Big Presentation? Some Tips (From an Expert) About What to Wear

Personal Branding Expert Michele Lando

By: Michele Lando

Public speaking can create stress for most of us. However, it can become even more of a challenge, when you have no idea what to wear. I have years of experience advising in this realm as a personal branding specialist — and I’m here to unpack the challenge for you.

Of course, it is key to appear polished and professional (that is expected). But the secret is to dress in an outfit that makes you feel your best. (Emphasis on the “you”.)

Here are my best tips for what to wear to that next important presentation — either at work or school.

#1: Think carefully about what makes you feel confident

It’s not often that we are intentionally mindful about our clothing. However, a significant part of deciding what to wear for a presentation is identifying an outfit that builds your confidence. In that way, it adds another layer of empowerment to your workplace presence. (Items that really don’t fit or make you feel less than, need to be eliminated from the start.)

Personally, when it comes to work — and honestly I don’t dress much differently when I’m not working — I feel my best when I’m in a blazer, simple blouse and skinny trousers or a pencil skirt. (If you look at the clothing that I discuss, you’ll notice that I’m often wearing some version of this outfit.)

It simply works for me.

This is what I call my personal “power outfit” — because it makes me feel confident — which in turn is reflected in my ability to clearly communicate. Someone else might feel their best in a skirt, perhaps a suit or even dressy jeans. Whatever it is that makes you feel really great (and flatters your body, go in that direction.

Reflect on when you feel your best. Dissect the components and note them.

#2: Remember you have the power to change how people see you

It may sound extreme, but I’ve always thought that clothing could change the world. Why? Because your clothing affects your confidence — and if you feel good about yourself you’ll be able to do good things and put the best version of yourself out into the world. Sometimes it simply takes the right outfit to give you the confidence to get up and do something productive.

It’s really empowering when you realize that you control how people see you and what image you project.

Think about how often we judge people almost immediately based on their appearance (whether correct or incorrect). Clothing is one tool which can help you take control of how people see you and shape their viewpoint.

Do you want to appear as a strong, knowledgeable, and confident individual?  Your clothing can help.

#3: Now — take it up a notch

When you’re contemplating what to wear for that presentation, another helpful rule of thumb is to think about what you would normally wear to feel great and “zhush” it up slightly. For instance, if you typically wear colored denim and a blouse or button down, think about adding on a blazer (a tie for men). Similarly, if you often wear flats and jersey dresses, perhaps opt for a dress with a little more structure and pair it with a slightly higher heel.

Overall, the goal is to highlight how much time and effort you’ve put into the presentation — and this should be reflected in your physical appearance. This moment is important.

That is why dressing more formally than you would on a daily basis is important; it will reflect your effort.

Always, remember that you have the power to craft your personal image.

#4: Follow the third piece rule

I talk about the third piece rule quite a bit at my blog — and this is the perfect place to put it into action. The third piece rule states that every outfit looks more pulled together with the addition of a third piece. If you’re trying to keep your business casual attire professional, wearing a jacket always helps. Your third piece could be a blazer, a jacket, belt, statement necklace, etc. The possibilities are endless, but adding that third piece immediately elevates any outfit. Think about adding some sort of accessory to bring the look together and make it a bit more formal. For men, adding something as simple as a color coordinated belt, or even a fun tie or pocket square can amp up your style. If you need to be more formal but it’s too hot for a blazer, throw on a vest.

A third piece is an easy way to elevate your outfit to ensure that you’re dressing appropriately for that important day.

#5: A confidence basic — ban the wrinkles.

One of my pet peeves, is clothing with wrinkles. Wrinkled clothing simply appears unprofessional. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t like to iron, (I don’t like it either) get yourself a little steamer. Entering the presentation in wrinkle-free clothing is an easy way to ensure that you don’t look like you just rolled out of bed.

The small things do matter.

Let’s sum things up. If you are struggling with what to wear for a big presentation at work. Your hard work should be reflected both in your presentation (you’re going to kill it) and your professional appearance.

Dress in an outfit that makes you feel great about yourself and the presentation you’re delivering.

The rest will be history.

Good luck!

A native San Franciscan, Michele Lando is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and founder of writestylesonline.com. She has a passion for helping others present the best version of themselves, both on paper and in person and works to polish individuals’ application package and personal style. Aiming to help create a perfect personal branding package, Write Styles presents tips to enhance your resume, style, and boost your confidence.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from running a company — to the perfect gift. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.


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