dress appropriately

Dress AppropriatelyA common question we encounter from speakers preparing for a big presentation is "What on Earth should I wear on the day?"

It's always a challenging one to answer and constantly sparks debate.

Your audience will make assumptions about you immediately

For the duration of your presentation you will probably be the authority on your given topic and it’s important that the audience feel that, whoever they may be. We all make assumptions based on what we see others wear – whether we like it or not. If you turn up mismatched with the audience your communication will be challenged and your performance skewed as people try to make sense of your wardrobe choices.

Dress as well as, or slightly better than your audience

Whether you’re a man or a woman, arriving to speak to a creative start up in full business attire may mean you will not connect with your audience. The opposite could be said if you took the more casual approach when looking to raise funds from the bank. Dressing as well as the audience, or slightly better, will help create an unspoken match. An inferior choice could seriously impair your chances to be taken seriously and, at worst, you will look as though you don’t belong.

Reflect your brand

Dressing to reflect your brand may not always be possible - as there will always be occasions when power dressing will make the difference to, for example, a room full of investors. However, mirroring what your business represents is a powerful way for you to embody what you are all about. The design guru Jonathan Ive (below), is a good example of someone who completely reflects Apple’s culture of simplicity and creativity. It would be hard to imagine him in a suit and tie.

A pause gives your audience time to fully comprehend and process that controversial statement or big piece of data you’ve just shared. It may well be that what you are saying is complex or shocking, giving the audience time to reflect shows that you are considering them.

Always feel your best

Whatever you decide to wear, it's fundamentally important that you feel great in it. We've seen people give an important talk whilst also giving the odd wince as those new shoes begin to pinch. Ideally you've worn this combination before and you've also had a positive experience in it. It sounds like common sense but wearing something that is comfortable to move around in is also pretty fundamental. You need to know you can reach above your head and move quickly across your performance area if you have to. Brené Brown, a great speaker, always seems incredibly at ease in whatever she wears.

Think about the audience strategically

What is it you want to say with your own style? Can you wear something that will send your own personal message? After a certain point in time, Steve Jobs never varied from black Issey Miyake turtlenecks, faded jeans and sneakers. The look always reminded us that he was not a conventional CEO. This can be a subtle shift from how people usually see you. When Prime Minister David Cameron spoke at TED 2010 he opted not to wear a tie, it was a subtle and softer shift from how people normally see him.

Understand your tribe

Be authentic to who you fundamentally are - dressing like a teenager to impress a group of teenage skateboarders if you're fifty, may not be your best move. Saying that, if you are fifty and happen to also be one of the world's greatest skateboarders like Rodney Mullen, you wouldn't want to appear for a TED talk dressed like a lawyer!

NEXT: 'the art of simplicity'

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