Olga Anderson - Dressing to Network: Elevate your Presence
Katie.Dix / 28 Jun 2021
Dressing to Network: Elevate your Presence
SEO – Networking is vital in securing business. Here we explain how best to dress for these events. Read more…
What to wear to a networking event is something that many of us must consider at some point in our professional career. Giving a great first impression through professional dress is an important part of making profitable business connections and future opportunities. If done well, how you dress to network will allow you to positively stand out from the crowd and assure new contacts that you are an established presence with promising potential.
The Importance of Looking Good
First impressions count. Whilst research varies, most people tend to say that a first impression is formed between 0.1 – 7 seconds. As much as we thus like to disregard outer appearance – ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ – it is true that many of our judgements are founded before our new acquaintances even have a chance to speak. The way we dress is therefore crucial when meeting new people.
When networking, looking polished and professional immediately informs people that you give attention to detail and care about your work. Dressing smartly whilst still incorporating pops of your personality shows that you understand the boundaries of professionalism, but that you also are not afraid to be daring and demonstrate that you are far beyond the average businesswoman. You want to stand out for the right reasons. You want people to look at you and think, ‘she knows what she’s doing.’
This can be assisted by carrying yourself with confidence. The way we carry ourselves can also be informed by the way we dress, meaning the way we choose to present ourselves can be a cyclical process of self-assurance and looking good. Networking is all about confidence, so dressing in something in which you feel both comfortable and empowered is vital, as the purpose of the event is to draw in the confidence of others. If you understandably quake with nerves during these days, having the perfect outfit is one less thing to be worried about, and the way you come across can do some of the talking for you.
Elevate your Presence
When deciding what to wear to network you need to think about what kind of setting your networking is taking place in. Is it at a grand corporate event, or is it somewhere a little more informal? Is it with people you have met previously, or people you are completely unfamiliar with? If a network event comes with a specific dress code, be sure to stick to it! And if you are ever unsure, it’s always best to come slightly over-dressed rather than being too casual; we’ve all been there in the uneasy stomach-drop moments of realising we are under-dressed, so it’s undeniably better to leave this feeling for a party rather than for something as important as networking.
Whether your desired look is smart or smart-casual, always aim to look elegant and sophisticated. It is important to fine tune the balance of looking professional whilst also standing out. For example, it will always be best to avoid glitter and garish prints. Instead, say yes to bold block colours, statement accessories, and interesting textiles. At the same time, you don’t want to feel rushed or awkward. Networking is not the time to experiment. Find your feet in fashion prior to the event, so in the morning of you can feel confident that your statement piece fits right and that you are comfortable in it.
When it comes to fostering engagement, wearing something a little unique is a really useful tool in a room of suits and standard silhouettes. This is not about dressing yourself in something that feels ridiculous or outlandish, as the worst outcome would be to put you on edge, thus undermining the end-goal of empowerment. It is about engaging with the boundaries of your comfort zone and experimenting in a place that feels true to yourself, whilst also attempting to stand out from the crowd; if you ultimately aim to tap into your own personality, then both comfort and confidence should be exuded. Feeling comfortable is as key to confidence as the garment itself.
If you plan on wearing on wearing a suit, for example, why not choose one in a bright colour? In a busy room, wearing a bright suit will instantly make people aware of your presence whilst also allowing you to retain a professional silhouette. It sticks to the office archetype that we instantly recognize and see day to day, but with a flash of personality and a playful twist that can sometimes be lost in our overbearing commitment to tradition.
If wearing head-to-toe colour isn’t your thing, then you can always elevate your outfit with some bold accessories. A pair of statement earrings, for instance, are always sure to be noticed because they frame your face and draw attention to the right places when you are speaking about your business. Alternatively, a unique handbag or pair of shoes can help you to stand out without feeling like everyone’s eyes are on you. Simple accessories like these require minimal effort but remove you from a monochrome stereotype. Accessorising is a less blatant way to express personality, giving glimpses into your individuality without having to feel like your entire presence is on show.
The easiest way to look on-trend and draw attention to what you are wearing, however, is by simply coordinating the colours in your outfit. One way to do this is to choose one or two neutral colours as a base and then one bright colour to make your outfit pop. For example, a grey skirt and a black jacket (neutral colours), could be paired with a pink blouse and pink handbag (one bright colour). These bursts of colour aren’t overtly flashy but are eye-catching enough that they give the impression of someone who refuses to conform with expectation. This is now more prevalent and important than ever, as our modern world is increasingly competitive. Women in the workplace have to work extra hard to stand out, seeing as business is still traditionally allocated as a man’s world. This means we must break from all expectation and allow for our individuality to shine through whilst also continuing to overcome patriarchal barriers.
The critical facet of a networking appearance is to be memorable. Networking events, however big or small, are run with the intention of building business connections. It therefore makes sense that you would want a potential business partner to leave the event and still have a lasting impression. The impact you make should be such that they are excited to be a part of your vision, and this is naturally achieved by your business proposal. However, dressing uniquely is yet another dimension that can have an enduring influence. It is an easy way to make yourself unforgettable.
Therefore, whatever your personal style, aim to present the best version of yourself when attending a networking event. At the end of the day, first impressions can only be made once. There are countless ways to ensure that your first interaction is made all the more positive by what you choose to wear.
Olga Anderson is a bespoke and ready-to-wear womenswear designer. She specialises in clothing designed to empower her clients, and as of 2019, became a ‘Women Appreciating Women’ (WAW) Honorary Award winner. She runs her brand with the belief that “fashion and design should empower women”; working meticulously to encourage and celebrate women’s individuality, accomplishments and passion, both in and outside of their careers.
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