It's rare anyone ever says “I've got a networking event tonight" with joy in their voice. We have a predisposed view of networking as smarmy, forced, and unenjoyable. But, done right, networking events can have a huge impact in helping build your credibility and help others. We're not here to dispense networking advice, but just remember: be genuinely interested in others, listen, and don't try to sell anything.
We do know a bit about how to look - and feel - your best. It's science that your clothes can affect your confidence, so feeling like a million bucks will pay dividends when you're talking to actual humans. With that in mind, here are our tips for dressing for success (clichés abound!):
The Tech-Driven Event
Techie networking events tend to be the least formal of networking events. You can certainly expect to lean more on the relaxed side: a casual button-down is your best bet for looking grown-up without being overly stuffy. Heck, maybe you can even wear that sucker untucked. Grab your favorite slim pair of chinos or nice jeans, making sure they go with your shirt. Chukkas make for a versatile footwear choice: you'll be standing a lot, and these will ensure you stay comfortable while still having a thought through outfit.
Are you attending an event where you may be rubbing elbows with folks who have some serious cash to throw around? Then this is the time to bring out the classic blazer without a tie look. You don't necessarily just want to grab a suit jacket here - most suit jackets are on the longer side, and will look mismatched without a matching pair of slacks. Your blazer should only cover about half of your rear end - and that rear end should most likely be in your nicest pair of dark jeans. As for shirts: obviously you'll be tucking in, but it's ok (and encouraged) to show a little personality through your shirt. It shouldn't necessarily be your loudest shirt, but show a little color and you'll make yourself more memorable.
It's Business Time
Some events are clearly business formal: perhaps for industries such as real estate or finance. You're going to want your suit to be lightweight and breathable so you aren't suffocating while shmoozing. You can never go wrong with a charcoal or navy suit, or grey if you really know your audience. Keep your tie basic: you don't want people staring at your Magic Eye-designed tie while you're trying to ask them about their work histories. If you have a suitable solid tie-gingham shirt combo, this could be an excellent time to show that off. But, there's no shame in sticking to the classic solid white or blue shirt as long as it fits perfectly.