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How to dress for a business conference

March 26th, 2013 4 Comments

Mary Rambin at NAIAS

I know this doesn’t sound like the most thrilling fashion post, but I hope you find it helpful!

When you go to a conference and meet hundreds of people, what’s the most important thing you want to get out of it?  That people remember YOU and YOUR business.  So, you have to distinguish yourself!  Since they are meeting you in person, the way that you appear and act can be a huge factor for you.  You should look professional and memorable.

Here are some tips to putting together an outfit that’s memorable and comfortable.  The photos are from my trip to the North American International Auto Show I attended in January as a brand ambassador for Jeep.  Somehow I end up at male-centeric conferences (cars, tech, etc), so being a woman usually works to my advantage on the memorable factor :)

Mary Rambin meets general manager of Jeep

1.  PICK A COLOR.  Do not wear black!  Everyone else will be wearing black so pick something bright to pop out of the crowd.  And that does NOT mean a colorful shirt under a black suit!

2.  WEAR FLATTERING PANTS.  Skirts are a hassle and full-leg pants make you frumpy. Opt for a straight or skinny leg.

3.  CHOOSE COMFORTABLE SHOES.  Most people aren’t going to a conference for the style and won’t be giving you a full once over.  Plus, if you’re feet hurt, you’ll be grouchy and a bad attitude won’t win over anyone.

4.  PULL YOUR HAIR BACK.  Wearing your hair down is pretty, but it also gives you the opportunity to fidget with it during a conversation.  Talk about distracting!  Pull it back so you don’t have to worry about it.

5.  KEEP MAKEUP AND ACCESSORIES MINIMAL.  Unless you’re in a room of fashionistas, keep the bling to a minimum and the makeup au natural.  Men get scared by all the action! Add a pop of color with a berry lipstick and/or in one accessory (necklace OR earrings).

6.  CARRY A UTILITY BAG.  Digging around in a purse (or tote!), you appear unorganized.  People also don’t like to wait for you to get to the bottom of the bag to find your business cards.  There are cute briefcase bags out there, so always be on the lookout for one you love.  Another tip: always keep a Moleskin journal inside so you can take notes on a moment’s notice.

7.  SMILE.  People look so serious at these shows.  A smile will absolutely make you stand out.

Now here’s the part I hate to hear.  My father harps on it all the time and I just can’t stand that he’s right….

No matter what you do, you should have your picture on your business card.  After meeting a hundred people, it’s almost impossible to pair a business card with a face, so make it easy on them by having a photo reference.  I think the whole concept sounds terribly cheesy, but it’s also effective.  Remember, sales, not pride, increases your revenue.

My Conference Head To Toes

Photo 1:

Photo 2:

  • Blouse from Labels
  • Gap jeans
  • Miguel Ases earrings
  • Vera Wang flats
  • Not pictured: camel cashmere cardigan/wrap

 

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  • Sarah

    Neither of these outfits are appropriate for many conferences. If you are an attorney, or CPA, or other financial professional both outfits you included would be considered very unprofessional. I think it is important to keep the profession in mind.

    • They worked for this particular conference. You can certainly apply the rules and make the outfits more formal.

  • Joe

    Why don’t you want to wear a skirt? You have great legs!

    • Lol. Thank you!!

      Skirts just aren’t good for conferences on so many levels. But otherwise I’m all for them!!