Dale Ludwig - Oct 1, 2009

Do you have any advice for what to wear (or not wear) for delivering presentations?

This question comes from astute reader, Jill M.

Thanks for the question, Jill.  We aren’t image consultants and don’t offer advice on what to wear during presentations unless we’re asked.  That said, there are many times when workshop participants comment (usually privately during coaching) on what they’re wearing when they see their own videos.  Most of their comments have to do with:

  1. Clothing that doesn’t fit well (by far the most common response we get).
  2. Clothing that’s too casual for a presentation.
  3. Clothing that isn’t flattering when you do the things you need to do during a presentation—pointing to the screen or leaning over a laptop, for example.
  4. Hair that hangs in front of your face.
  5. Clothing that’s too youthful or trendy for a presentation.
  6. Jewelry that is distracting to look at or makes noise.

The solutions to these issues come down to two things: (1) awareness of what’s appropriate and (2) awareness of yourself.  When it comes to what’s appropriate, pay attention to the people you work with—your boss, peers and clients.  Dress to fit in and when in doubt, err on the side of being too conservative.  Secondly, don’t assume that what fit last year will fit this year.  That’s the most important thing.  Beyond that, look at yourself as your listeners will see you.  This might be as simple as looking in a full length mirror before your presentation.  Or, if you really want to know how you’ll look, make a video of yourself wearing what you plan to wear for your presentation.  Record yourself from the front, side and back.  Record yourself walking, raising your arm to point at the screen and leaning over to look at your laptop.  My guess is that all the questions you have will be answered when you watch the video.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Written by Dale Ludwig

Dale Ludwig has a Ph.D. in Communication and, prior to Turpin, taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He founded Turpin Communication in 1992 with the mission to provide the best presentation and facilitation skills training possible. Since then he has worked to do just that. In addition to being one of Turpin’s lead instructors, he also serves as our Chief Learning Architect when tailoring learning engagements for our clients. Dale is a frequent blogger and the co-author of the book "The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined." He’s excited about his latest book, also co-authored with Greg Owen-Boger, "Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide to Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning."