Dressing for Business: How to Wear your Brand on your Sleeve.
There’s something very exciting and special about getting the first set of images through from a graphic designer when you are working on a new website. It’s the equivalent of Christmas morning for a grown-up, female entrepreneur.
When you look at the files you may be very quick to evaluate what you see. Some ideas you’ll love and some you’ll reject out of hand before your designer has the chance to explain why he or she has gone down that particular route. And, that’s fair enough, it’s based on gut feel – ‘No, that design just isn’t going to work for me.’
The same can happen with people.
I think of business owners as ‘walking, talking websites’. When you’re out networking or speaking at an event, meeting other business owners, potential clients and joint venture partners you are your brand. You are what people are seeing, hearing and judging.
It’s not a great word judging is it? We all like to think that we don’t judge, but we do. Often it’s subconscious, but we can’t help ourselves. In the same way that we quickly reject or adopt a design style for our business, we form an opinion of a person incredibly quickly– some say it takes just 7 seconds.
So, the way you present yourself at a networking meeting needs to be just right for you and your brand.
I work with female business owners who are fabulous at what they do but need help identifying a simple and stylish look that works for their business and lifestyle. They recognise that pulling on their one pair of smart black trousers and a top won’t cut it. These women want to be remembered. They want to create a really positive first impression and they want it to be quick and easy.
Many female entrepreneurs (and male, but that’s not my job!) dedicate all their time and resources into getting their brand, websites, headshots etcetera, looking good before they take the leap into networking for new clients. You may not have given a second thought to what to wear when you are out and about representing your brand.
Here are my tips for successful networking attire.
1. Be authentic.
What you wear will affect how you feel and behave so it is vital that you feel good in what you are wearing. If you feel great suited and booted that’s fantastic, but if you feel like an imposter there will definitely be an alternative look that works better for you and, let’s face it, these days dress codes are relaxed – a full-on suit is rarely the only option.
2. Be up-to-date.
By rocking up to meetings in a pair of suit trousers that you paid a fortune for back in the day, but are now looking a bit worn and outdated you are giving out a negative message. If your clothes look old and bobbly people will subconsciously worry that your ideas and your knowledge are out-of-date too. You don’t need to be wearing high fashion pieces but it’s important to update your wardrobe regularly to give the (hopefully correct) impression that your skills are current too.
3. Be well-groomed.
Messy or dirty hair, loose buttons or threads, and scuffed shoes give off more negative vibes. Turning up in this way tells people that you don’t pay attention to detail. Always check your appearance from top to toe in a full-length mirror to check for seams hanging, and stains or pulls, if you want to create a polished impression that shows how you don’t miss a trick.
How do your clients want you to dress?
It’s worth thinking about how your ideal clients expect you to dress.
If I met a life coach who specialised in bringing more happiness into the lives of her clients and yet she was dressed from head to toe in black, subconsciously I wouldn’t be fully engaged. I’d want to see her wearing bright or fun colours that exude joy so that she personifies her job.
If you are in a creative role, such as a designer or photographer, I’d expect you to be showing some creativity through your clothing. Whether through the colour, cut or print of the clothes that you choose to wear, or with interesting accessories.
We are all different!
Unfortunately there isn’t a one-size-fits all formula for dressing. We all suit different colours, styles and shapes and I appreciate that it can be very tricky to work this out for yourself.
Luckily image consultants, such as myself, make it their business to coach people in finding their personal style. If you want help, look for someone whose style you like and who comes recommended. A good consultant won’t turn their clients into clones of themselves, but it’s important to like their style and personality before you start in order to get the best results for you.
We want to hear from you!
What is your preferred style for business events?
About Helen Reynolds: Helen works with female business owners who recognise the importance of being well presented and up-to-date but who struggle to get it quite right. She works with them to establish clarity around their style so that they can easily build up a wardrobe full of clothes that fit and flatter and that make them look and feel great. These women recognise that getting to grips with their personal style makes everyday life easier. Helen’s ethos is that when you feel good about yourself it’s easier to step up in life and in business.
With a background in glossy magazines and training, Helen set up her image consultancy in 2009 to follow her passion for style and helping women with confidence. Since then she has worked with hundreds of women, refining their style, clearing out and refilling their wardrobes and spreading her confidence-boosting magic far and wide.
Her motivation is watching her clients walk tall and exude confidence when they know that they look their very best.
Helen works from her West Sussex studio and London. www.helenreynoldsstyle.com You can download Helen’s free e-book for women speakers ‘Style & Impact for Women on the Stage’ from the homepage of her website.