Depending upon one’s line of work or expertise on a particular subject of public interest, a gentleman may be called upon – quite regularly – to present his knowledge to an audience. Here are a few of the basic principles of dress he should follow to ensure that listeners hear the message in an impressed, effective, not distracted, manner.
Your dress conveys the importance of your idea. If you present in sandals, it is likely that the idea does not deserve more than a few minutes reflection on the beach with a Pimm’s Cup. Great ideas are certainly born of a few good Pimm’s Cups, but no one is paying $3 million for them in that moment. If you’re selling or convincing a listener that something is worth investing in, you can first wear a suit and tie worth investing in. Presentations will most always be professional attire.
Wear the Right Colors and Patterns
Your idea will be associated with you and your appearance by default. The best presenters will effectively keep that 100% subconscious for the listener (see Hardy Amies quote below). If it is a strong, bold idea, a flavor of red or gold may be in order. If it is innovative, or creatively stimulating, a good blue or purple may suffice. The important guidance here is to be mindful of a distracting tie: pictures, more than 4 or 5 colors, too bright of saturation, and abstract “vectors” and such will be unnecessarily distracting.
- Always stand when you are presenting. If you would stand for a lady, you should also stand for a $3 million idea.
- Since you are now standing, also button your suit. Do not ever present with your jacket undone.
- Check that your jacket pockets are all in or all out – no last minute folds and snags.
- Under no condition should your hands find your pockets during your presentation.
Mind the Accessories
- Today is not the day for your favorite pocket square. It’s the day for the pocket square – simple white, TV fold. If your shirt is blue, a light blue is an acceptable variance. However, save the colors for after you’ve been paid that $3 million.
- Manage your hardware wisely. If you wear a watch the size of the Mars lander, your audience will be distracted as though they were watching you land on Mars.
- If your tie bar is too high and catches the light every time you move (which is somewhat often), your audience will be distracted.
- Leave the white bucks in the closet. Unless the subject is summer shoes, these will be like moving tennis balls to the eye.
- Cuff links aren’t necessary for presentation. They can provoke the viewer to wondering “what kind of cuff links are they wearing?” while you’re trying to get to the punch line.
The Bottom Line
The moment your audience is distracted, your idea is either in jeopardy or already dead.
Dress to impress, but with good temperance. Make sure you portray confidence, attention to detail, and your clothing illustrate some manner of connectivity to your topic. However, remember that a presentation is all about the idea being presented – not you. There are few better occasions that hold such relevance to Hardy Amies’ famous quote than in this activity. “A man should look as if he had bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care, and then forgotten all about them.”