You’re almost on your way to a conference. Your business cards are all ready, laptops and cellphones are charged, you just need to figure out what you’re going to wear. This, however, is often easier said than done. There are so many factors to consider, and when you’ll be focused on making good impressions every day, you cannot afford to be caught unprepared for anything.
Pick your style
Usually, conferences last anything between one or two days up to several days. Good indicators of the level of formality are usually the hosts and the guest speakers. A conference targeting private bankers can be assumed to be somewhat more formal than a conference for pre-school teachers.
A safe bet is to opt for business casual. For men and women, business casual can mean neatly pressed pants and pressed, long-sleeved button shirts with shoes and belts in good condition. Depending on the environment, men can decide whether they’ll wear a necktie or not, but blazers won’t be required for this dress code. This article has a useful illustration of what business casual means for men and women.
This basic style can be mixed up for women by adding one or two A-line skirts or pants and blouses of different colours and textures. Women can also pack a few staple accessories that will go well with most of their clothes, like gold or silver. Men can assess the atmosphere and the crowd, but should preferably limit their accessories to their watches and wedding bands.
Consider the climate
No matter the weather where you’re headed, conference venues usually make proper use of their air conditioning systems. If the venue is in a warmer area, this can complicate your wardrobe issues as you’ll want to dress for warmer weather, but the auditorium may have another season inside. Luckily, the solution is simple – layer up! If you are sensitive to the cold, carry a blazer around with you. Make sure you have one or two of these packed in neutral colours to go with all your outfits.
Get creative with colour
Remember that no one will notice if you ‘recycle’ certain wardrobe items. People won’t remember your black pants if you wear them with a white shirt the one day, and the same pants with a blue shirt on another day. Pack different colours of the same style item, such as black, gray and navy pants. If you pack two pairs of black pants, no one will notice the variance, even if you are switching things up. Keep your shoes and accessories in neutral colours so you don’t have to pack multiple belts or pairs of shoes that can only be worn once with a specific shirt.
Finally, pack a few items to be prepared for unexpected events. Try to find out a few days in advance whether there will be team-building activities and what exactly the extent of these activities will be. It can’t hurt to throw in an extra pair of dark jeans or active wear for team-building activities.
On the other side of the spectrum: keep in mind that you never know when you’ll be approached or by whom, so make sure that you do have a proper pair of dress pants, shoes, a tie and perhaps a blazer (you also never know if you’ll get asked to join a dinner party) or if you’re a woman, pack one or two day-to-evening dresses with a proper yet comfortable pair of shoes and appropriate accessories.
Regardless of the topic, location or length of a conference, remember that you are there to learn and to network. Be considerate of other attendees at the event, but stay true to your individuality. Interesting people make for interesting conversation!