Networking etiquette: six golden rules

We’re deep into autumn and the business networking whirl is in full swing.  Back in June, I delivered a training session to a group of entrepreneurs on the rules for ‘dressing for networking success’.   We talked about not only how to dress, but how you should behave when networking.

One of the reasons my business is called style&grace is because I believe how you present yourself is equally as important as how you dress.  How you speak, how you treat others and how you carry yourself matter.  Your manners and behaviour should complement and enhance your look, not undermine it.  In other words, it all comes down to good etiquette.

Here are my six golden rules for networking etiquette:

  1. Introduce yourself clearly, and bring people into the conversation
  2. Shake hands firmly – make eye contact and smile as you do so
  3. Keep your right hand free for that firm handshake
  4. If you forget a name – say so ! Don’t be British and embarrassed about it.  Repeating names back works for me (and many politicians)
  5. Don’t pig out or drink too much !
  6. Follow up with those contacts that you’d like to meet again by email, LinkedIn, phone, handwritten note – whatever works for you and is appropriate

And finally, take a genuine interest in other people.  This is demonstrating the best manners of all, and is sadly lacking these days.  You’ll be amazed at what you learn about them and the common ground you may find.

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Eleven steps to effortless elegance, every day

effortless-elegance-4Elegance is defined as being ‘graceful and stylish in appearance or manner’.  This is quite a feminine definition, but I firmly believe that elegance can apply equally to men too.  (In fact, I stepped into the beautiful Flemings Hotel in Mayfair this week, for a preview of Winser London’s A/W collection, and the man who greeted me simply oozed effortless elegance.)  Nevertheless, it certainly describes something that is intangible.  And elegance is not just about what you wear, it’s about how you wear it and, even more importantly, how you behave while doing so.

It’s telling that when we talk about elegance, we often cite icons from the effortless-elegance-3past, rather than our contemporaries. Now it’s true, there are incomparable men and women (particularly from the mid twentieth century) who practically embody the word (Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Mason, Katharine Hepburn… I could go on) but there are plenty of modern examples too. Tom Hiddleston and Idris Elba are elegant. Mark Ronson has abandoned youthful trendiness for grown-up elegance. Mr Beckham certainly has it. And so do the Duchess of Cambridge, Joanna Lumley, Catherine Deneuve and Aung San Suu Kyi. Jane Fonda certainly has it at the age of 78.  Yes, many of these women are older; designer Bruce Oldfield once said that elegance comes with age: women in their 50s, 60s and beyond wear ‘simple good quality clothes… they just get it right’.

effortless-elegance-1But let’s face it, modern life is not exactly conducive to appearing or, for that matter, behaving elegantly.  It is all about comfort and convenience.  Eating on our sofas in front of the television.  Not engaging in meaningful conversation as a result.  Table manners are neglected (are there such things as sofa manners?)

Now I’m not suggesting we return to the stiff formality of years gone by. But in these uncertain and divisive times, wouldn’t it be nice to restore a bit of old-school propriety?  There are some simple things we can all do to up our elegance stakes.  Here are my eleven…

 Eleven steps to effortless elegance

  1. Wear clothes that fit you properly.  Without a good fit, you will never achieve elegance
  2. Get items altered if you need to, to make them fit (modern high street sizing is erratic and inconsistent)
  3. Keep it simple.  Less is always more – particularly when it comes to accessories
  4. Women: if you can’t walk in high heels, don’t
  5. Think about ‘polish’ rather than ‘flash’.  Covering yourself in designer logos does not suggest elegance – in fact it indicates the opposite
  6. Remember that clothes that are cheap, look cheap.  Buy less, but buy better
  7. You don’t have to be dressed up to the nines to look elegant.  A crisp white shirt and dark jeans often does the trick (for both men and women)
  8. Make an effort: pay attention to the way you dress (and behave)
  9. Watch your manners.  Going out of your way to make others feel comfortable will ensure that you are, too
  10. Always be gracious: courteous, kind and pleasant

and finally…

  1. Retain an air of mystery.  Don’t reveal everything (literally and figuratively).

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Semple dresses: quality, elegance and simplicity

‘Many other women shared my vision of finding the dream dress.  Yet finding well cut dresses, made from exquisite fabrics, that are sized and priced appropriately can often be hard to find’ – Maggie Semple

Images courtesy of Maggie Semple Ltd.

