It’s often said that you look as good as you feel. If you feel terrible, you probably look terrible, and vice versa. One of the easiest ways to feel great on stage when presenting is by looking your best. If you show up looking like a million dollars, you’ll feel like a million dollars, which will make your presentation that much better.
While we no longer live in a world of top hats, corsets, shoulder pads and overcoats, it’s still hugely important to dress appropriately. Despite how much we’d like to believe our appearance isn’t important in day-to-day life, it is, in fact, a significant element of who we are. Our appearance is the most basic first impression a stranger has of us. Within thirty seconds of meeting someone, we’ve made various judgments about the person’s education level, socioeconomic background, organizational skills, trustworthiness, likability and more, based solely on their appearance, whether we are doing it consciously or not. This is precisely why it is essential to dress appropriately for every occasion. People base a lot of their first impressions on the way others are dressed, and first impressions are notoriously difficult to change.
Always dress for the occasion. If you’re speaking at the White House, you should be decked out in the finest clothes you can afford, whereas if you’re speaking at a local PTA meeting, you’ll be fine sporting a nice yet casual look. Remember what your Mom always told you: you can never be overdressed. And really, one of the worst mistakes you can make is to be underdressed. That’s a recipe for one part awkward and one part uncomfortable. When it doubt, overdress.
With that said, it’s also important to be comfortable. You might feel like a million bucks the moment you slip on those Carrie Bradshaw-esque high heels, but after trekking a few blocks to your presentation’s venue you might feel differently with throbbing feet. Likewise, be yourself. Find a way to show your personality through your choice of dress. If you love high heels, by all means, wear them. But, if you hate high heels, pass them up for nice flats. Your feet and your spirit will thank you. Never dress like someone you aren’t, even if it means dressing a little bit more causal or a little bit dressier than expected. Be who you are.
We’re always going on and on about simplifying presentations: get rid of those bullets, use as little words as possible, bigger visuals, etc. Well, it turns out that way of thinking is a great guideline to use when getting dressed for a presentation, too. Keep it simple. Have clean, neat hair, and for the ladies, wear minimal makeup. Just be well groomed. You don’t have to arrive at your presentation straight from the beauty parlor, but look fresh and clean. Remember you’ll feel as good as you look, so look good.
Another throwback from Mom: stand up straight. Not enough can be said about how much this benefits appearance. You will instantly look more confident and put together if you get rid of that ugly slouch. Pretend there’s a string coming out of the top of your head, pulling you up, up, up. Good for the body, good for the soul.
Dress your best, feel your best. It’s as simple as that.