Here’s a quick hypothetical to consider. Let’s say you needed the services of the Lawyer, so you arrange an appointment. It’s the first time you’ve met this Lawyer, and when they greet you, they’re wearing muddy boots, shorts, and a Hi-Viz Fluoro T-shirt. Keep in mind you’ve come to meet this person as you want them to represent you in a legal capacity.
How do you think you’d feel about them acting as your Lawyer?
In the office down the hall is another Lawyer in an expensive suit, who is meticulously groomed and professional looking.
I think it’s safe to assume you’d rather engage the services of the second Lawyer.
It’s the same at BNI.
Your job may require you to wear the muddy boots and the Hi-Viz shirt, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The appropriate clothing is a requirement of most occupations. But is that same clothing appropriate in a meeting environment?
Worse than that, does the clothing you wear to your weekly meeting inhibit your networking success? Are you missing out on referrals due to the way you present yourself?
It’s not entirely uncommon for some BNI members to underestimate the importance of their meeting attire.
For some, the idea of wearing clothing other than what they wear to work sounds like extra effort. Many members who work for themselves set their own dress standards. If someone works from home, they can sometimes have quite a relaxed idea of what they choose to wear each day.
But regardless of what we do outside the meeting, it’s important that we remember two things…
- The weekly Chapter meeting is a professional environment, and when we join, we agree to conduct ourselves professionally.
- Rightly or wrongly, members and visitors judge us by our appearance, and this has a bearing on whether we receive referrals from them.
This is especially important when associating with visitors. Your fellow Chapter members may know you to be quite professional, but if your attire is below the standard a visitor is expecting, then they may simply assume you’re second-rate in your work ethic as well.
Maybe this sounds a bit harsh, but it’s part of human nature. Even those who make an extra effort not to judge someone until they know them well, will make subconscious assessments they wouldn’t make consciously.
The easy rule of thumb is…Dress for the referral you want.
If you’re a Tradesperson who’s after introductions to wealthy property tycoons, and someone in your Chapter knows one, they’ll feel better about making that introduction if they know you’ll present yourself neatly, cleanly, and professionally. If you attend the Chapter meeting every week looking shabby, you may find that people are reluctant to refer you to their high-end clients.
It’s easy to understand how a crisp professional appearance may require more effort for a Tradie than it does a white-collar profession. But it doesn’t have to be hard. I know of a number of Tradies who have a button-up, collared shirt they use only for BNI meetings. After the meeting, they change into their normal work T-shirt or polo.
Don’t sell yourself short. If you’re professional at what you do, regardless of your industry, let people know it. When meeting someone for the first time, you have no idea how beneficial a relationship with them could be in regard to growing your business. You also only have 3-7 seconds to make a first impression.