One concern that many people have prior to giving a presentation, particularly to an audience they don’t know, is what should they wear?
Really, the rules for this are just common sense, there are no hard and fast guidelines.
If you are talking to a group of bankers, or other such white collar profession then you should aim to mirror their dress code – for men, a suit, or as a minimum, smart trousers and shirt with tie, and for women, a smart trouser suit or conservative length skirt and jacket/blouse – it may sound rather sexist to suggest a longer skirt but the audience don’t need distracting with very attractive or revealing outfits, they should be admiring your message and nothing else!
If your audience is younger – students for example, or from a ‘hip’ profession – music industry executives for example then you would probably feel more comfortable with a more casual style of dress, and a less formal pair of trousers/skirt and smart/casual top would be appropriate.
A general rule of thumb is to dress as well as, or one level better, than your audience as a professional appearance will strongly suggest to them that you are going to be expert in your field – this may seem a bit shallow, but it tends to be true.
I would always suggest taking a spare set of clothes and keeping it in the car, just in case – a coffee spill, or spatter of tomato sauce on your clean top will ruin a look and certainly get noticed!
Also make sure that your clothing is comfortable and fits well. If you are moving around you don’t want shoes that pinch, if you are making gestures then you don’t want to burst a button off a top. If you are wearing jewellery then will it rattle or jingle? If so, change it.
Finally, no matter what the dress code, there is one thing that you should always wear that your audience will appreciate, and that’s a smile!