What to wear when presenting

Presenting? What you wear matters

Since business attire became even more casual during the pandemic—when was the last time you saw someone in a tie—many clients are asking what to wear when presenting.

Like business attire, presentation attire has changed a little with the times. However, that’s not an excuse to wear something too casual.

You still need to dress appropriately when presenting

While you most likely don’t need to wear a tie when presenting, dressing appropriately shows your audience that you respect them. Why? Because showing your audience you respect them is key to getting your message heard.

So…what exactly is an appropriate presentation dress these days? In most cases, it hasn’t changed, except men usually don’t need a tie. Wear what you would normally wear to make a good impression because you need to make a good impression on your audience.

Here are 3 tips for dressing appropriately when presenting:

  • Dress for the occasion.
  • Be comfortable.
  • Avoid being too flashy.

Dress for the occasion when presenting

Before you decide on your presentation attire, think about the answers to these questions:

  • Are you presenting live or virtually? If your presentation is over the video, wear a solid top in blue or neutral color. Avoid busy prints or all-white or all-black tops.
  • Are you presenting to people who work in startups or established organizations? Remember that even if you’re speaking to a casually dressed crowd, it’s always safer to err on the side of caution and dress a level up. For example, if your audience will be wearing jeans and T-shirts, you might want to wear pants and a collared shirt, but you wouldn’t need a jacket.
  • Did the event or conference organizer give you any information on expected attire?
  • Will you be sitting or standing? Make sure you wear clothes that will look good in the position you’re in. For example, if you’ll be sitting you may want to avoid short skirts or pants.

If you don’t know the audience will—find out. You should always know who the audience is before you agree to give a presentation. Dressing appropriately for the presentation will also give you the confidence to successfully convey your message.

Be comfortable when presenting

Wearing something you’re not comfortable in may distract you during your presentation. Wear appropriate, well-fitting clothes that you feel comfortable in.

What to wear when presenting
Clothes that don’t fit can distract you from giving a successful presentation.

Ill-fitting clothing or clothing that is too big can make you self-conscious when presenting. Spending the bulk of your presentation wondering if your audience can tell that your shirt is too tight or your pants are too short will negatively impact your ability to present well.

Avoid being too flashy

While you want to look your best when you present, if you wear something too flashy or over the top, it will distract your audience from your key message.

As my good friend and mentor Tripp Frohlichstein once said, “If the first thing someone says to you after your presentation is ‘You looked amazing up there,’ you’ve failed.”

You want your audience focused on your message, not your amazing jewelry, flashy shoes, or neon print scarf.

Wearing appropriate, comfortable clothing when presenting will help show your audience you respect them and help you get your story heard.

For assistance with marketing, messaging, presenting, and communications, email me at ariana@crystalclearcomms.com