How to Dress Your Best for Conferences and Networking Events

At FindSpark, we want our readers to show off their personalities during conferences and networking events. However, since New York City happens to be one of the most competitive job markets, everyone needs to show up as if they are already that creative professional they hope to be. Let’s make that Professional with a capital P. Below are some tips on how to dress for Find & Follow Your Passion, or any conference, along with a list of some essentials to bring with you.

Quick Tips for Girls

Dress Your Best For a Conference

– If you are wearing a skirt or dress, try this trick I learned during my catholic school days: Keep your arms by your sides, and you place your hands up against your legs. If your fingertips are touching fabric, you are good to go. If not, wear something else.

– The traditional skirt/pants + blouse + jacket combo never fails. Feel free to experiment with interesting cuts, like  peplum top, tuxedo style blazer, or full skirt.

– In terms of colors, make the majority of your outfit neutrals: black, navy, white, khaki, or grey. Then add an unexpected color somewhere, whether through a shirt or accessory. Bold colors like red, green and purple always seem to pop.

– Shoes should be conservative, but can still be “fashionably cute.” That means nothing open-toed, stiletto, or something you can’t walk in. If you are not a heels person, flats are fine. A nice pair of boots might fly as well (but use your judgement). Just please stay away from sneakers of all kinds.

– Minimal cleavage please, ladies.  If you plan on going out afterward (it is a Saturday) and your top might suggest some cleavage, wear a scarf or a buttoned-up cardigan over it.

– If you are wearing a skirt or dress, the rule about tights and hosiery is that if you are wearing flats and your skirt is around your knees, you are fine to go bare legs. If you are wearing heels or your skirt is above your knee, wear tights.

– Another general rule: if you are wearing a long skirt, wear heels to not look frumpy. If it is above the knee, you can get away with wearing flats.

– Keep prints on shirts/dresses/jackets small. People should only be able to tell what your print is if they are standing right in front of you, not across a huge hall.

– Use accessories to make you stand out, but keep it simple. Try a chic scarf, cool bag, awesome shoes, interesting earrings, or bright top. Coco Chanel allegedly has a saying that every woman should take off one accessory before leaving the house.

Quick Tips for Guys

Dress Your Best For a Conference (Men)

– Wear pants, a button down shirt, belt, and dress shoes at the minimum. The best accessories are a tie, blazer, sweater vest, tie clip, etc. – whatever makes you feel like you have an extra bit of swag. But, you know, Professional swag.

– In terms of colors and patterns, same applies with the ladies. Use a neutral palette with one or two colors or prints to show personality. Prints should be pretty small. Do try for contrasting colors though, like gray pants/blue shirt, khaki pants/black shirt, etc. so you look like you are ready to chat, not to lead a boardroom presentation.

– But make sure your socks match your pants. Don’t be that guy. Make sure you are wearing socks in general.

– Keep your hair neat. The point of making eye contact is that people can see your eyes.


Essentials to Bring With You

What To Bring To A Conference

–  a bag for swag (or grab a tote!)

business cards

– notepad/ipad/whatever you use for notes

– pen

-charged phone

– some sort of layer like a jacket or sweater, some rooms might be colder than you expect.

If this post still leaves you feeling lost, just think about whether the outfit you’re planning is something you would be comfortable wearing in front of your grandmother. It always works for me.

Above all else, you want them to remember your personality, not your outfit. An accessory you wear might draw their attention or be an ice breaker, but they should remember your smiling face and smart conversation.

See you at the conference.

About the Author

Reb Carlson has over ten years' experience in marketing while working at top agencies (360i, MKG, Wunderman Thompson, and Razorfish), tech companies (Sprinklr) and startups (Master & Dynamic). Based in Brooklyn, she recently started her own marketing consultancy called Mad Focused, a practice focused on helping working creatives and their businesses thrive.

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