Right or wrong, shallow or not, we instinctively judge by appearances. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages (Wadsworth, 1971), claims that appearance has a greater effect on people you meet for the first time than any other factor. He says 55 percent of an initial impression is based on how you look, compared to only 7 percent on what you say.
As the old adage goes, dress for the job you want—and the clients you want—at networking events just as in the office. Here’s how:
Prepare to look professional and pulled-together at impromptu meetings and last-minute event invitations by keeping a tailored jacket in your office or car at all times.
Carry a small handbag with just your essentials (keys, lipstick, phone, business cards) and leave your briefcase or laptop bag in the car. You don’t want to be the woman banging into everyone with her bag! And since you’ll need both hands free (for shaking and eating), consider a shoulder bag over a clutch.
Take care of your feet. Do you know how far you will have to walk from the parking lot to the event? Factor that into your shoe (and pant or skirt) selection for the day. Keep in mind that you will be coming from work, so your feet may already be tired and may tend to swell during the evening.
Freshen up your lipstick and eye makeup. Try navy blue eyeliner to make your eyes appear brighter and erase some of the day’s tension. Go for a natural or neutral lip color to avoid the dreaded lipstick ring—and the lip print on your glass.
Use color. Color sends a strong nonverbal message and is the first thing a person sees. Think about what you want to communicate and then choose colors that support that impression.
- Navy: honesty, integrity
- Black: sophistication, authority
- White: freshness, reliability
- Tan: elegance, approachability
- Brown: stability, security
- Gray: strength of character, refinement
- Burgundy/Maroon: classic, elegance
- Plum: regal, diplomatic
- Teal: inventive, soothing
- Red: passion, tenacity