A few weeks ago I went to the PGA Merchandising Show in Orlando. It was tons of fun, and I had a great time. However, I stressed about what to pack for days. Give me a business conference, and I can tell you what to wear. But a golf conference? I’m not a frequent golfer so it’s not like I have a bunch of golf clothes laying around that I can take. Plus, I wasn’t going as a golfer but as Media. Finally, I was going there to cover a specific story, golf and business travel, so I wanted to find a balance between the two. After re-reading some old posts I’ve written on how to dress for a conference, I figured out a strategy.
Layers. I recommend layers for all conferences, but they are also a great idea for trips where you’re not sure about the environment. It’s easy to add a scarf if you’re too cold or take off a sweater if you’re too warm. Of course, this only works if your under-layer is appropriate, so plan ahead.
Flats. Again, for conferences I almost always recommend wearing flats instead of heels. You don’t know if the office will be big with lots of walking, or involve lots of stairs. Stylish flats can be found anywhere, at all price points.
Reach out to someone knows. If your trip includes an event you’ve never been to, reach out to someone who may know the dress code. This may be a coworker, onsite contact, or event planner.
Bring something a little dressy. Normally I try to pack as little as I can get away with, but for new events I will bring one thing that is a little dressier, just in case. You may have a dinner out, an unexpected client event, or perhaps a surprise live TV taping (as was the case in Orlando).
Modify with accessories. If you really have no idea how dressy people will be, bring simple outfits that can easily be changed with accessories. A black dress can look more professional with a statement necklace, but you can take off the necklace and drop it in your purse if it turns out people are dressed more casually.
Wear what makes you feel confident. This is the most important thing. People may not notice if you’re a little off on the dress code, but they will notice if you don’t seem comfortable and confident.
After confirming with my National Car Rental contact that dress was business casual, I decided to go with some of my favorite colorful separates. My packing list included:
- Day 1: Spring-green sheath dress with an argyle sweater (it was a golf event! I had to.)
- Day 2:Pink cropped pants and turquoise cardigan
- Evening: Blue long sleeved faux-wrap dress with yellow belt
The first day of the conference, Demo Day, was outside at a local golf course. Honestly, there were so few women there that there was no way to compare. However, in relation to the guys’ level of formality I was totally fine. The following day at the convention center there were definitely more women, ranging from suits to golf clothes. With my mix of colorful and comfortable, I was dressed perfectly. Whew!
This post is sponsored by National Car Rental. All the opinions expressed are the author’s own.