At-the-Ready Professional Presence
If you’re in a client-interfacing role like sales or consulting, you’re probably accustomed to adapting your business clothing to the client’s environment. It’s relatively simple when visiting their office. Moving into less familiar spaces, however, generally calls for stretching your sartorial muscles. Here are tips to boost your work-style IQ in a few common scenarios.
Admit it, you’re tempted to don your favorite team’s jersey, aren’t you? You’re going to a ball game, for goodness sake. But wait. Are you?
If you’re taking a client to the game, it’s not a sporting event, it’s a business event.
Picture this: You’re in jeans and a baseball cap. The client you’re meeting had a board meeting that afternoon and no time to change out of their suit before heading to the stadium. (Awkward moment for the both of you.) Though you might feel foolishly underdressed, even worse is the client’s assessment that you didn’t consider their comfort, or appropriately prepare for the circumstances.
- Be flexible. Wear something that allows you to adapt to multiple conditions. Removing a necktie can quickly take things down a notch when your guest is dressed less formally than you are.
- Look professional. Have a jacket on hand. A pair of well-pressed jeans topped with a blazer or sport jacket is casual enough for a sporting event, but still says “on duty.”
- Mind your manners. Raised voices at ball games are normal and customary behavior. What you say while at volume matters. Avoid foul language. You’ll demonstrate that you practice good judgment in any environment.
I’ve seen event organizers get pretty creative with their invitation dress code descriptions. (“Urban Chic.” “Cowboy Vogue.” Really?) Clever or theme-oriented statements about party attire that leave guests confused, serve no benefit. Still, you may be asked to dress “City Swank” for your next benefit gala.
- Don’t be shy. If the dress code is cryptic, call the organizer for clarification. It never hurts to ask. (Maybe if planners get enough calls, they’ll think twice before their next witty attire description.)
- Do some sleuthing. A recent workshop attendee shared that whenever she’s invited to an “annual” event, she browses the Internet for photos of previous years’ party photos. It’s a sure way to see how others have dressed for the occasion.
- Play it safe. If your best research efforts come up blank, err on the side of conservatism. Follow convention and dress as you would if attending an evening wedding reception (no tuxes or long gowns unless the invitation explicitly reads: “black tie”).
Perhaps you’re not bringing a client as your guest, but may instead be introduced to the person who is to become your next client. Networking events can be ripe with opportunity for making an all-important first impression. They can be tricky, though, since they’re so diverse. Like the cocktail gala, you’ll want to do a bit of research. Be mindful that the potential range is broader.
- Know the venue. An event at a local pub (i.e. a chamber of commerce mixer), might have a considerably different vibe than a gathering at a conference or exhibition hall. For example, a gathering at an animal shelter intended to raise awareness for pet adoption will likely call for more casual clothing — the sort to withstand holding animals with tiny teeth and claws.
- Consider the crowd. Who’s likely to be in attendance? From what organizations/cultures? What level of authority in the company? Do your best to match their customary standard of dress. If the event is part of a golf outing, consider clothing suitable to the sport. Even if you’re not playing, casual attire will be appropriate.
- Check the time. In most cases, if your event is during business hours, you won’t go wrong wearing a suit. You can always remove the jacket for a more-relaxed presentation.
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Patty Buccellato is an image coach and founder of Refined Images. She brings extensive knowledge and expertise to her work with men and women individually, as well as with corporate employee groups.
Patty established Refined Images in 1994, and while her studio is based in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, you’ll find her serving clients throughout North America in their homes, offices — and, yes, even in shopping malls! To get your FREE copy of Patty’s “How to Shop Like a Stylist,” visit www.RefinedImages.net or contact Patty.
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