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Perfect Presentations: What Not to Wear

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duddy-looking-presenter1-300x299How to dress for credibility, while remaining true to yourself.

What to wear for a perfect presentation? As you design and polish your speech, developing visual aids and handouts, this question may fall into the background until dangerously close to the presentation. Suddenly, you look up: “Yikes! What am I going to wear?”

Your appearance impacts your credibility as a speaker. Don’t leave it to chance, and don’t wait until the last minute to decide what to wear. Just think of preparing your appearance as part of your overall speech preparation. Here are my favorite, possibly competing, guidelines:

  • Stay authentic.
  • Dress like your audience- but one step better.

Stay Authentic: Within reason, your attire must express who you are. If you feel like you’re wearing someone else’s costume, your verbal message may not ring true.

Dress Like Your Audience, But One Step Better: Appearing similar to, but slightly more dressed up than your listeners conveys respect both for them and for your subject. It enhances your credibility.

Use these five tips as a guide to dressing for credibility, while remaining true to yourself.

1.  Wear well-made and well-maintained clothing.

Granted, no one will be checking your clothing’s seams or labels. But image consultants counsel that your audience can tell if you’re wearing a cheaply made dress or suit. You can probably feel it, too. Whether you choose to look conservative or creative, wear well-made clothing made from high-quality fabric. Avoid linen and other easily-wrinkled material.

2.  Pay attention to details.

Even if your audience won’t see your shoes, make sure they are polished and that the heels are secure. Men should have a recent haircut and trimmed facial hair. Search for loose threads or inopportune gaps between buttons.

3.  Wear your “Confident Clothes.”

Wear something that makes you feel sprightly and energized. This could mean sticking to the tried-and-true, so long as it’s one step above your audience and expresses your personality. Use a solid color that suits you near your face. (How do you know which colors suit you? Ask one of your color-savvy friends.)

4.  Make sure it’s comfortable.

You are NOT allowed to tug at or re-arrange your clothes while presenting. Wear your outfit around the house a few days before your presentation to ensure that you can move comfortably. Then put your outfit aside, including all underwear, jewelry and shoes, and go back to prepping your speech.

5. Dress to look taller.

Consider wearing a solid color for both pieces of your outfit. This will help you appear taller and help you tap into the “Intensified You.”

So—to pull together both my responses to the question “What should I wear?” I leave you with these words: Let your personality shine through even as you “fit in” with each specific audience.

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