What to wear to your presentation
Suit or jeans? Flats or heels? Casual chic or glamorous? Picking the right outfit can have a decisive influence on your presentation. The right outfit can help you feel confident as a presenter, but the wrong outfit can be an unnecessary distraction to your audience. This article will help you in your decision process, so that you can make the most out of your presentation.
| DISTRACTION IS A PRESENTATION KILLER
When choosing an outfit for your presentation, the key rule is that your outfit should never distract your audience. You have been given the opportunity to share a story with a group of people, and you want to make the most of that opportunity. To do that, you need as much of the audience’s attention as you can get.
Your audience’s attention is a limited and precious resource that you should spend wisely. Anything that distracts your audience from what you’re saying is a waste of that precious resource. Whether that distraction is caused by someone entering the room in the middle of your talk, or an annoying sound in the background, an audience member coughing, or your earrings that sparkle and jingle every time you move your head.
For many of us, this key rule means making some tough choices. An outfit can look amazing and make us feel great, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for your presentation.
| LIMIT ACCESSOIRES AND REVEALING CLOTHES
It is probably even more challenging for women to keep an outfit simple than for men. The reason is that women simply have more options when it comes to clothing pieces and accessories, which makes the decision all the more overwhelming. If you are indeed a woman and feel indecisive, know that accessories are generally an outfit’s biggest distractors. Also, while showing some cleavage or wearing short skirts can make us women feel really good (right?), it can be a major distractor for others.
| WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR HAIR
When it comes to your hairstyle, make sure that your hair doesn’t cover your face. Your audience likes to see your face clearly. Keep in mind that touching or playing with your hair will also distract your audience. It might be a safer choice to put your hair in a ponytail or bun, or at least pin your hair behind your ears. That way you won’t be tempted to play with your hair. But if you're confident that you won’t fidget with your hair, then you can also just wear it down.
| BUT, BUT, BUT...!
If you’re having a hard time letting go of a certain outfit, think of it in this way: your story should be the lead character in the room. Everything else—your slides, your microphone, your outfit, even you—is just there to support that lead character. It is your job to create the right circumstances that will make it as easy as possible for your audience to focus on your story.
In short, retaining your audience’s attention is hard enough as it is—don’t make your job even harder! Keep your outfit simple.
| THE DO'S AND DON'TS
Now that you understand the logic behind keeping your outfit simple, here are a few do’s and don’ts. They are intended as recommendations, so please read each ‘don’t’ as a ‘rather not’. In the end, it’s always up to your own judgment.
If you feel unsure about your own judgment, ask someone you trust for advice. Preferably someone who has seen many presentations and talks and who is not afraid to be honest with you.
…keep it simple
…wear something that makes you feel confident
…wear something that fits with the impression you want to make (for example, being an authority in your field, or being relatable to your audience)
…make sure your outfit fits the occasion (for example, a more formal event requires a more formal outfit)
…wear clothes that have text or letters on them
…wear clothes that have noisy patterns or embroideries
…wear jewellery that is big, sparkly, dangles, or makes noise when you move
…wear revealing short skirts, shorts, or dresses
…wear something uncomfortable
…wear something that shows deep cleavage
…wear heavy makeup or makeup with bright colors
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Good luck with your presentation!