When it comes to attending a networking event, what you wear could help or hinder your success.
Personal stylist Vicki Doufas, of StyleColab, said it is important to give your outfit some thought as first impressions count, especially when meeting prospective clients and professional contacts.
First and foremost, grooming is crucial. Ms Doufas said you should arrive at a networking event in clean, tidy clothes, not wearing too much makeup, and with hair nicely styled.
“You want to appear that you’ve made an effort with your grooming and presentation. You want people to respect what you have to say,” she said.
“At networking events, people are judging you so make the right first impression from the moment you enter the room. Think about the colour, style and fit of your clothes, while reflecting your personal brand and image.”
Here are some tips on how to dress for a networking event:
Dress ‘on brand’
What you wear says a lot about who you are and what you represent, Ms Doufas said. Therefore, it is important to dress in a way that reflects your personal brand and image.
Ms Doufas said you could dress “on brand” by choosing to wear a garment in the colour of your personal or business brand. If your branding has a strong theme of red in it, you could wear a red shirt or red accessories to make the connection between yourself and your brand.
Also, consider whether the look you project at a networking event reflects the way you present yourself online, said Ms Doufas.
“It’s important to keep your look consistent. When people see your image on your social media accounts and on your website, make sure that the way you dress at a networking event reflects what you’re portraying on your other platforms,” she said.
Dress for the type of event
What you wear to a business breakfast should differ to what you’d wear to creative networking drinks, said Ms Doufas.
Your outfit should align with the type of event you’re attending and the crowd you’ll be mingling with.
“I’d adapt my outfit depending on the audience, but also keep consistent to my own style,” Ms Doufas said.
“It’s important to still look like yourself and reflect your personal brand through your outfit… but if you turn up to a creative entrepreneur’s event dressed in a corporate suit and heels, it’s going to be obvious that you don’t fit in.”
Similarly, if you’re attending an event for women in business but the key objective is to make friendships, you may want to dress in a way that represents you as approachable and friendly, rather than too formal or corporate.
Note your neckline
If there is one rule to follow when dressing for networking events it’s this: keep your neckline respectable.
Necklines that plunge too low screams more weekend party than professional businesswoman, so stick to modest styles, like a V-neck, crew neck or boat neck.
With a higher neckline, you may be perceived to be more closed and with a lower neckline more open and approachable, Ms Doufas said.
“A warm and genuine smile can overcome a high neckline, especially when meeting people for the first time,” she said.
Additionally, if you’re a bigger-busted woman, wearing a high-neck top that is fitted will accentuate your bust, which is not something you necessarily want while trying to make professional connections.
“It’s important to dress to compliment your silhouette rather than accentuate body parts,” Ms Doufas said.
While it can be tempting to wear all-black or neutral colours to a networking event, Ms Doufas recommends embracing colour to stand out and be remembered.
She recommends choosing a colour that compliments your complexion.
“People are often looking at your face and eyes so wearing a flattering colour on the top half of your body is a great way to stand out in the room,” she said.
Coloured accessories, such as a necklace or earrings, could be another way to incorporate colour into your outfit.
Ms Doufas said colour is a great way to be memorable at a networking event, where you are likely meeting people for the first time.
“Wearing colour means there’s an opportunity for someone to compliment you on your red jacket, or a statement ring. Little things like that can bring someone’s attention to you,” she said.
“Wearing both a flattering neckline and colour next to your face can be the difference between connecting or disconnecting with other people.”
The importance of accessories
Accessories and jewellery can be powerful when attending networking events because they offer an effective way to express your personality and style.
“They create focal points that draw the eye,” Ms Doufas said.
“If you’re attending a networking event, choose accessories that keep the focus on your face, such as statement earrings or a necklace.
“If you use your hands to talk, like many of us do, wearing a statement ring or bracelet can provide another focal point.”