Presentation Skills: 5 Steps to Avoid the Wardrobe Malfunction and Dress For Success

While wardrobe malfunctions may be a regular occurrence for celebrity performers, for most of us, they are to be avoided at all costs.  Like it or not, how you dress says a huge amount to your audience about your image, personality and ultimately whether they want to listen to you and your presentation.

Research has shown that the first impression you make has a lasting impression on others.  In a presentation setting, your credibility is impacted before your even open your mouth.  You HAVE TO pay attention to what you wear and ensure that you dress for success, otherwise you may find that you don’t have quite the impact you intended.

Here are five steps to ensure that you are dressed to impress (and not distract) for your next presentation:

  1. Dress Smartly and One Level Up.  Find out what the dress code will be for the audience, and then dress one level above that. If the attendees are wearing jeans, go business casual; if the order of the day is business casual, consider wearing a suit. You can’t go wrong if you dress up, rather than dress down, whatever you choose to wear, make sure you are comfortable in the outfit.
  2. Look in the mirror.  Make sure you check your outfit from ALL angles, especially if you are going to be up on a stage, as this will change the angle at which your audience sees you.  Ladies, this means ensuring that your skirt is an appropriate length when you are standing AND sitting and that any ‘slits’ in the skirt do not go too high.  Trust me, even sitting in the airport, I have seen far more of other ‘professionally dressed’ passengers than I cared to, all because a skirt or blouse that may have looked nice when standing is unable to effectively do it’s job when the wearer is sitting down.
  3. Polish Your Shoes.  Make sure your shoes are polished and any price stickers removed from the soles (why do people leave these on?).  When you are speaking from a stage your shoes will be at eye level, especially for the front few rows of the audience.  Ladies – avoid high heels, unless you really can walk in them without wobbling!  I remember buying a new pair of high heels for a key presentation… standing tall gave me confidence!  As the Emcee was introducing me I realized I was going to have to walk up several steps to get onto the stage – with no handrail.  I made it without incident, but it was a reminder that standing tall is only one part of presenting – the ability to walk is still required!
  4. Remove the fancy jewelry.  Again, what looks good in the office can become a nightmare on stage, especially if you are wearing a lapel mike.  Listening to bracelets rattle or necklaces banging against the microphone every time you move is not just distracting… it is downright annoying! However, do make sure you wear a watch so that you can keep an eye on timing!
  5. Empty your pockets.  It may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but I have seen too many presenters get nervous and jingle the coins in their pockets.

Follow these five basic steps and you will be ‘dressed for success’.  Let me know what other advice you have!