Confident presenting - what to wear

If you present, you will already know that one of the most important things about an excellent presentation is looking and feeling confident. The problem? If you don't present often, or you aren't a natural public speaker, you are unlikely to be brimming with confidence. In preparation for your presentation, you will spend time carefully creating your content, and rehearsing (maybe in front of a mirror). It is just as important to spend some time thinking about what you will wear. 

In this article, we look at the importance of what you wear and how you can look the part. When you appear a confident and competent public speaker, your audience is more likely to assume that you are. I often joke when starting a new hobby and buying 'kit' for the first time "at least, I'll look the part" and so should you "look the part" when presenting.

You are, no doubt, already aware of the importance of first impressions, and this is no different when it comes to presenting. Just as you can form a quick opinion when you first meet someone, your audience is going to be doing the same about you - often before you've opened your mouth. What your audience will want to see is that you are worth listening to. If they think you are like them or are credible, you'll be making a positive impression and creating rapport before you even start. What could be better than that?

Picture of man presenting

In choosing what to wear, it's worth thinking about your audience and what they are likely to be wearing. If you are making an executive presentation, it makes sense to dress in formal business attire. However, if you are presenting at a sports event, you would look out of place in business attire and are much better off in some state of the art gym kit. If you are presenting on your company, say at a trade show, you want to dress in a way which talks about your brand. For example if it's a modern brand, you need to reflect that in your dress; if you are a creative then your dress may want to reflect your creative nature; if it's a casual, or homely, brand, this needs to be reflected in your choice of clothing.

Above all, you need to be comfortable with your clothing. You are going to be in the spotlight for the length of your presentation, so you want to make sure there's nothing about your dress which is going to irritate you: no scratchy labels, no tight waistbands, no tight anything for that matter. Wearing any clothing which restricts you, or your movement, is highly likely to hamper your ability to present well. You also don't want to be fidgeting, scratching or distracting from your presentation if you need to adjust your clothing.

Instead, wear clothes which fit well. Clothes which you forget that you have on, and this includes your shoes. If you are a woman, it might give you a bit of confidence to wear a heel, but if you are going to be on your feet for an hour, you may be better off with some flat shoes.

Remember that you may get hot under any lights and are likely to sweat, due to nerves. With this in mind, it's worth investing in a good underlayer, such a breathable undershirt—especially a purposefully designed one so that it doesn't show underneath your outfit.

Picture of undershirt with shirt and tie

When you decide on your outfit, just like your presentation, have a dress rehearsal to make sure all the details are right. Are all your buttons in place? Is your zip working ok? Is your best suit or dress clean, with no distracting marks? Are there any loose threads? Do you have the right colour/type of undershirt? Do your shoes need a clean? Are your socks matching or do you have spare tights/stockings?

You aim to feel confident in your outfit during your dress rehearsal, create your own 'WOW'. Make your dress have the effect of making you look forward to putting it on. With this vital part of your presentation nailed, you have already gone a long way to getting the audience on your side.

It just remains to say. GOOD LUCK.

References: Forbes LeadershipSlide Genius 


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