What you wear for your business meetings could be every bit as important as the preparation that goes into the client research and pitch itself. Perhaps one way of approaching it is to think of an approaching business meeting as being similar to interviewing for a new position. In both cases, it is vital that you make the right impression.
Even if you are meeting with a regular contact who you are already doing business with, you still want to continue to exceed their expectations both in terms of the service you deliver and the impression you make. In today’s highly competitive marketplace, where there is always someone hungrier, smarter or perhaps more experienced than you looking to jump into your well-polished shoes, it’s important to keep evolving and to stay on top of your A game.
A refresher on business professional attire
So here’s a bit of refresher for you in terms of how to dress appropriately for your next big business meeting. Appropriate, as always, is the watchword as what might be highly presentable and acceptable in one industry, won’t be for another so these are generic guidelines designed to give you some useful pointers that you can apply to your own personal employment situation.
Business Casual for Men
First up let’s have a chat about “business casual” as opposed to fully formal. You have permission to lose the suit but certainly no excuse not to be presentable and smart. You do want to be comfortable and your meeting is more likely to take place in a relaxed environment rather than the executive boardroom. You’ve already honed and developed your own sense of style and you want to stay true to that. You may have a couple of trademark signature looks that have evolved over the years as your style has matured.
Perhaps you are known for your impeccable taste in ties, or you always have the shiniest shoes or the crispest whitest shirts. If you do have your own style, then continue to own and wear it with confidence. Great options for business casual attire include a decent blazer in a single dark color, navy blue being at the same time both effortlessly stylish and cool. Wearing a blazer will give you that extra edge and confidence when you are delivering the all-important closing statement.
It goes without saying that you are going to want a good quality shirt. A well-tailored shirt forms the backbone of any man’s working wardrobe. You needn’t wear a dress shirt for a more casual meeting but you might consider layering your shirt with a cardigan, a simple elegant wool jumper, or the aforementioned blazer. You need your shirt to have buttons, a collar, to always be impeccably ironed and yes, to be tucked into your pants. Business meetings, casual or otherwise, are not for shirts hanging out.
On your bottom half, dress pants aren’t needed but smart ones are, again, preferably in a darker color as this always looks smarter. You might also consider chinos for a more casual overall look. If you work in a start-up or creative industry it’s probably perfectly acceptable to wear denims too but don’t go for anything too rebellious, like skinny drain pipe legs or ripped holes in your knees. You’re at a meeting, not a gig and you want to be taken seriously.
Shoes wise, keep it classic and simple again; brogues, formal dress shoes or maybe even a smart pair of boots if your meeting is in the colder winter months, always ensuring that they are of course well-polished and clean. As we just mentioned the colder months, don’t disregard your outerwear too as this is an important part of your overall outfit. Great options that look smart but aren’t too formal include a classic trench coat or a nice woolen jacket.
A more formal boardroom scenario
Moving on now to a more formal boardroom situation, this is where you are going to be required to up your game. There absolutely is a difference between what is your essential every day working wardrobe and that which you would wear for something altogether more formal, like a professional conference, high-level executive negotiations, or a board meeting. Here you want to be playing it safe. Go for a dependable, stylish tailored two or even three-piece suit in a navy or charcoal which will ensure you look charismatic, confident and elegant.
You absolutely should be wearing your best, crispest, most impeccable white buttoned up cotton shirt or perhaps a very simple contrasting color such as light blue.
Definitely put a tie on, too. A silk one makes a great option and pay attention to the rest of your accessories. We’re talking an elegant matching leather belt, subtle elegant cufflinks, and your dress watch.
To complete the look, your best polished lace-up dress shoes will really add gravitas. A fantastic option would be a pair of Oxfords or brogues in a traditional black or brown, high-quality leather. Before we forget: socks! Don’t let your socks be the last thing on your mind and the one thing that lets your appearance down. Choose a pair of plain matching socks to fully complete your formal business outfit and you are bound to seal the deal and be toasting your business success.
Personal style and personal hygiene
There are a couple of other final recommendations for any occasion where you are going to be in close proximity to other people. We’re not just talking the obvious personal and dental hygiene, but the important additional features to pay attention to when completing your final appearance. Make sure that your hair is smart and well styled and that you have taken care to trim your beard or have had a fresh clean shave.
Don’t then go overboard splashing on your deadliest aftershave. Keep it fresh and clean and not too heavy-handed. Finally, just be comfortable, confident and charismatic. Plant a charming smile on your face, give them your firmest but friendliest handshake and let your outfit be the powerful external portrayal of your inner success.