Successful networking relies on confidence and style, which is why it pays to look and feel your best when you’re out promoting your business.
By Laurie Brucker (Image Consultant & Stylist)
I’ve always been a stylist that goes against the grain. I don’t really care much for “fashion,” believe it or not. Instead, I care about “style” and how it transforms us as CEOs, entrepreneurs and everyday professionals.
The truth about style is that our wardrobe speaks for us. This is something we can strategically plan out by creating a message in our look, but there is another side to it too: how others read that message.
When styling my clients I always begin by asking, “How do you want others to perceive you?” Knowing how you want to be perceived is the key to attracting like-minded people.
Armed with that knowledge, you can tailor your looks to send very specific messages to more targeted people and networking situations. Our wardrobe becomes our best networking tool and one that we can use again and again each time we step out the door.
Let’s break down four of the top networking wardrobe strategies to consider. Not only will this help you hone in on your personal style, it will also help you make amazing and lasting connections.
1. Know Your Audience
We’ve all been taught that the first thing you need to do when building a business is to identify your target market. This tactic is no different when comes to putting an outfit together for your next networking event.
Know your audience. Do your research ahead of time. For example, if you’re walking into a room of investors, ask yourself what THEY would want to see in you.
Another example: If you’re going to a more laid back tech mixer, don’t show up in your sharpest power suit. This is a simple tip but so important! If you don’t know your audience, people will be less inclined to be drawn to you.
You might stand out in flip flops at a power meeting… but you’d be standing out for all the wrong reasons.
2. Make a Statement
In my soon to be published book “The Twelve Steps of Style,” I address the idea of the “power piece.” This is a must for every wardrobe. It’s that singular item you own that makes you feel amazing – so amazing that your positivity radiates beyond your wardrobe attracting people around you.
This can be anything from an eye-catching statement necklace, to a bold colored handbag, or a red pair of heels or even the perfect shift dress that fits you like nothing else. It’s these items that can really make a splash at a networking event.
The reason for this is that when you feel confident in what you’re wearing, people take note. That confidence carries over into your stance, your voice and your conversation about yourself and your business. Confidence sells and your power piece will lead the way!
3. Be Both Approachable AND Authoritative
In teaching about strategic styling, what I find most people don’t know is that the angles and curves that show in your wardrobe can also affect your networking power.
The more softness and curves – such as wearing a silk blouse and a shawl collar jacket – the more approachable and accessible you will look. The more structure and angles – such as a crisp button-down shirt and a sharp tailored blazer – the more authoritative, dominating and hard-edged you may appear.
The trick is to merge the two together so that you can represent yourself as both approachable AND authoritative. For example, blending a flowing silk blouse under a sharp-lapelled, tailored blazer will blend the perception. Or wearing a classic button down with a skirt and cardigan. The key here is to balance.
4. Pay It Forward
This is my favorite networking trick in the book! When it comes to networking and wardrobe, here’s the secret: When you see somebody wearing something you like, something you admire or something you’re curious about, walk right up to them and say “Hi, I really love your scarf! Where did you get it?” And they’ll reply with a big smile “Thank you so much! I picked it up and Bloomingdale’s.” Then you can promptly say, “Hi, I’m…”
You’ve instantaneously gained trust, broken the ice and possibly made a new friend or professional contact. Trust me. It works every time.
Every moment in our lives can be a networking opportunity, from meeting friends for lunch, to a happy hour after work, to an actual business event. You never know who you are going to meet and what kind of connections you can make.
Keeping in mind that your style can be strategic, no matter where you go or what you do, you will be prepared to make a statement. Master these techniques and you’ll soon be networking your way to the right people in the right places.
What makes you feel more confident when networking?
Photo credit: nito via Shutterstock.