How To Dress For Networking Meetings

Appropriately dressing for networking can make all the difference between success and failure as first impressions really do count.

So, what should you wear and what are the definite ‘no no’s? Here are some factors you should consider to ensure you create the impact you want.

Image

Firstly think about the image you want to portray ensuring it is congruent with who you or your profession

If your customers would usually expect to see you dressed smartly say in a suit then you may not be projecting the right image wearing jeans and a t-shirt when you are networking. But there is no point in power dressing to look ‘professional’ if it isn’t ‘you’ or does not reflect your line of work.

I have seen people whose idea of dressing for networking is to turn up to events in suits which are frayed at the edges, crumpled shirts and dirty shoes. Whilst I try not to jump to too many conclusions about what this says about their business I can’t help wondering whether the sloppy image extends to the service they provide.

I do know an independent financial adviser who does dress down, avoids wearing a tie and sometimes wears jeans …his view is that he doesn’t want to alienate people with an over-suited image. I was a bit sceptical however he has been extremely successful at networking, building relationships with those he wants to work with and has an ever-increasing client base (myself included!)

As a woman I personally don’t feel comfortable wearing formal suits, but I do like to look smart, professional and feminine. With this in mind I tend to buy smart but comfortable dresses and skirts in favour of more suits and trousers. It’s a personal thing but know I’ve bought the right thing when I look forward to wearing my outfit and feel good in it.

Protocol

Check out the code of dress for the networking event you are attending. There is a balance to be gained between feeling comfortable in what you are wearing and feeling like a fish out of water because you are the only one who has chosen to dress down.

At the breakfast networking events I run I expect people to wear what they would wear in the course of their normal working day, which means that there are a range of outfits from suits worn by the accountants, solicitors and ‘professional consultants’ through to jeans and overalls worn by the trades people. However I do have a builder who generally chooses to wear a suit as this is what he is most comfortable in.

Clothing which suits you

Not only should your clothes reflect your image, you can greatly enhance your ‘attractiveness’ to others (and this will often be subconscious) if you choose clothes which suit your body shape and color. If you have a bit of spare cash it can be well investing in the time of an image consultant such as Color Me Beautiful who can help advise you on what colors look good on you. I spent around $100 and have probably saved myself many times that amount in clothes which don’t suit.

Comfort and Reliability

Wear clothes which are physically comfortable, ones you have worn before and ones you know won’t let you down. See below for clothes which can let you down.

If you are a woman you have more choice about what to wear as it is not automatically expected that you wear a suit in a more formal setting. However there are also pitfalls you can fall into when dressing for networking that men don’t have to worry about.

Clothes that women should avoid wearing

  • Dress too low cut at the front exposing a noticeable amount of cleavage – fine if you want people to focus on your breasts rather than on your business!
  • Too short skirts
  • Loose dress, top or bra straps which fall off your shoulders
  • Garments with unreliable fastenings – e.g. button holes too big so buttons come undone, press studs which easily come apart
  • Underwear visible under clothing
  • Stockings with tops which slip below the hemline of your skirt and ‘hold ups’ which fall down. (Both of these I have experienced… the latter when I was doing a business presentation!)
  • Uncomfortable and unstable shoes