Know Your Audience
I have been thinking about the importance of knowing your audience not only in regards to who you are selling to, who you believe you are building a business for (besides yourself) and who are you talking to.
A few years back I was just beginning to know a company and the woman behind it. An impressive entrepreneur. She was just starting to raise money and I jumped in and with that became a mentor. She was going to pitch her deal to a large audience which not surprising consisted of mostly men. I asked her what she planned on wearing. The answer was a black suit. My advice, know your audience. This is a tech crowd, nobody wears a suit. What she needed to wear was a pair of jeans or basic pants with a great shirt and jacket. Simple yet chic bold yet cool. No need for a lot of make-up and look at ease.
She killed the pitch and after that she noted that wearing a black suit would have been a disaster. After all, the first impression you make is the moment you just walk on stage or walk in a room. No matter what comes out of your mouth if you are not looking the part the message is not as strong. Hate to say it but particularly for a woman.
I had a breakfast with a woman a few months back and the entire time we talked she kept playing with hair. Pushing her bangs back, putting her hair back and then taking it down, fingers through the hair, etc. I have seen men do the same thing and it is utterly distracting. I should have said something but I didn't. I was sitting with one of the smartest young women I know and all I kept thinking about was her hair. Was she insecure? What was the deal here?
I have had men come pitch me in suits and I have said if there is any advice you can take away from me if you want to pitch more people in the tech industry, kill the suit. Now if you plan on talking to bankers and private equity people more than likely the jeans and jacket are a no-no but a suit is just perfect.
There have been conversations I have read on listservs that discuss the importance of how to dress at a conference or on stage or going to a meeting. Many women would have the reaction that it isn't the way they dress that makes the impression it is the person and they like wearing tight dresses and mini-skirts or perhaps super high heels and loads of make-up or even dressing super down in a hippy-like way. My answer to that is go for it in your personal life but do not go for that when you are in a professional setting because it just doesn't work.
I dress every day with the thought in my mind of who I will see that day. On the weekends you can sometimes catch me in sweat pants doing my grocery shopping or raggy jeans and an oversized sweater but when it comes to business, business is business and so is business attire, make-up, hair and a no matter where you are a good solid look them in the eye handshake.