I’ve been visiting quite a few startup events in the Nordics during the past six months, and I love scanning how people dress up for conferences. I really had the perception that the startup scene is exactly like the cool hipstery pictures from Slush made me expect: People are dressed up in super chill outfits representing their companies, and the line “do not judge a book by its cover” doesn’t even exist.
To my surprise, most of the participants are instead dressed up in suits (at least at the Nordic conferences).
While I was working at big corporations before media, I didn’t like the guidelines for dressing up. Though it was only ‘business casual’ – and not even commonly agreed but just somehow part of the working culture – I felt every morning a bit anxious if I would look good enough to represent our business. This obviously also cut down the amount of clothes I could wear at work, since most of the time I had dark blue jeans, shirt and a black blazer. It made me less innovative on the way I dress up in a daily basis. And I would immediately change my clothes to more comfortable ones after work.
But why do we suit up for work or specifically conferences where we should be able to network and be willing to meet new people? Is that how we want to be seen?
I believe that for most of us dressing up is a way to express oneself. In some fields, dressing up communicates the role of the person – And it may bring creditability.
But how about in the business scene – Do you need a suit to pitch your idea in memorable way?
Dressing up sends always a message, and it’s a message created in interaction with other people. What do you think and feel when you see for instance a suited guy in a startup conference?
I see a sweating person, who has been standing in uncomfortable shoes for the whole day. But the look is still polished and it communicates somehow success.
I also think if you even wanted to put on that suit this morning. I wonder if you feel like yourself and if you feel like you’re ready for a day of hard-core networking.
Networking is all about connection, that feeling that you get of another person, and what we want to encourage at our events is to help people connect genuinely. How the relationship continues to develop is dependant of the gut feeling you have about the person and how you remember him or her.
What if you would go to an event next time in a outfit in which you feel confident and comfortable?
In a outfit that you feel that you’re representing both your company and yourself.