People make judgments about us within the first 3 to 5 seconds of meeting us. Right or wrong, how we are perceived visually is as important as what you might be able to do to help them. According to Kim Zoller at Image Dynamics, 55% of another person’s perception of you is based on how you look. The professional image that you choose to portray during a networking meeting or event will send a strong visual communication to the other person.
I know. It’s cliche, but it’s worth repeating… “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression!” How you dress becomes part of your personal brand. Your professional image is an expression of your brand. It is the external presentation of you. A polished appearance is no longer considered frivolous or egotistical.
Networking events are almost trickier to dress for than a normal day at the office, because what you wear has a big impact on how people perceive you. Most networking events do not have dress codes but if they do, it’s up to you to find out in advance of attending. In general, you can expect to wear business casual to most networking events. Business casual is a style of dressing that is neat and comfortable while maintaining professionalism. It can be one of the most confusing terms used to define appropriate dress.
Clothes help make the first impression, so what should you wear to be your best at such a Networking event? Your first impression is your best networking tool so you want to look your best. Choose something that represents you and your company.
The Greater Phoenix area is warm pretty much year round. Unless it is a formal affair, informal or business casual (but not too casual) works well. You can still dress casually and comfortably while looking professional. Safer to be over-dressed than under-dressed.
Men: dress sloppy and other networkers may avoid you. Scuffed or dirty shoes and a wrinkled blazer don’t work. Blue jeans, a t-shirt and sandals may not be projecting the right image. Your intention should to to look like someone who looks like they have it all together. You get only one shot to come across as confident and competent. Your goal is to make people want to get to know you better after the initial meeting. For men, a suit consists of dress pants, jacket, shirt, and tie. Any time you want to convey the image that “you mean business” or need to show you are in control (even if you are not)… wear a nice suit. Wear clothes which are clean and neat. Press your clothes if they are wrinkled. If ever in doubt, dress more conservatively.
“Whether you’re introducing yourself to an individual or to a group, people will judge not only the message, but also the messenger as well. How you look, carry yourself, listen, and leave the conversation will affect what others do with the message you’ve delivered.” ~ Ivan Misner
For women, a suit consists of a jacket, blouse, and either a dress pant or skirt. The traditional look includes: a skirt that hits just above the knee, slacks and perhaps pantsuits, simple jewelry and just a hint of makeup. Nothing too sexy. Forget the sleeveless and ruffles. Forget the hot pink and the high heels. Avoid underwear that is visible under clothing and even worse – bras and tops which show your nipples. Look smart, professional and feminine.
Dress as everyone else, and you end up labeling yourself as a follower who cannot think outside the box. You would be wise to overcome this label and empower your competitive advantage by spending just a few more quality minutes in front of the mirror before a networking event.
In general, wear what you normally wear to work unless that is overhauls or nurse scrubs. The idea is to look professional and approachable. Body art such as tattoos and multiple piercings are unprofessional, and while it may not be true, some more conservative networkers may see them as a sign of low education and ignorance.
Always wear a name tag to networking events. You can purchase an engraved name tag with your name and business name usually for less than $15 with a magnetic back. Be sure to leave a spot on the “right” shoulder for a name tag. This is so when you reach out your right hand to shake, your right shoulder naturally moves forward and your name tag is easily read. Name tags help people remember you.
Always dress professionally and appropriately. Dress as you want to be seen – serious, professional, upward-bound and ready to meet and interact with other networking professionals. Invest in your appearance and you are making an investment in your career! You make a connection with your eyes, smile and approach with confidence. Be sure to wear your best smile. 😉
Copyright © 2012 – Larry James. From the chapter, “Be Coachable!” in Larry’s latest book, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”
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