During this week of Halloween, we’ll see witches, superheroes, cartoon characters, horns and halos – the costumes vary widely. Many of them show creativity and represent the person who chose them (or made them).
I am not advocating dressing in a costume for a presentation, especially in a business situation – that could be seen as “performance art.” Still, it is worth spending a little time thinking about how you want to present yourself in a presentation setting.
Halloween costumes allow you to show off your personality. Similarly, for a presentation, the first rule of thumb is to be comfortable. Otherwise, your clothing will feel like a “costume,” and you will likely end up tugging on your outfit, instead of focusing on your talk.
These days, the catch phrase is “personal branding.” Extending that concept to your appearance simply means to express your personality and what you represent. A very simple example: if you are an artist, wearing a three-piece-suit will come across as inauthentic. Alternatively, if you are pitching an investment deal to a financial audience, you don’t want to appear overly casual.
On my very first consulting project, I packed formal business suits for my week of travel. When I arrived at the project site, the customer greeted me with “didn’t anyone tell you that our dress code is business casual?” On my third day of the project, the customer again pulled me aside. I explained that I was not local and won’t be home again until the weekend, unlike my locally based consulting colleagues. And I had only packed suits and too-casual jeans. And that evening, I went to a nearby mall and purchased business casual clothes for the remaining two days of the trip.
The key is to know your audience and the situation. Research the event and the types of attendees that will hear you speak – is it a technical conference? Is it a formal awards ceremony? As a presenter, try to dress just one step above the general dress code.
Speakers are often recorded; most conference venues use a wireless microphone. If so, don’t wear heavy jewelry or conference lanyards that can bump against it. And make sure there is a place to attach the battery pack (pocket or waistband) and the actual receiver (a blazer or shirt collar).
If you know that you will be filmed, remember that white will often appear too bright, but off-white is generally fine. Dense patterns, such as herringbone or sharply contrasting knit colors, may result in moiré patterns, or small waves, on the screen.
Remember that while the audience is there primarily to hear your content, the appropriate clothing will help you relax – and promote your credibility.
See a past Halloween-themed show of District 4’s Toastmasters Bay to Bay cable access show: