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Dressing for a Presentation

Your clothes communicate identity, personality, and image. Attire is the first thing your audience will see during your presentation. They will be more open to your message if you carry yourself with confidence. And you’ll feel more certain of yourself if you’re dressed in appropriate yet comfortable clothing.

Keep this rule in mind: dress slightly more formally than you anticipate your audience will dress. Be sure you plan your outfit ahead of time so you are not panicking at the last minute, looking for a clean shirt.  Layers are a good choice, so that you can adjust your clothes to the room temperature. Try your outfit on ahead of time to be sure it fits well and allows you to move comfortably.

The most important principle is to match your appearance to the occasion and the audience. If you’re giving a presentation to a class, dressing slightly more formally than you do every day is fine. However, when you have an audience of professionals, you should dress up with a jacket, suit, or office wear. Don’t dress as if you’re headed to a wedding or a nightclub.

Men

Don’t underestimate the statement you can make by taking off a jacket or loosening a tie. These motions signal to your listeners that you want to take on a friendlier, more informal, persona.  Make sure facial hair is trimmed and neat. If you’ll be speaking from a stage, make sure your shoes are polished since they’ll be at eye-level with the front row of your audience. Your tie should be conservative, without goofy prints or cartoon characters, and its color should not attract attention.  Be prepared and bring a backup tie or coat in case something goes wrong.

Women

Go for business casual rather than cocktail party: understated makeup, low heels (or flats if heels are uncomfortable), and no cleavage. In strong lighting, dark makeup can look dull and hide your eyes; keep this in mind, as eye contact is extremely important to any presentation. Keep your hair out of your eyes and away from your face. Stay away from noisy or shiny jewelry that could distract your audience. Avoid tight clothing as it draws attention to your body, which will probably make you self-conscious. A cardigan or jacket is a good way to layer and looks professional.

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