Presentation prepared, handouts done, tickets and itinerary organised, are all items ticked off the checklist for when I am travelling for work and speaking at conferences. You no doubt have yours as well. But there is always one question that remains – what to wear?
As I’m in the business of professional image and managing impressions, I do plan carefully as I don’t want to turn up looking off kilter from the person they are expecting. I do like to travel in comfortable clothes though and have been known to change on the plane or at the airport before arriving at my location.
I’m sure you’ve faced this problem. It is often hard to know what to pack when attending a conference or a work trip.
Hope these few tips help.
Where and when is the first consideration. You might be attending a weekend conference on a tropical island or beach location or it may be mid-week in the city. Work out what would be appropriate for that setting.
You still want to consider that you are usually attending a business conference so maybe smart business casual pants and top or dress shorts for men. Business wear is usually the choice for mid-week in the city.
Plan your outfits according to the program. If you are there for two days, two nights and on one of those nights you have a dinner or awards night, check the dress code. An LBD or other evening attire is often a safe choice to pack.
Don’t forget to pack your active wear or swimwear to re-energise before or after the sessions on each day. Or if you’re staying on for sightseeing factor that in.
The temperature of where you’re going may differ to your hometown, so check what that is and dress accordingly. Often conference rooms get a bit chilly so a lightweight jacket or wrap to go with your clothing choices is advisable. It could also be worn on the plane on your travel day.
Dress for comfort but also style it up. Choose shoes you can wear all day and that look good. Pack accessories. A statement necklace or colourful scarf can liven up even the plainest of outfits.
Your brand image is on display even in a casual environment so dress to enhance and express who you are. Professional, creative, leader, someone who takes pride – what would that look like?
Extra stuff. You’ll want to take notes of course. Choose what works for you – iPad, laptop or plain old note pad. Pens, chargers, power board and adaptor and plenty of business cards.
Use the conference pack to put stuff in or a decent size handbag that’s not too heavy. Ladies take a smaller bag that doubles as an evening bag. Often I’ll take one of my own compendiums to put a copy of the program in and any handouts plus my room card. I may use that also for my itinerary and pop in receipts as I go along.
You can also photograph everything; use Evernote or other myriad tech tools. Many conferences these days are paperless and have all information on an app or online. It goes without saying to pack your toiletries and cosmetics but keep to the minimum.
Pack light. Lay everything out, ensure that you have all you need and remember mix and match can go a long way. Carry or wear your bulkiest items while travelling and put everything else into one carry on cabin bag (if you can manage!).
If you are travelling to two different climates, use plastic zip lock bags to separate the major items and then only unpack what you need.
I’ve only had one major disaster when I was attending a wedding (fortunately not speaking).
On the afternoon of the day I arrived in town the baggage handlers went on strike and my bag was MIA for two days. I had to find a dress at the airport and have my makeup done there by the lovely ladies at the MAC counter. I wore my travel shoes, which didn’t match my outfit at all, and didn’t feel or present my best that day.
I now always try to travel with carry-on or at least a change of clothing.
Need help with planning a wardrobe for a conference or work trip coming up? Learn more about Style and Image Management
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Sue Currie is a speaker and the author of IMPRESSario, Present and Promote the Star Within You. She is recognised as a leading authority on personal branding to boost image, profile, brand and business. Through her image management programs, workshops, consulting and keynote presentations, Sue helps businesses and entrepreneurs present an influential brand image.