I know what to say, where to go and what to do – But whatever shall I wear?
Maybe you have never given it any thought – whilst some obsess for hours.
I’ve seen people rock up to Business Networking events right out of the workshop – grease and all. ‘Keeping it real’ they say, as they spend the rest of the night avoiding handshakes and light coloured chairs.
Sharing a greasy business card is not the best idea either. You need to be comfortable, but also dressed in line with the event.
I’m not perfect though – I accidently wore heels to an event hosted by an award winning cabinetmakers last week – knowing there was to be a tour! I had packed flats – but forgot to change when I arrived. The manager watched nervously as I negotiated the walkways – but I survived.
Research is essential. There’s no excuse for not knowing the dress standard or expectation for an event these days. If you are a guest, it’s the responsibility of your host to let you know what to expect – but we know most people just aren’t the best hosts – so it’s best to get your own information.
Some events will tell us what to do – ‘Black Tie’ Gala, for instance, which is pretty easy to follow. ‘Business Casual’ however, is not.
I was never a fan of Casual Friday either. People had no idea of what they could or couldn’t wear – or rather shouldn’t wear. Many people like a bit of direction or an example to follow.
Of course, now I work for myself. Not that every day is Casual Friday all of a sudden – but I can choose what I wear. I’m not sure that’s easier though.
But back to research. In this era of social media, it’s never been easier to see what an event is like, or a work place expects. When I teach interview skills – I will always instruct applicants to follow the prospective employer or workplace on social media – to see what others wear to work or events. We can also see how a workplace is run and get some insight into their values and expectations. You may even decide you don’t want to work there – and that’s ok too, I tell them.
The same applies to networking events, trainings and meetings. Check out the past events on Instagram or Facebook – and look at the comments. As I have mentioned previously when writing about introductions – you can get a feel for the event this way and see what’s expected. You will also be able to tell if it’s for you and if it will meet your networking objectives.
We all communicate better when we are comfortable. NOTE: I’m not telling you to wear ugg boots or tracky pants – but I am saying that being organised and in the know gives some comfort. Knowing if an event is outdoors, up stairs or even on a boat will help you dress accordingly, comfortably, within the dress code.
For my mechanic colleague, no one expects him to suit up. I’m a big fan of the embroidered polo and black pants for most events – so long as they are clean – which goes for jackets and shoes as well.
This also applies to bags and whatever holds your business cards. Make sure they are also clean and in good order. Don’t weigh yourself down.
A networking breakfast may be a cold start to the day – take that into consideration. Be warm but not rugged up. A sundowner at the end of a long day may require a second wave of enthusiasm. Consider a change of clothes or shoes.
Be prepared. I’ve often done a breakfast, lunch and dinner all in the one day – but never in the same shoes, which seem to get lower as the day progresses, especially if it’s a stand up event in the evening.
I’m sorry there are no easy rules to follow – but do follow what your research tells you. Plan ahead and make the most of every opportunity to network, learn and be of assistance to others within your network.
Be interested and interesting. Remember the best thing you can wear is a smile – but not just a smile – at least try an embroidered polo and black pants as well.