What Is the Safest Dress Code for a Trade Show?
Presenting the correct image at a trade show expands beyond what you bring out in your exhibition booth or your promotional materials. How your staff dresses reflect well or poorly on your brand’s reputation just as easily as everything else. A high-end message cannot be successfully executed if your team helms your booth in an unkempt appearance. The questions surrounding dress code at trade shows and exhibitions have always been challenging to answer because there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to be gleaned. However, this doesn’t mean that there are not ways to simplify the decision-making process in your role as an exhibitor.
Staff etiquette should begin at the highest planning stages – i.e. decide on a unified look in advance to the actual travel date. Having staff members compliment each other in the way they dress sends a strong message to both existing clients and trade visitors that you’re competent, have a specific vision and have thought of every single detail. The effect is rather subtle and not perceived on the surface level, but yet highly conductive to greater success in product presentation, pitches and deal negotiations. If you’re having a tough time agreeing on the proper look, then think about your booth colors and your branding – what are brand qualities that you can translate in clothing (‘young & fun’, ‘professional,’ ‘futuristic’, ‘classic’). This will create certain guidelines to steer your staff members in selecting the proper pieces.
Business travel in the past few years has been defined by luggage restrictions, so every exhibitor’s team member has to work with weight restrictions. Not to mention, it’s impractical to lug a sizeable suitcase through airports and public transport to the hotel. Therefore, adopt the following mantra – ‘I’ll pack only what I really need’. It’s best if you can build a dynamic wardrobe with a few basic separates that can be interchanged to create specific looks. Essentials is the keyword here. Bring too many options and you may spend too much time thinking about what to wear, rather than be ready in a few moments. To that end, we also recommend you pack your own plastic hangers for your daywear. These would be your shirts, trousers, jackets and skirts.
We do not subscribe under the philosophy that men and women require fundamentally opposing style guides as most of the principles are fairly universal. In a business setting, it makes sense to keep loud colors to a minimum and only for accent in accessories or undershirts, depending on the trade show you’re at. Exciting prints, designs or shiny applique should be avoided at all costs. You do not wish to distract whoever you’re speaking with your dress. Functional, stylish and tailored to your body are your guiding principles when selecting separates. Before leaving, everyone on the team should mix and match their different pieces to make sure that what you’ve selected won’t clash against each other.
Men should keep to classic trousers, and in some rare instances – chinos. Women can also go for trousers, but there’s always the option to go for skirts. Keep in mind that these should be in solid colors and avoid any and all embellishments that call undue attention. There’s more freedom to be gained with shirts, blouses or sweaters, because they’ll be worn underneath jackets or blazers. If it is too warm to layer properly, these items should be a bit more understated. Men can switch jackets for a vest under these circumstances. Wearing branded clothing is preferred! If your company is looking to invest in trade show marketing and have a team frequently fly out, the right move is to then invest in more expensive brands.
When we come to the shoes and accessories, there are differences. Men don’t have much room to experiment or add to their looks. Jewellery on men is best kept sparse to a watch and some rings that are understated. Clean bands with no gemstones. Shoes should also be utilitarian: either black, grey, brown or tan. Glossy shoes should be kept for official functions such as gala dinners. Women, on the other hand, have greater freedom in what shoes they pick. Although conservative colours are best, a bolder colour like a more pronounced blue or deep violet are also permissible. There’s more to do with jewellery as well, though the simpler the design the better. It’s a bit of a cliché to mention, but before going out remove one accessory.