of those store and library cards or receipts you usually carry.
- Your phone. Not just for calls and emergency contact, but for your calendar, taking photos, quiet time music, checking the weather/your social media, etc.
Not to mention:
- Your best smile and an open mind!!!
- A plan for what you want to learn/achieve and who you want to meet.
- The willingness to take risks to meet your conference goals.
- Conversation starters.
- Your elevator pitch, and answers to those questions you can’t get away from, like “What do you do?”
- A plan for following up with the contacts/friends you made.
- A plan for organising and applying what you’ve learned.
Plus you might need a bigger bag instead to include this lot as well:
- Your laptop, spare batteries or charger. Outlets are likley to be in high demand, so consider something you can share to help make friends with other attendees.
- A small wallet, pouch or folder to store business cards, receipts and discount offers for later.
- A small medical kit with bandaids, headache tablets and antacids. Maybe an emery board too.
- A lightweight foldable carry bag for any conference giveaways you want to keep.
If you’re well prepared, your conference will be a fun way to meet like-minded people. So the last thing you want to be doing is worrying about your Conference Outfit as you walk in the door.
You don’t need to buy a new outfit, this outfit has some elements in common with your Appearance Outfit, Inspirational Outfit, Errand Outfit and of course Office Work Outfit, depending on how you see the conference fitting in with your life.