Education and experience are important, but a polished image also weighs very heavily in creating a successful first impression. How you act, look and speak are often the most important in that one-tenth of a second it takes for someone to make a judgment about you. Key 2 to a profitable personal brand is your Image, your visual voice.
As a business owner, you are always “on.” You never know who you’ll run into that could end up being a new business relationship. For me, this point crystallized at my granddaughter’s 5th birthday party. It was a Saturday, the weather was overcast, and I wasn’t in the best of moods, but I anticipated that spending the afternoon with a room full of 5-year-olds and their parents might be a hoot. I fought the urge to give in to the weather, my mood and the informality of the occasion, and I prepared for the event with intention. I put on something colorful and polished. The day continued with children’s party games, presents, and cake. I did my grandmotherly duties: socialized, helped where I could and cheered for my granddaughter on her special day. As fate would have it, one of the mothers in attendance was an executive from The Disney Company. Because I was prepared, I saw an opportunity to make a business connection which eventually resulted in a speaking engagement for me at Disney. Now had I let the weather, my mood, or the informality of the event sway me from showing my best self, that connection might not have ended so positively.
I’m convinced it’s a universal experience, walking into a room and feeling insecure about what you are wearing. Worried that your roots were showing? Wishing you had planned a little better so you would feel more confident? This is where good planning comes into play.
I had just begun my work with Helen, and I invited her to attend a conference with me. When she arrived, she confessed that she had been up late the night before, had way too much to drink, and then had been running late that morning. So she wore something comfortable–all black. As the conference began, she presented her business and made connections with other professionals. She soon became aware that she wasn’t exuding confidence or feeling her power. Since Helen had allowed her immediate mood and unfortunate situation to determine her choices, she hadn’t dressed with an intention for the statement she wanted to make at the conference. She hadn’t planned her wardrobe in advance.
To avoid those last minute problems, once a week I take the time to plan my wardrobe for the upcoming week and make grooming appointments. Each Saturday once I’ve made my bed, turned on some jazz, made my coffee and pulled out my calendar, I plan for the upcoming week. I create my wardrobe ensembles (accessories and all) and hang them as outfits. When I’m in a relaxed state of mind, I’m more creative about my choices, and it’s much more enjoyable. This crucial planning means no more pulling something together last minute only to realize that my jacket is missing a button, or the shirt needs ironing so that I have to go back to square one because I don’t have time to take care of the problem. Planning gives you not only the opportunity to be sure your clothing is clean and pressed, but also time to make sure you have the proper undergarments for each look and that your shoes are polished to a shine.
When choosing your looks for the upcoming week, it’s also important to think about how your clothing can transition with you as you move throughout your day — from business meetings, to volunteer events, to a networking happy hour or a business dinner with your spouse. Based on your plans, you can dress a classic outfit up or down with the right add-on pieces or accessories. Knowing exactly what you’ll be wearing is a confidence booster in and of itself.
Now, take a grooming inventory. What is the state of your hair, nails, skin and brows? Is it time to make some appointments in advance so you’ll be looking your very best for that business conference or speaking engagement in three weeks?
What planning tips can you share?