The Dos and Don'ts of Trade Show Style
When I thought of this as the topic for my premiere blog, it was the morning of my first full day in Vegas for The PPAI Expo. The exhibits did not open until the next day, but I was attending education sessions. I remember sitting in my first session, admittedly a little smug, thinking, "Why is everyone in sneakers and jeans?"
Oh, did I learn.
At the end of every day, I was yearning to put on sweats and climb into bed (around 8 p.m.). I can't say I wasn't warned. "Bring comfortable shoes" was among the first bits of advice I received before venturing on my novice tradeshow trip. Shoes were not the only notable wearables at the show. The ensembles of conventionites ranged from jeans and t-shirts to heels and miniskirts. My trials in convention fashion inspired me to outline some of the benefits and detriments of showroom style.
Many benefits go along with branded apparel. You and your coworkers look like a team; finding each other in a crowd is easy and it brands your logo into the minds of thousands of distributor attendees. Well there really is no downside is there? It's like wearing your catalog on your back!
Business casual is usually a safe bet at an event like The PPAI Expo. You look professional, put-together and it transitions easily from day to night. A difficulty with corporate apparel is footwear. A suit and sneakers might fly on Justin Timberlake, but that fashion statement does not translate to the real world. Dress shoes are only comfortable for so long, but, honestly, any shoe will hurt in the showrooms so just bring band-aids, insoles and a positive attitude.
It comes as no surprise that people love jeans. They are easy, versatile and vast in style options. Plus, with the invention of jeggings (jean leggings for those of you not in the know), there is literally nothing more comfortable. The worry with denim is that it cannot always take you from daytime show-trolling to nighttime sales-pitching. Yet, in my surveillance of The PPAI Expo, I found that people dressed their denim nicely. In many ways, wearing denim showed that you were serious about the industry. I heard one woman joke that you could tell who was new at the show because they were not wearing jeans and sneakers.
Suppliers have more leeway in the sport apparel department, especially those who sell it. From what I saw, wearing jeans was the most casual attire for distributors. Sport apparel is certainly comfortable, but it can be limiting. Sometimes you have to go directly from the showroom floor to a dinner or an event at a club. Sneakers and track shorts will inhibit your club-hopping abilities. For the sport apparel wearers, I'd suggest bringing a change of clothes so you are prepared for any post-showroom activities.
Every woman needs a dress that shows off her best asset. However, the show floor might not be the ideal venue for such attire. The biggest downfall of these skimpy ensembles was not the obvious over-exposure element: It was the frigid temperature on the show floor. It warmed up on day two when thousands of people swarmed the exhibits, but the temperatures dropped as the show's visitors departed. The asset-bearing outfits definitely stood out on the showroom floor, but perhaps that was the point. Everyone has their own way of getting attention and if it means landing that sale, then flaunt your stuff.
Ultimately, attire at conventions depends on the message you want to convey to onlookers, whether they are your partners, customers or employees. Know your clients. Know your coworkers. And always know what looks good on you.