Although it may sound like a cliché, first impressionsdo matter – especially in a business setting. Every great presenter knows how important it is to make a positive first impression. While your audience will judge your presentation based on what you are saying, as well as how you actually present it, you will also have to consider how your audience is going to perceive you right from the start.
It's human nature to form very hasty opinions and unfortunately, we tend to make quick generalisations too. Although that's not how it ideally should be, most of us tend to form impressions based on a range of arbitrary factors, including what a given person chose to wear.
As the one giving a presentation, it becomes very important to get the audience to see you in a positive light. In simple words, if you want them to sit up and take notice, it's important that you first build rapport with them. If you get your look right, you will have created an impact even before you actually started your presentation.
But what exactly should you wear and what are some of those outfits that can easily become distracting? Here are my top 5 tips on how to dress for a presentation.
1. Know your audience
One of the first rules of dressing for a business presentation is that you need to know your audience, as well as the circumstances and the environment in which you will be presenting. Different organizations and situations call for different clothing styles, of course, but as a general rule, you should always dress as well – or slightly better – than your audience.
In general, it's best to stick to black, grey, or navy blue business suits, for both men and women. And although it's not necessary for your clothes to be designer wear, always make sure that they are of high quality, well-tailored, and (more importantly) clean.
2. Tailor your outfit to your environment
Although a number of offices accept or even prefer business-casual attire, this makes it even more difficult for a presenter to decide what to wear. When in doubt, though, follow these guidelines.
If your audience is made up of management level people who follow a conservative dress code, choose a conservative suit. If, however, they prefer business casual attires, women can wear a business suit or dressy slacks and a blazer. Men could wear a pressed and clean shirt with a tie and a sports coat.
Regardless of the dress code, however, always stay away from denim and excessively loud prints and colours.
3. Dress comfortably
We all know that body language plays a crucial role in the delivery of your presentation and how successful you will be. If you have an hour-long speech prepared, it's better if you don't stand in one spot. Your audience wants to see an engaging and dynamic presenter and in order to accomplish that, you need to be aware of all your non-verbal cues.
If your clothes are too tight and restrictive, they will hamper movement and have a negative impact on your ability to deliver an excellent presentation. To avoid this problem, make sure your clothes are neither too tight nor too loose, as you may just end up fidgeting.
Since you will be on your feet most of the time, women should also avoid wearing high heels. Low-heeled dress shoes or wedges are a far better option.
4. Pay attention to details
In addition to choosing the right style, you should also use your clothing to direct the attention of the audience to your face and your eyes. When you are wearing a dark suit, make sure to match it with a lighter shirt or blouse. Women can also use a scarf that has a bit of red in it – this will draw people's attention to your eyes.
Another thing you should pay attention to is not to let your shirt sleeves or jacket cover your hands. Always check that your shirt isn't missing a button and that your clothes have no stains or loose threads. Make sure to wear solid colour, and well-polished shoes. Women should avoid shoes with embellishments like bows and buckles, and keep jewellery and make-up to a bare minimum.
Although it might seem like an insignificant part of your overall look, the way your hair looks really does matter.
The most important thing men need to remember is to trim their hair and beard, or make sure they are clean shaven. It doesn't matter how good you think it makes you look, no one will be impressed with a presenter who sports a two-day stubble. Women should also tie their hair up in a ponytail or a bun to keep it out of their face.
Always remember that your audience is painting a clear picture of you and your company long before you actually start your presentation. Research shows that first impressions are formed in as little as one tenth of a second, which is just a blink of an eye. So focus on dressing well, and make every second count.
Do you have any other tips on how to dress for a presentation? Let us know!
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