Clever Carly: How to Dress for Success

Better put away that leopard print ensemble for this one

Bonjour, my fashionistas (and fashionistos)! 

Although it's not technically a part of our day-to-day job description, we could likely collectively agree that looking sharp is central to our lives as event planners. Because whether we're meeting a client for the first time, welcoming guests into our event or attending a networking event, our careers are created around making--and nailing--a strong first impression. But while we prepare to enter these meetings with flawlessly manicured hands, eye-catching accessories and other pieces of "flair," according to one recent study, those efforts might be having a reverse effect. 

As the study from the Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing emphasized, meeting exhibitors who wore clothes that made them fit into their surroundings were approached more than exhibitors who had an unconventional, eye-catching style. The gist? The more you blend in with the crowd, the better you'll do in a social-business situation. 

The report emphasizes conformity, which can mean different things for different meeting types. Here, I delve into the seven meeting purposes (Ideate, Decide, Produce, Educate, Celebrate, Network and Promote) and what you should wear for each. 

Ideate, Decide and Produce 

The overall ambiance: Professional, methodical, formal, idea-intensive 
What you should wear: Despite their differences, Ideate, Decide and Produce events have a commonality: a sense of professionalism. In these types of events, drawing on the Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing study about conformity, conservative dress is likely to be your best bet. If you're unsure where to start, consider what you might wear to a job interview. For men, this would include a formal business shirt (or suit) in plain colors, dress pants and potentially a tie. For women, this outfit would likely consist of skirts, pantsuits, plain-colored blouses with conservative necklines and long sleeves--and natural makeup and non-flashy hair. 


The overall ambiance: Contemplative, semi-serious, idea-intensive 
What you should wear: In an Educate meeting, you're filling one of two roles: the educator or the bystander. As a bystander, blending in to your environment with non-flashy clothes is key. But if you're actually teaching, according to one report from the University of Scranton, incorporating a bit of casualness and personality can help build a connection between you and the learners. Whether it's a unique bracelet, pin, watch or tie, make sure the adornment is inherently you. In that similar vein, you could suggest this to the incoming educator as well. 


The overall ambiance: Celebratory, fun, social 
What you should wear: Lucky you--there's no need to blend in with the crowd here! But while it's tempting to break out your favorite cocktail celebratory attire when the Champagne bottles begin to pop, always consider your role as a professional. It's OK to stand out in regard to fashion, but we don't necessarily want to upstage our guests. Keep it conservative--not necessarily in terms of color, but in terms of cut (think: high neckline, no shorts or short skirts).  


The overall ambiance: High-energy, buzzy, social, formal  
What you should wear: Like Celebrate events, Network events are meant to be high-energy and social. But unlike Celebrate gatherings, the cocktails and small talk are primarily present to facilitate business. However, what to wear can be a dilemma--how do you project both a casual, friendly nature and a sense of professionalism at the same time? The key, according to one Forbes article, is to wear your conservative, no-frills business attire with some type of conversation-starter. A colorful scarf, a unique brooch or a pocket square with a zany print fit the bill.


The overall ambiance: High-energy, buzzy, social
What you should wear: For a business goal-driven Promote event, your job is to spotlight your client, their values and their products. So tailoring your attire to your client becomes even more important than it is for other types of meetings. Make a point of noticing what key stakeholders are wearing in your initial meeting. Was their attire more professional, business-casual or casual? Was their hair slickly coiffed or more free-flowing? Try to mimic that style as much as possible. You could even ask your client outright if they want you to wear something particular, like a branded shirt or uniform.