Not long ago I had a discussion with a colleague about trade shows. Generally, I’m not a fan of using them to promote a business. But they can be useful and many people do a good job with them. A topic that arose in our discussion was what to wear at trade shows. So, here are my thoughts on what to wear so you get the most from your trade show investment.
I have several clients that regularly send their people to trade shows and conferences to staff exhibit booths. We have seen a gradual trend toward being more casual at trade shows, generally speaking.
I see two reasons for this. One is that many people see trade shows as an opportunity to relax and have fun. They don’t take it as seriously as when they’re in the office or meeting with customers. The other reason is logo wear. It’s becoming more popular and more acceptable to wear clothing with your company or brand logo on it. And most logo wear is casual: golf shirts, khaki pants or open collar dress shirts (but with no jacket).
But just because other people dress casually at trade shows doesn’t mean you should. In fact, it gives the smart person a great opportunity to stand out from the crowd by dressing more professionally. I suggest dressing like you would if you’re meeting with a client. Whatever is appropriate in that setting should be good for your trade show. If the people at other tables and booths all have golf shirts and casual pants and your team is wearing nice looking suits, you’ll stand out in a good way. You’ll have more credibility.
Remember though, what you wear is also influenced by the trade show itself. If the people attending wear office professional attire, then you certainly should. But if they show up in jeans and John Deere caps then you might want step down a notch or two. Some people are put off by suits so know your audience before you dress for the show.
Some people say you should always wear logo clothing at trade shows. I would advise the opposite. A name tag that clearly shows your logo is enough personal branding. Remember, your booth or table will have your company name and logo all over so it’s not critical that employees are walking billboards.
When I was in college a good friend and mentor told me clothes don’t make the man but they can sure help open doors. He was right. So, for trade shows, dress to make a fantastic impression on the people who walk by your booth. You’ll only get 3 seconds so make them count by looking good.