MaggieSemple_permission to use for blogI recently wrote about an evening with Maggie Semple, and last week I had the pleasure of being invited back to her atelier to take a closer look at her dress collection and to find out more about what inspires her.  Maggie’s client is the discerning professional woman, who is looking for quality, elegance and simplicity.

The Semple Collection is a range of beautifully made shift dresses made with the finest Italian natural fabrics including wools, cottons, silks and linens.  The dresses exude elegance, and can be made to measure with your own custom colourful, bespoke touches, or bought ready to wear.

Maggie Dress MTM_1There are two original shift dress styles: 1) the Ophelia, with a round neck and short sleeves, and 2) the Bianca, which is short sleeved with a button detail. However, each dress can be tailored to the individual client in terms of sleeve style and length and neck line.  You are invited to choose from a range of hand picked fabrics in a variety of colours and patterns.  To make the dress extra special, you can also choose a contrasting coloured lining (in 100% cupro – there’s absolutely no polyester) to add another individual touch.

Maggie Dress RTW_2All of the dresses are made on the premises.  It takes twenty hours to go from the initial client consultation through to measurement and the final fitting.  Clients include athlete Tessa Sanderson (who was featured in Hello! Magazine this month wearing her made to measure fuchsia dress) and opera singer Katerina Mina

When choosing a Maggie Semple dress, you’re not just ‘buying a dress’ – it’s a full experience.  And like Maggie herself, the dresses are elegant, vibrant and unique.  Find out more here.

 

You can achieve elegant simplicity

Richard Branson once said, ‘Complexity is your enemy.  Any fool can make something complicated.  It is hard to make something simple.’  Now Richard may not have had clothes in mind when he said this, but he’s right – so many of us struggle to achieve elegant and effortless simplicity when it comes to dressing.

Working with my clients, ‘simplicity’ is a theme I find myself returning to again and again.  As you know, most of my clients are over 40, and simplicity is the key to avoiding fussiness and frumpiness as we get older.

Betty Jackson was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’ last week, and she agreed – keep it simple, ladies, no matter your age, shape or size.

me in black Oct 2015 croppedYou can achieve elegant simplicity.  It requires paying attention to three important elements:

  • simplicity in colour: my golden rule is to wear no more than three at a time (excluding prints) to keep things streamlined and polished
  • simplicity in accessories: less is more.  Wear a statement earring or necklace, for example, but never both
  • simplicity in shape: know what cuts and shapes work for you and stick with them

I’m happy to help, of course. Give me a call !

 

 

The age of elegance.

Tomorrow I will be 49 years old.  Which is, frankly, incredible.  It seems like five minutes ago I was about to turn 18!  Back then, a great family friend used to joke with me, saying ‘one day you’ll reach the age of elegance’.  I took this very seriously, however, and I would ask, ‘When? How old will I be? What will make me elegant? What will I be wearing?’  There were, of course, no easy answers to those questions.

In the intervening 31 years, I’ve learned a lot about what ‘elegance’ means.  I believe it comes down to two elements: acceptance and simplicity.  Accepting who you are now (not a decade ago, or an unachievable idea of who you might be one day), and embracing simplicity.

I use this approach with my clients too, helping them to make the best of themselves as they are, right now.  I get them thinking about simplicity – paring things back, investing in the best, transcending trends.  The goal is elegance, which demands wisdom and experience.  And that, of course, comes with age…

Happy Christmas everyone !