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Trade Show Dress Code

December 18, 2018

The number one thing an attendee remembers about their interaction with your company at a trade show is based on your staff (according to the Center for Exhibition and Industry Research).  Your company’s trade show exhibit may be the focal point for any conference or event you’re attending, but it won’t be the only thing representing your business.  You and the rest of the booth staffers will also get plenty of attention.  Impacting show attendees is paramount and by understanding the dress code for any event, you can ensure you’ll be putting your best foot forward.

How we appear to attendees is how we will make a first impression and having everyone match makes our company appear well planned out.  This can give you leg up on many of the other companies that are vying for the attendee’s attention.  It is a good thing to make sure that everyone’s is uniformed in their appearance.


Most venues don’t have a formal dress code, they usually have fairly clear guidelines that attendees and exhibitors are expected to follow.  As much as I enjoy casual (comfortable) clothing, in most cases, casual clothes are frowned on; exceptions include sports themed events and recreational events such as boat shows.  For professional conferences (medical, legal, etc.) you should always dress as though it were an important day at the office.  If you’d wear a suit or similar to meet your CEO, then a suit is best for a trade show exhibit.  You can’t go wrong if you are more professional in your dress...but you can go too casual.


As staffer, we all want to understand what we can do to cut down on how hard trade shows are on your feet, lets and back.  Make sure you check with the venue where your trade show exhibit will be in located inside the hall and what your exhibit flooring will have and what the aisles will have at the show hall.  Your location also dictates the volume of walking that you will have do during the venue.  There’s a huge difference between padded, carpeted flooring and a concrete convention hall.  If you have control over ordering flooring, make sure to order the thick 1” pad and your staff will love you for it and it will make your prospects stay longer.  The harder the floor, the more comfortable your shoes will need to be.  Women should avoid wearing sandals; they look too informal and toe and foot injuries are common in areas where there is a lot of wiring for dozens of trade show exhibits.

If you plan to be there during the install and you have long treks between your hotel and around the show hall, you might consider bringing collapsible scooters that can be packed in luggage. These are fantastic if you have epic walking distances.


1. Remember, when working in your exhibit, it’s about representing the company, not expressing your personal taste.  Each industry is a bit different and be aware is acceptable in your industry and scale down or cover body art or piercings in order to avoid standing out as “inappropriate.”  In most cases, earrings are fine for ladies, but pierced noses, tongues, and eyebrows can be viewed with disfavor in more conservative industries.

2. Moderation is key when looking at wearing jewelry.  The pieces should be classic and understated rather than too loud and intrusive.  An armful of bracelets that jingle is distracting and there’s already plenty of noise on the convention floor; you don’t want to have to compete with jingling jewelry to be heard.

3. Uniform shirts (polo or dress) or similar should be ordered specifically for the appropriate body type so that it does not appear sloppy or too tight.  Both could leave the wrong impression.  Also make sure if you are ordering shirts for ladies to use female cut shirts and  do not use the unisex versions because they generally won’t fit as well as they could.  Spend the extra money and time and you will feel great as a staffer… more importantly you make the correct impression.

4. Crazy socks are a trend now and personally I wear crazy bright socks most days (I am wearing tie-dye socks right now). I am “pro” loud socks; however, I have to recommend a more subdued approach on the show floor. It is less about each of our individual styles and more about pointing prospects to our company and not to me. That said, step back on the crazy socks… at least until you leave the show floor.

5. At least for the show, ditch the yoga pants and gym wear in general… no matter how comfortable they are.  It could be viewed in a negative light on the trade show floor and can be the wrong kind of distraction.

6. Belts and shoes should match colors.  This sounds obvious, but I have seen this a number of times on the show.  It does not hurt to mention this in a preshow meeting or email.  To go along with this, male staffers from certain parts of the country may want to wear large belt buckles and those would be frowned on most industries.

7. Footwear will make or break your comfort when you’re on your feet for hours on end.  Women should avoid high heels; today there are gorgeous flats that will work with any business suit or dress you may wear.  Whatever you do, don’t wear new shoes or you’ll have aching, blistered feet before the end of the first day.  One trick I learned from one of our clients is to change your shoes mid-day and it can save fatigue on your legs, feet and joints.  An alternative is to bring some shoe cushion inserts to change out after a few hours on the show floor.

8. Make them shine!  This sounds simple, but there are executives who have admitted they check out the shoes of company reps.  Scuffed or neglected shoes say you aren’t interested in the details, which is a bad message no matter how great your trade show is going.

9. Your hands will tell a story, so make sure it’s the right one.  Working trade show exhibits means shaking a lot of hands, so be sure your hands look their best.  If possible, get a manicure a day or two before the event so your hands are well groomed.  Women should choose either a pale, neutral nail color or stick with a clear coat of polish.

10. Be a Boy Scout or Girl Scout - take a small sewing kit with a needle, thread and a lint brush for quick clean-ups or repairs.

With all of these tips in mind, you’ll be sure to dress for success and have a great show!


This article is inspired by "Trade Show Exhibit Dress Code:  Dressing for Success" by Scott Price and first appeared at www.skyline.com

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