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Dressing for Networking

I met Sharon almost 10 years ago when I first moved to NJ and she's been my "go-to" expert on all things related to professional style. As my career has evolved, along with my style, and I'm now in my mid-50's, I find myself once again counting on Sharon to use her trained eye to advise me on my seasonal wardrobes. Whether you're going to a business meeting to make a pitch, lunching with a colleague to learn more about one another, or attending yet another networking event to make new contacts, one thing is certain: If you're comfortable and confident in how you present your self, you'll always shine brightest in the room...Sharon tells you the steps to be your best you!

The article below was written and provided to Glamorous at Heart by Sharon Kornstein, owner of ImageDesign LLC. Sharon is a certified image professional. She provides executive wardrobes and helps business people look their best. She can be reached at 973.433.7142 or Visit her website at


Going to a networking event? Attending a company conference?

Meeting with your boss’ bosses?

Having to talk to strangers at a networking event can be an anxiety-provoking experience, but knowing what to wear and how to conduct yourself at your next event can take some of the pressure off.

So, good news: there are only a few simple tips and rules when dressing for networking.​

  • Plan ahead: what kind of networking event is it? Dress according to how formal the event will be.

  • You can determine the formality of the event by location, purpose and who’s on the invite list.

  • For a more formal event such as an awards presentation or with a well-known speaker, dress in classic business professional, meaning a skirt and jacket, or conservative dress.

  • For a meet and greet within a more casual industry, business casual will be fine. Tailored slacks or a skirt with a silky blouse for an elegant look; dark jeans for a purely casual one. Stick with close-toed shoes, and in either case I do recommend having a jacket on hand.

  • When traveling to a different part of the country, learn the norms for that region. For example, California is generally more casual, while Chicago and Washington, DC are strictly business professional.

  • Add some vibrancy to your outfit through color and patterns. Don’t be afraid to stand out.

  • The tone of your attire should match the tone of the event. If you are not sure, you can always ask the organizer, or an expert!

Etiquette is essential when you’re attending a networking event. In addition to dressing well, it’s important that you properly manage your time—arrive early and decide how best to talk to those you want to meet.

Have a bite to eat beforehand, and try to avoid eating and drinking at the same time. Always keep your right hand free to shake hands.

Choose carefully where you will stand in the room. Near the door, near the food or near the bar are all possibilities. Towards the back but facing inwards works well as you can spot people as they arrive.

Wear comfortable shoes as you may be standing throughout the event. Standing is ideal as you are more mobile to move around. If you decide to sit, choose a table that already has people at it. Sitting down alone may entail meeting just one other person at the table.

Ending a conversation can seem awkward but remember that everyone is there to meet others. Finish up politely by shaking hands and expressing pleasure at the conversation. At this point exchange cards if you haven’t done so already. Then simply excuse yourself, or state that you need to say hello to someone else. If you are alone and want to initiate a conversation choose someone standing solo. If you approach a larger group, make eye contact with the most active participant in that group. It’s sometimes difficult to break into a group of two or three.

Don’t forget to be prepared with necessary pocket items.

Always have a plentiful amount of business cards. Check that your outfit has a pocket for your cards. More than one pocket means you can organize one for your personal cards, and one for the cards you will collect. Have a pen handy for taking notes. Some people bring their own nametags. Keep mouth strips or perhaps a handkerchief in your extra pocket or handbag for those necessary moments. Other useful items you can bring are hand sanitizer, perfume or cologne, and your smile! ​


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