Black Tie For Executive Networking Planning Guide

Sherri Douville
4 min readJan 26, 2020

If you’re committed to developing diverse leaders, they may at some point need coaching on etiquette. I highly recommend hiring a coach for this, which is NOT what I do. As a leader committed to developing diverse talent, I have made a habit of repeatedly exposing people to etiquette coaches. The purpose of this post is to provide a guide to any mentor who wants to help diverse or underrepresented talent understand how to prepare themselves for Black Tie events specifically.

Though the “uniform” in Silicon Valley seems super casual, it’s not always like that for a lot of cities and industries. If you’re raising capital for a business, are currently an executive, or aspire to an executive position, then knowing how to prepare for a Black Tie invitation is part of your job.

A lot of older leaders have asked how to get young people interested in participating in this kind of age old networking and relationship building type of event. For them, the practices have been passed down by family members over generations. One thought is that many young or diverse people might not find Black tie fun because they wouldn’t know how to plan for it and feel overwhelmed or intimidated. We have had one of the youngest median age tables at one annual legendary black tie event; one of the keys has been making sure everyone knows what’s expected and how to prepare. I was inspired to write this post by a friend who asked for our checklists for her table guests.

Further, I do not have time to meet or speak with everyone else’s mentees that the mentors want to know how this process works. Therefore, this post is a guide for anyone who is mentoring someone to help yourselves help your mentees.

As the below article linked below points out, one great benefit to attending Black Tie events are for not just the fun and beautiful environment, but also the networking.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/going-to-a-gala-heres-your-checklist/2014/05/02/442cefb0-d0ac-11e3-937f-d3026234b51c_story.html

If you are committed to developing talent whose parents may not have liked or attended black tie events or who have not been exposed to them, then be prepared to coach them on it. This is specifically if they aspire to roles that require cross industry influence and networking or involve raising private company capital.

Coaching underrepresented talent on how to prepare to master any event attendance with confidence doesn’t have to cost a lot of time. As a result of your coaching, the mentee should know how to put people at ease; thereby demonstrating diplomacy skills required for executive level leadership specifically including in a healthcare or board room context.

Topic 1) Charity event planning goals:

  1. It’s about making other people comfortable and creating lifetime connections and doors
  2. plan to prepare yourself
  3. preparing your colleagues (remind them, set them up for success)
  4. name tags when applicable
  5. business cards
  6. special interest or university pins
  7. talking points: putting people at ease, creating belonging for self and others
  8. introductions, junior to senior, other protocol etc. If you have trouble remembering this order, just think of a “debut” like a “debutante” and the purpose to “introduce them” as they “enter” adulthood.

A good backgrounder:
https://www.protocolww.com/gala-etiquette-social-season-tips/

Charity event/Formal dining backgrounders what to expect:

  1. Place settings
  2. Eating techniques for food type: for foreign food, ask the host. This is sign of cross culture respect.
  3. Utensils
  4. Dining guide
  5. behavior

Warning: slow loading slide deck but well worth the wait.

https://slideplayer.com/slide/4374029/

Etiquette tips for professional executive networking (some of the clothing items are dated).
http://www.upjohn.net/corporate/etiquette/etiquette.htm

Event Dress codes: always ask the host or hostess “what do you want me to wear’ If they don’t have a good answer, make suggestions that you think are appropriate, comfortable, and that you have available pressed and clean.
https://charity.lovetoknow.com/fundraising-ideas/dress-codes-charity-events

Below are Packing Checklists for a Black Tie Destination Weekend:

You can make fun of this list, if you don’t need it then delete it. The weekend prior is a good time to make sure you have everything to avoid wardrobe emergencies which I hate myself.

Young professionals and those without experience attending Black Tie normally won’t have time that same week to prepare. You should also finalize parking plans the week before.

New 2023–2024 Event prep:

Nasal viral infection prevention spray

Oral viral infection prevention spray

Eye drops

Purell wipes for Nasal spray

KN95 Masks for bathroom and/or concert

All alterations initiated 3 weeks prior

Black tie Overnight checklist:

All: Tip stash: small and medium bills for bell staff etc.

Her:

Ticket box of wristbands, concert tickets, and dinner tickets

place cards

dress

Wrap

handbag

undergarments

shoes

earrings

bracelets

perfume

hairspray

brush

makeup

overnight toiletries

contact case

contact liquid

advil

next day travel top to go with whatever jeans you’re wearing to the hotel

Wear or pack rain jacket

Him:

Tuxedo

tuxedo shirt

Suspenders

formal shoes

undergarments

formal socks

pocket square

bow tie

cummerbund

studs/cufflinks

rain jacket

sweater

toiletries

razor

Tie a bow tie video instructions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfcImzuE2MA&feature=youtu.be

A lot of men wear formal suspenders instead of a vest

Ladies: if this is for a work related event, you want to use good judgment in terms of what you wear in the context of and for meeting colleagues’ wives.

If it’s for work, you can still have fun but you want to dress for success

When you’re well prepared, you can focus on what’s most important, fun and great relationships in every arena.

By: Sherri Douville CEO & Board Member at Medigram, Inc. https://www.linkedin.com/in/sdouville/

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