You have approximately four seconds to make a positive first impression to passing by attendees at a trade show. You are the product on display. Remember, attendees aren’t looking to ogle a booth babe. In fact, research shows that attractive people actually fare worse at generating leads at trade show booths. So this is not about presenting yourself as Miss America or a cover model for GQ. What you do want to achieve is a pulled-together, professional appearance that commands attention and respect.

Well-Suited For Success

I always dress in a suit for trade shows. By dressing the best I can, I know that I am putting my best foot forward. As a result, a number of the booth visitors I speak to think I am in charge and mistake me for a C-level executive. How is it that I command such authority? It’s the suit!

I also wear a suit on flights so that I am always prepared to work just in case my luggage is lost. Sometimes I even receive free upgrades to first class. Your appearance counts and it makes a big impact on the way others perceive you.

If you have ever seen me work, in pictures or in person, you’ll notice I only wear solid colored ties. I recommend the solid over a pattern because solid speaks of congruence and stands for a single thing. A patterned tie is a mottled mix of shapes and colors and sends mixed messages. There is something subtle and powerful about wearing solids versus a fragmented pattern. Hence, “the power tie.”

Dressing up for a trade show may be easier for men who have the traditional option of the suit. Of course, women can also wear a suit; yet there are other options as well. Pay attention to the quality of fabric in your clothing, especially your blouse. A fine, crisp white shirt is classic and will always look sharp. Bold colors always capture the eye. Make sure there is absolutely no piling on the fabric or signs of wear or color fading. You cannot go wrong by omitting jewelry and perfume as it can distract some people. As they say, less is more.

Walk This Way

Shoes are important. For women, no patent leather or heels that are too high. If your gait is impaired, it won’t work. High heels are professional when they are clean and comfortable to walk in. If you look funny when you walk, then stick to flats or something with a smaller heel. Patent leather is a look that men and women should avoid in a professional setting. Save it for weddings.

Your shoes should be clean and professional looking. Never wear sneakers. Also, check the backs of your shoes. There should be no scuffing or torn leather. This is important for women’s and men’s shoes. People notice details, and if your shoes are torn and tattered in the back above the heel, it is noticeable. People instantly form an opinion, and this tells them you don’t pay attention to detail.

The Rule of Four

Your appearance at the trade show is your creative display. You are the product, so dress the part! My friend and mentor Joel Bauer, teaches the rule of four: it takes 4 extra minutes to put yourself together by design rather than default; it is 4 degrees warmer when you wear a blazer; and you receive a 400% greater response when you are dressed by design.