Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Prep Work: A Conference Newbie Primer Pt 3 - What (Not) To Wear

not business casual
Clean and Appropriate
If you ask my seven year old what my rules are for dressing she can tell you, "Clean and Appropriate."
She will probably also roll her eyes at you and ask if you have any Hubba Bubba, but I digress.

C&A is my mantra with my kids. Not matching, not stylish, not fairies, mermaids, pink, blue, yellow, high/low/no fashion. I don't care what they chose to wear (yes, I let them dress themselves, to the shock and dismay of many of my friends and family.) I just want it to be right for the weather, the occasion and for your age group (no tube tops until you are 30+ and breast feeding your own child) and I want it to be clean.

That's  how I'm approaching conference dressing. I'm wearing pants, a nice-ish shirt and a cardigan (don't forget, hotel air conditioning can be merciless!), pretty much every day of the event. I may wear a dress one day just for the heck of it, but I'll see how I feel. I want to look like myself, that's important to me, so I won't wear a suit, though I think it's fine if people do (though business casual tends to mean you don't have to wear a suit) and I won't wear jeans and sneakers, again because that's not me. I want to be comfortable with the person I'm presenting to others. Now is not the time to try to look different, or how you 'think' a writer should look. Now is not the time for re-invention, it's the time to reveal who you are to a whole bunch of new friends.

Having said all that there is one thing that I must do when I am nervous, when I am in a social situation where I feel the need for 'armor' or a little psychic support. I must wear red lipstick. Putting it on makes me feel confident, ready. It's not 'F**K me' red lipstick, it's church-red lipstick, totally appropriate. To me, putting on the red lipstick signals that it's show time.

I'm bringing:

  • My water bottle
  • My box of Cascadian Farms Vanilla Chip granola bars
  • My box of Planter's Nutrition Heart Healthy mix mini packs (why so many peanuts? why not more pistachios?)
  • MINTS! Because the amount of coffee I will be consuming over the weekend will probably give me awful coffee breath.
  • Hershey's Kisses - to share and to console myself when things go wrong

So, I want to know from you:

1) When you attended your first conference, what's the one thing you wish you did that you didn't do?

2) And, if you haven't attended your first conference yet - what's holding you back?


  1. Excellent tips with "clean and appropriate." When I go to my first conference, I will bring mostly business casual attire, but I will mix it up a bit with some dress shorts (same material as slacks, but come to my knees) and some dark dressy jeans. I will also probably bring both flats and telling how much walking I will be doing interspersed with the sitting in workshops. The cardigan is a great idea. Even bring a couple to mix it up. Never know how freezing these buildings can get, especially in the summer.

  2. Well, I plan to wear clothes I taught in last year, plus a few dresses. I like dresses. They tend to hide things, like a kangaroo pouch which is better left covered unless you lack self-respect. My goal for foot wear: flat and keep my toes covered. I didn't even think too much about the cold air inside. It might keep me awake. The conference is only three days. It can't be that hard to pack, right?

  3. The one thing I wish I hadn't done was let my nervousness dictate the amount of alcohol I drank. 3 ciders with friends? Fun times. 3 ciders with strangers? Awkward conversations about the Ramones and crying in the hotel. Oops!

  4. Anna, I was with you on the 3 pints of cider and the
    Ramones, but the crying in the hotel, I'll pass.
    Thanks for the timely warning. I tend to drink one too many when nervous.
    Since I'm a lightweight, it makes it worse. Will stick to coffee!


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