Whether it is an external business meeting to secure a contract, a black tie gala to rub elbows with industry donors, or an internal meeting with co-workers and line managers, it is important to dress appropriately and look the part of the professional expert that you want to be seen as.
To do that successfully, you need to understand the unspoken language of business, which help you understand how to craft a brand identity that evokes an image that helps your company succeed in any situation.
Are you dressed for business success?
The point of industry events is to network, get to know other professional people operating within your industry, and make a good impression. Why should you care about first impressions?
Simply put, your next new contact could be potential customer, competitor, partner or investor; either way you owe it to your brand to show up on time, in professional attire that matches the occasion — ready to represent your company.
Start by finding out the dress code. When in doubt stick with smart classic business attire and avoid turning up in shorts, sandals, or anything that is more suited to turn up on a dance floor of a night club.
Here’s a look at what you need to know:
1. Suit up
For both men and women you cannot go wrong with a sharp business suit, comprised of a tailored jacket and trousers or skirt. A crisp ironed shirt or blouse will complement the look.
Ties can finish off a business suit for a man, but they aren’t necessary. Avoid ties that have jokey cartoon patterns on them, unless you’re in an industry where that’s the norm, otherwise you won’t be taken seriously. Something preferably silk with muted colours and patterns is a good tie for business functions.
Women can choose a blouse or a smart lightweight jumper, depending on the season, but avoid exposing a lot of skin; especially if you’re doing business abroad and unfamiliar with cultural nuances.
Ensure that your attire is free from snags or holes. Like it or not, this will detract from the professional image you are working hard to present. The same goes for men, avoid tee-shirts and shorts because again you will not be taken seriously. Make sure that the top and bottom of the suit match, and the same goes for shoes, belts and other accessories.
2. Check the fit
There is nothing worse than gaping holes in a blouse that is too tight or a jacket that strains across the shoulders, and the same is true of clothing that is too loose.
Your aim is to focus those attending the meeting on what you are communicating to them in a professional way. You do not want them to be thinking that you look like someone who has borrowed clothes that are way too big or who hasn’t worn a suit for a while and it is now too small.
Investing in a few key pieces of clothing is important so make sure to get the cut and the fit right. Shoulders should sit square and your trouser line should end before the shoe and not above, exposing an inch or two of ankle, or below, draping over your feet.
3. Step up to the mark
Shoes have to be clean, polished, without scuffmarks, and fit in with the rest of your outfit. Low heeled black, navy or neutral shoes work well for most women’s outfits, but a slightly higher heel will serve to give you confidence.
For men, shoes that match the color of the trousers or that are a shade darker are a good move, and you might want to match the colour of your socks with the outfit as well.
If you are tempted to wear one with a striking pattern, remember that anything that detracts from what you are saying is not a good idea. Don’t forget to avoid white socks or brightly colored ones as well.
Now is not the time to fling on the bling, so simple classic pieces of jewellery are key. Understated watches, gold or silver studs in the ears, and statement jewellery necklaces or earrings (not both) to show your level of professionalism are important.
You want to be taken seriously so simple cufflinks or a wedding or signet ring will be enough and won’t dazzle the people sitting opposite you.
Briefcase or handbags also fall into this category, as you are aiming to give the impression of a competent and organized individual. Scrabbling through an enormous holdall to find your pen or iPad is not going to reinforce that impression. Again, aim for something that will blend in with everything else you are wearing.
5. Personal grooming
Starting with your hairstyle, you need to pay attention to your personal grooming. Scruffy or unkempt hair, being not properly shaven and a messy appearance are going to make you feel uncomfortable and not give a good impression to those around you.
Neat and tidy hair kept back from your face, and for women, a natural look when it comes to makeup is important.
Avoid spraying on a large amount of aftershave or perfume, as that can be overpowering to those around you. Although you want to make a lasting impression it should not be one of a cloying sickly smell as you leave the room.
Ensure that you are clean and tidy, and this goes for your hands and nails. Chipped nail polish or grimy fingernails are not going to go down well. Clear or natural nail polish, and not the latest pop of colour, is best for a professional business meeting.
All of the above is true for an internal business meeting too, although if your company opts for a more business casual look, keep in mind that on-site visits from customers and investors require an uptick in your attire.
If in doubt, err on the side of professional. No matter what you decide, make sure that your entire look leaves a positive impression of you, which ideally should be as the credible game changer you are.
This article has been edited.
Emilly Hadrill is the owner of Jadore Hair Supplies, a company that specialises in premium hair extensions, products and accessories. As a successful business owner, she understands not just the importance of presenting a professional appearance in her everyday work, but also the role that good mental and physical health plays in her ability to run her business effectively.
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