This is a question I am often asked. The real question I usually ask in return is: “Do you want to get any business from your networking efforts?”
The fact is that people form an opinion of your referability within the first few seconds of laying eyes on you. Notice I didn’t say meeting you, it’s laying eyes on you. Once an opinion is made by someone, they spend the rest of the time interacting with you looking for evidence to support that opinion. It’s no secret that in the business world how you dress plays a significant part in how professional people perceive you to be. While I’m not suggesting that we waste our lives looking to please others, why not influence their opinions about us with our appearance? Besides, when you dress well, you jsut feel good about yourself (it’s a scientific fact).
Allow me to illustrate my point with a story. When I was a member of a networking group there was a guy who came to the meeting always dressed in shorts or jeans, t-shirts or sweatshirts, hair amuss, and flip flops normally. He would stand in front of the room and ask other members of the group to refer him to any attorney that they might know. After many months of no referrals, he came to me and ask me to help him. He couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t getting any referrals from the group. I talked twith him frankly about his appearance, or his lack of appropriate, professional attire. He was taken aback, and his comment was, “I would never meet with an attorney looking like this.” My response, “How are we supposed to know that? All we know is what we see.”
The Dress Code for networking is pretty simple: Wear whatever you wear for your business.
At the same time, the bottom line is that I am recommending you dress at, or slightly above, what you might see professionals in your business wearing. People in some areas tend to dress very casually and like it or not – it doesn’t make a good impression. If you were to drop by my office, you would see me in Khaki’s and a logo’ed shirt (no tie if I can avoid it). However, if I were going to a business meeting or a speaking engagement, you’d see me in a suit or at least slacks and a sports coat.
My suggestion – dress up in a networking environment. Don’t dress down. That is, IF you want to get any business out of it.