What to Wear for a Presentation

You Never get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression

By: Rachel Kopczyk, Media Coach & On-camera Host

The saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. I find this to be extremely true for public speakers. There’s more to becoming a good speaker than having stellar content. Good content can’t be seen if no one wants to watch you.

You, as the presenter, need to exude confidence and have a compelling presentation which I discussed in this article. How you look, not from a vain place but one of wanting to connect to your audience, is a part of that confidence.

Dress For Your Audience

The way you look is the first thing your audience will notice. It’s human nature to size up the speaker and take notice of one’s environment. It’s important to ask yourself this question. How do I want people to see me?

Here’s a line of questioning to ask yourself before every presentation.

  • Is what I'm wearing appropriate for the subject I'm talking about?
  • Is what I'm wearing appropriate for who I'm talking to?
  • Is it comfortable? Can I move around freely?
  • Do I feel good wearing it?

Cinderella knew not to wear her raggedy dress to the ball. Presenting to a group of peers who normally wear suits? Wear a suit. Presenting to the fashion industry, wear something that is on trend such as a color or piece of jewelry.

Try Creating Your Own Uniform

This doesn’t mean you need to buy a new wardrobe, follow strict fashion rules, or start wearing plaid skirts with white button down blouses. Some people develop a signature look like the late Steve Jobs, the head of Apple. His uniform was blue jeans and a black mock turtleneck. That’s what he felt worked and you didn’t take him any less seriously because he was wearing jeans, right? During the 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton wore bright colorful pantsuits. Why? Clinton said it was because, “They make me feel professional and ready to go. A uniform was also an anti-distraction technique: since there wasn’t much to say or report on what I wore, maybe people would focus on what I was saying instead.” A place to start looking for your uniform is to look at your favorite presenters or celebrities and see how you can create that image for yourself.

Wear Clothes That Fit

The last thing you want to be worrying about during a speech is whether your tie is too short or your pants are too tight because your focus will be on that instead of your presentation. If you love that skirt but it’s hard to walk in, don’t wear it. If your navy blazer is too large in the arms, don’t wear it. You’ll feel uncomfortable and the audience will pick up on those subtleties.

The Power of Color

There’s scientific research that links colors to human emotions. Red can excite an audience, purple can inspire creativity, yellow stimulates the mind, blue is calming, and so on. Bright, solid, jewel tone colors are an easy way to subtly excite and keep your audience’s attention. Avoid wearing big busy prints. They can be distracting to the eye. Take some time to look through your closet before your next presentation and ask yourself how that shirt or tie will come across to your audience.

For even more video presentation tips, like what to do with your hands, watch my free training videos here.

Have questions for Rachel? You can contact her here.