Obviously, your professional abilities and skills are important, but making a good first impression will influence how others perceive you and this will help you to be taken seriously.
First, you need to find out if there’s a dress code for the meeting. It goes without saying that even if it’s a tropically-hot day, you shouldn’t turn up for a meeting in shorts, T-shirt and sandals.
There are different levels of appropriate dress and you need to find out what’s expected of you. Managers agree that appropriate business wear makes people appear more professional and their skills seem more lucrative. A suit has a way of making you look more professional before you even open your mouth.
You don’t always have to be dressed in a complete suit, however, as some meetings can be attended in “business casuals”, which are usually deemed to be a combination of classic formal wear, but worn with separates with modern patterns or designs.
For example, today, business casuals for women can include trousers, smart Capri pants or knee-length skirts, with a tailored shirt or a smart blouse. For men, it can be smart trousers with a shirt or a sweater, so you will look smart but casual.
One golden rule is not to expose too much skin, even on a hot day. Women wearing mini-skirts or low-cut tops that expose cleavage may not be taken as seriously, while men wearing shorts will come across as immature and unprofessional to others.
Suitable tops for women can include a silk blouse or a smart sweater, in a classic shape that isn’t too tight or too baggy and in a solid colour or a traditional pattern. Avoid sweaters with logos or lettering emblazoned across the front – even designer brands.
People often ask, is a tie essential for male employees? The answer is yes, if you’re wearing a suit but if you’re wearing business casuals, then a tie isn’t always necessary. If you do choose to wear a tie, choose a high-quality one made of a classic material such as silk. Make sure it matches your suit and shirt and never go for novelty ties or brightly-patterned ones that seem to jump out and detract from everything else.
If you choose to wear a belt with a skirt or trousers, make sure it matches either your suit or your shoes. Meetings aren’t the place for bold fashion statements and bright, contrasting accessories.
An important thing to remember is that whatever you wear, make sure it fits properly! If your clothes are too tight, especially if your jacket buttons are bulging, it can detract from what you’re saying. Never wear trousers that are too short, exposing too much sock as they flap around your ankles. Make sure your jacket sleeves aren’t too long or too short. It might give the impression you don’t care how you look and people may subconsciously think this attitude is how you feel about your work too. The trousers should end right next to your shoe line and not hang to the floor, with a noticeably frayed section at the back where you have stood on them as you walk! Remember to choose fabrics that don’t crease easily if you’ve been sitting in them a long time. There’s nothing worse than standing up and looking like you’ve slept in your clothes.
Although it may not seem to matter because your feet are under the table most of the time, wear suitable socks. Black is a popular, neutral colour that will complement a lot of other colours. Try to avoid white socks, as they will make you look like something from a 1950s high school movie. Similarly, although those Superman socks seemed like a good idea at Christmas, they don’t look great when they’re peeping out under your trousers at an important meeting.
The famous saying coined by William Shakespeare, “Clothes maketh the man,” still rings true today. Although you might think they shouldn’t matter and it’s what’s underneath that counts, the appropriate meeting attire will make people subconsciously more open to listening to what you have to say, and everyone will likely take you more seriously.
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