What NOT to Wear for a Presentation

What NOT to Wear for a Presentation
By: Erin Prokes

Have you ever watched an incredible Ted talk (click here for my one of favorites!) and marveled at the effortlessness of the presentation? Or, the last time you had to give a presentation did you convince yourself that you had to wear a suit jacket, even if you had to pull it from the back of the closet?

Yes? Then, let’s have a real conversation …

It's okay to admit this truth: presentations are a fickle beast that include a laundry list of elements that you can and can’t control. For example, you can control your content—and how well you know it. But, reality is you can’t control technology ... no matter how hard we all try with our contingency plans for our contingency plans. Oh wait, is that level of crazy mine alone?

One very controllable element that many presenters forget about is their onstage appearance. Or, they think about it in relation to their living space when getting ready in the morning, not where they will present once they leave the house. We all own that one “professional thing” that lives in the back of the closet and is only pulled out when you must impress someone. Get rid of it! As a matter of fact, please donate it to Clothes That Work

Now, as someone who believes in costuming for any and every occasion I have you covered to rock that presentation and in the most memorable way possible – as Smarty-Pants-You!

Consider these three things when prepping for a presentation:

  1. Where are you giving your presentation?
    • The quarterly CareSource all employee meetings are held at the Schuster Center and often our backdrop is a red velvet curtain. Know what you will be standing against—you are already a talking head, give yourself enough contrast in your wardrobe to not be a floating head too!  
  1. You can be professional in colors other than black.
    • Even in a traditional industry like banking, a pop of color will help your audience to get a sense of who you are. Gentlemen, this can be accomplished with a bright tie, pocket square, or some funky socks. Ladies, pops of color can easily mean finding a bold colored pant or a breathable blouse with a pattern that makes you feel confident. Statement jewelry is always an option if you are most comfortable in all black attire. Please just don’t mix the statement jewelry, bold pants and patterned shirt! It'll be a tad too much stimulation for your audience!
  1. What is the microphone situation?
    • Are you planning to camp out at a podium or will you rock a lavaliere mic and walk while you speak? Lavaliere mics require being clipped between your heart and chin, this means you need to have something to clip it to! To avoid bunching, and a rumpled look, be sure to have a flat surface like a lapel, a tie, or even a boatneck. But, you also need to consider where the power pack will live. Men and women alike should always clip the power pack to a waist band or a belt. I prefer to make a pocket a last resort because it can add unnecessary bulk to an otherwise clean aesthetic.
    • One last thought about lavaliere mics; should you choose to wear a large broach or a longer necklace, consider if it will move as you speak. The last thing you want is for your jewelry to scratch against the microphone.

And one more tip, because it’s an important one:

The most confident speakers are often those that are most comfortable. Shoes are a big part of comfort, but clearly an afterthought. Men, if you only wear your dress shoes with your suit, and you only wear your suit when you present, get them out of the closet a week before you are on stage! Shine those puppies ahead of time and wear them around the house! And ladies, while the same rules apply to you, also think about the clickety-clack of your steps if you have on heels. If you can hear it in your kitchen, you’ll likely hear it on stage too.  

As Iris Apfel says, “I say dress to please yourself. Listen to your inner muse and take a chance. Wear something that says, ‘Here I am!’ today.”  You're already making that statement with your presentation, why not make it with your appearance too?


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