Tailor Your Look to the Presentation

Tailor Your Look to the Presentation

You only have one shot to make a good first impression and an audience’s first impression happens before you ever open your mouth.  The moment you take the stage the audience will take notice of what you are wearing. Whether we like it or not, appearance can heavily influence someone’s initial opinion of a speaker’s personality and competence.  Presenters who appear put-together will be perceived as more knowledgeable and responsible. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to wear a suit and tie to every presentation, but you do need to consider your audience, venue, and the topic you are discussing to choose an outfit that is appropriate.  

Consider the Audience

Are you presenting to a group of executives in a formal presentation or are you giving an impromptu presentation during your team’s weekly town hall meeting?  The outfit you choose to wear at a formal presentation to your executives will be much different than the casual presentation you are giving to your colleagues.  This is why you must consider your audience when deciding what to wear. Any time you are giving a formal presentation you want to appear polished and professional.  Suits, dresses, and pantsuits would be appropriate for this type of audience. Likewise, if you are giving a presentation to a group of millennials, you might wear something a bit more fashion forward and trendy.  This can help you connect with a younger audience.

Consider the Venue

Are you presenting in a large auditorium or a small meeting room?  Are you presenting outdoors? You want to consider the venue in which you will be presenting when deciding what to wear.  For example, if you are giving a presentation outdoors in the middle of summer you will not be comfortable in a full suit and tie.  Formal venues typically require more formal attire while you can get away with something more casual in a casual office setting.

Consider the Topic

Think about what you might wear if you were giving a serious presentation to a group of investors.  You will probably want to wear something that is dressier and more professional. In contrast, imagine you are pitching to a group of retirees about vacation rentals.  In this case you might want to show up in a brightly colored Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops to set the tone. The topic of your presentation can impact what you wear and you should tailor your outfit to go along with your topic.

What you decide to wear has a lot to do with your audience, industry, and topic.  For example technology and creative industries typically hire young professionals in their 20’s and 30’s who can get away with dark colored jeans, a pressed shirt, and a sport coat.  Just the same, investment firms might employ middle-aged employees and this industry would require suits, ties, and dresses. Think about your audience and your topic before choosing your outfit.  If the situation allows, relax and have some fun with your wardrobe. Either way, remember that if you want to impress your audience you need to dress the part.