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What not to Wear – Wardrobe tips for women making presentations

Fisheyed nervous womanBased on my previous posts about making great presentations, I’ve had a couple of conversations with and inquiries from women wondering what to wear when in front of a room.  The wardrobe issue is a tricky one for us, no debate (and yes, it’s more difficult for women, mostly because we have enough creative choices available that we easily run the risk of going the wrong direction).  So, here are a few of my own tips:

1.  Wear great shoes.  A friend of mine swears that there is such a thing as a “power shoe” and I think she might be right.  But whether or not it’s about power, when you’re speaking you need to feel connected to the ground and solid on your feet and oh by the way people can SEE you from head to toe so every detail counts……
 
2.  Little or no jewellery.  A necklace that hangs below your clavicle (so it doesn’t interfere with your face) and that is QUIET (not jingly).  No scarves – they interfere with clip-on microphones.  And no jingly bracelets.  Watch, fine.  Bracelet that doesn’t dangle or jingle, fine.  Earrings – same rules – nothing too big or jingly or that will distract from your face.  
 
3.  And still on the microphone topic – since I avoid podiums like the plague I need to be hooked up with a remote mike, which means it needs a collar or a lapel to clip onto AND a waistband at the back for the battery pack. Which means either you can’t wear a dress or if you do it has to have a belt that can support a battery pack.
 
4.  Layers.  If you perspire when you’re nervous it’s best to have a jacket over top of whatever top you’re wearing.  Keep the top sleeveless and the jacket relatively loosely fitting.  Or,  if you’re not a jacket person, wear a top or sweater that’s loosely fitting (being mindful of the microphone tips above).  And remember, most meeting rooms have the air conditioning cranked up all the time, so make sure you’re taking that into account (and you know what I mean….just saying…).
 
5.  Hair – if it’s long enough to be pulled back, pull it back.  In any event make sure it’s not covering or interfering with your face, and that you won’t have to push it out of the way (or be tempted to play with it) while you’re speaking.
 
6.  Color.  Wear some.  Most meeting spaces are dull, dull, dull, and are usually beige or black or both.  A black suit blends into a black backdrop and, if you’re being video recorded, you’ll look like a floating head.  If you can check out the set up ahead of time, plan your outfit to ensure contrast between you and the staging.  And before you think about wearing green, be sure there’s not a green screen behind you – again, the floating head problem.  But don’t go too crazy with patterns – be sure what whatever you choose doesn’t distract people from focusing on your face.
 
7.  Makeup.  Wear some.  Be sure you look finished and polished and professional. Nothing mask-y or that makes you look inordinately different than you would normally, but just be mindful of the fact that people need to be able to see your eyes and watch your mouth from the back of the room.  And no fragrance – distracting, not to mention the allergy factor when you’re in a crowd setting.
 
Just a few of the things I’ve learned, both by personal experience and by viewing clients to give them feedback. If you have your own suggestions, please leave them in the comments below.
 

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There is 1 comment.

Jeanette Bicknell —

Great tips, Karen! I recently read that navy blue is the most universally flattering colour. So when in doubt, navy is a good option.

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