Dressing for the Occasion: What to Wear When All Eyes Are On You

Aside from the nerves associated with speaking in public, every presenter is also faced with another dilemma: what to wear when they present. This can be a tricky call, especially as today’s workplace becomes more and more casual. However, your attire is very important, as audiences will be making all sorts of conscious and unconscious judgements about you before you ever open your mouth. Believe it or not, your wardrobe gives clues about your credibility so it’s important to set the right tone from the start. Here are a few tips to ensure you are properly dressed for your next presentation. 

Dress to Fit Your Industry

Many presenters automatically assume that they need to be dressed in a suit and tie or a dress since they will be standing in front of the crowd. However, not every audience is going to find you relatable if you show up in business casual or semi-formal attire. Imagine presenting in a suit in front of a group of construction workers. They would probably laugh you right off the stage. Dressing too fancy for the industry makes you appear stuffy and unrelatable while dressing too casual makes it hard for people to take you seriously. So, dress consistently with industry standards. 

Dress Practically

If you are delivering an hour long presentation, think about how your feet are going to feel in your shoes. Those high heels might look great with your outfit but when you are miserable ten minutes into your presentation you will wish you went with the flats instead. Likewise, a tight-fitting suit jacket could prove to be a nightmare when you are repeatedly trying to point at a screen. You want to make sure your outfit is comfortable enough for you to move about easily. When selecting an outfit, always think about practicality in addition to style. 

Tone it Down

You want the audience to focus on your message and not your outfit. If the only thing they remember about your presentation is what you wore, then you missed the mark on your outfit choice. It’s best to dress simply and avoid things like bright colors, hats for ladies, or gaudy jewelry. This doesn’t mean you have to wear black or gray to every presentation, but stay away from colors and patterns that the audience might find distracting. 

Dress Your Age

Your attire needs to be appropriate for your age and style. A forty-something doesn’t need to show up to present in an outfit that looks like it was meant for a teenager. What works for one age group, doesn’t work for all! If you are 30, don’t come dressed like your grandparents and if you are over 50, stay away from trendy skinny jeans and other youthful fads. 

Be Professional You don’t have to be in a suit and tie or a dress to look like a professional. There are plenty of ways to look professional in casual clothing. However, avoid clothing that is too casual and ladies should avoid clothing that is tight and/or revealing. Men should be sure to iron their dress shirts and tuck them in at all times. You want to be taken seriously so whether you are going with business formal, business casual, or casual attire, be sure that whatever you choose is appropriate and professional.