Posted on January 14, 2009
Filed Under (Advice, General, Networking) by jennifer

Don’t think it matters if you wear a suit or nice outfit to a business meeting, networking event, conference, or trade show? Maybe if you’re Steve Jobs it doesn’t. But for the rest of us, how you present yourself, from your attitude to your attire, makes a huge impression on how others — especially those you are trying to impress and/or get business or money from, such as clients, business prospects, lenders, and investors — see and treat you.

While I have long known the power of a suit and dressing for success (a habit instilled in me at an early age by my mother — thanks Mom!), after I had my daughter and started working from home, especially during the cold winter months, I didn’t always follow this important business rule. And I have no doubt it has cost me important business connections and possibly work.

Not that I attended meetings or networking events looking like a bum. I just didn’t dress the part of the confident business owner, often preferring to go the casual-but-chic route.

But as I found out (again) yesterday, after attending my first Entrepreneurial Woman’s Network luncheon, how you dress and present yourself speaks volumes about you. And in this case, my new black power suit got me a meeting — and necessitated my refilling my business card case as soon as I got back to my home office.

Coincidence? I think not. How do I know this? Because one month ago I attended a similar networking lunch but decided last minute to go the casual-but-chic route (Ralph Lauren jeans, a nice top, expensive cowboy boots) instead of wearing a suit or a dress, figuring “it was just lunch.”

Boy, was I wrong.

No sooner had I stepped out of the elevator and into the conference room than I felt immediately felt out of place. Only one other woman, a photographer, showed up casually dressed. And her friend, a business coach, who had come dressed for success, looked and treated me as though I was in the wrong place.

Fast forward to yesterday, and my new black power suit. I swear just wearing that thing made me feel more confident. And I guess it showed. For no sooner than I had removed my coat in the cloakroom did that very same business coach from the last networking meeting walk in and look right at me. “Jane!” I cheerfully addressed her. “So nice to see you.”

The look on Jane’s face spoke volumes — and she immediately made note of my suit and the fact that when we last met I was “wearing jeans.” Ouch. (Though true.) After exchanging some chit-chat, I confidently strolled into the dining room, made small talk with an EWN member, with whom I exchanged business cards, then took a seat at a table, where I proceeded to tell the other women present about myself and my business, which elicited a half-dozen (or more) requests for my card and, at the end of a lunch, a request for a meeting.

Luck? Maybe. But after my website upgrade, that suit (and another one just like it in midnight blue) may be the best investment I’ve made this month, and possibly this quarter. And you can bet I won’t be showing up to any business events or meetings in jeans (no matter how nice) any time soon.

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