How Are You Perceived? - Dress to Present

This is Part 2 of the “How Are You Perceived?” Series.

Do you remember the show “What Not to Wear” on TLC? It featured fashionistas Stacy London and Clayton Kelly as they revitalized the wardrobes of style felons—average people nominated by friends and family to receive a $5,000 makeover.

Many of the style felons dressed in a way that was inappropriate for their jobs and this affected how their coworkers viewed them. One of the major lessons that Stacy and Clayton tried to impart to their viewers is that how you present yourself does make a difference in your career. It’s important to invest in how you look.

I whole-heartedly agree with this sentiment. Dressing your best is crucial for acing your presentations. Taking care of yourself is a sign of respect for your material, your audience, and yourself.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you choose a comfortable and professional outfit:

  • Dress comfortably - but not sloppy. Khaki pants and a button down fall out of the “business casual” category once the edges are worn and frayed.

  • Don’t wear clothing you just bought—especially shoes! Nothing kills focus like a nasty blister.

  • Don’t wear anything too confining or too loose. Wear something that allows you to move freely and easily.

  • Do wear layers. No one wants to see you sweating on stage. Goosebumps are a whole other sort of horror.

  • Dress professionally. The definition of “professional” varies from industry to industry, so if you’re unsure, ask a trusted colleague in your area.

  • Do wear clean clothes that fit well. “Business Casual” may be a vague term, but you can’t go wrong if you’re thoughtfully and neatly dressed.

  • Do dress one notch above your audience. If you’re looking to have your audience respect your knowledge and authority, stepping up your wardrobe will do wonders.

  • Do dress authentically.* You don’t have to totally sacrifice personal style in the name of professionalism (nor do you have to go broke. Target has some nice work-appropriate clothes). Develop a wardrobe that is unique to your tastes while showing you have pride in the work you do.

That said, your outfit shouldn’t be what your audience remembers from your presentation. My number one piece of sartorial advice is to dress so that it’s your stellar personality they remember - not your sloppy outfit.

* A note on being “authentic” - too many people use this as an excuse to dress slobby or stay in their comfort zone. And don’t even talk to me about Steve Jobs. I was never a fan of his style, and the jeans looked careless. Too many people (Elizabeth Holmes, anyone?) cite Jobs as their inspiration - and use the late Apple Man as an excuse. Not everything he did was golden, so please, spare me the slobby jeans and black turtleneck.

For more advice, see:
Tips to Stop Tics
The Unfiltered You