What to Wear to Give a Presentation

December 11th, 2009

Q: I am a college student that is a business major. As finals week slowly approach, I have presentations to present. What should I wear to the presentation? My dilemma is that I don’t want to look too overdressed or underdressed. Would a simple black dress and a boyfriend fit blazer with black flats be okay to wear?

wool-gabardine-one-button-jacket_121009
Pictured: Wool Gabardine One Button Jacket | $235 at J Crew.

A: Whether it’s a presentation during finals or a boardroom presentation in the workplace, the key to dressing well is to wear something that you feel confident in.  We all have outfits (and shoes) that make us feel good - and ready to take on whatever the day throws at us.  For a presentation where it’s important to make a good impression, tip the scales in your favor by wearing a tried and true favorite.  Or if you’re buying something new for the presentation, make sure to try on the whole outfit to get the right fit - and feel - before the day of the event.  That way, the day of the presentation, you can focus on what really matters: your message.

For a college presentation, you’ll want to keep your look professional, but still youthful.  If you wear a suit, keep it fitted and feel free to take some liberties with your shirt - you don’t have to wear a plain white or striped button-down.  Try different fabrics (like the chambray shirt, pictured), colors, or silhouettes.  You can also choose to go the dress route and wear a simple dress, as you suggested, with a professional looking jacket.  You may want to mix up the colors - a heathered grey dress with a navy blazer, for instance, would be both professional and a little more visually interesting. 

For a workplace presentation, a good rule of thumb is to dress a level or two above your position.  That way, you’ll be sure to look polished, but you won’t be overly dressy. 

If you’re being filmed, here’s a couple of extra style notes:

(1) Bright, vibrant colors work best for TV; they look good to the eye - and the camera.
(2) Try not to wear white clothes - it’ll wash out the lighting.
(3) Same goes for pure black or navy clothes.  While they look good to your eye, they tend to look like a solid patch of darkness to the camera’s eye.
(4) Fine patterns like herringbone and small checks can cause a wavy effect; avoid these patterns where possible.

Have a great tip about what to wear to a presentation? Share it with us in the comments!

Entry Filed under: Q&A, Women, Women's

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. JenX  |  December 11th, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    I’m in a business program as well and I highly recommend mixing up the colors and textures. I like to do Colored dress shirts like deep purple with ruffle detail and high waist light grey pencil skirt to keep it Light and young.

  • 2. Pam Giordano  |  December 11th, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Keep jewelry simple. Make sure nothing jangles or makes noise to distract from your presentation. Pass on scarves or wraps, unless they are well anchored. You’ll be moving around as you present so wear something that lets you move easily.

  • 3. GeorgieNYC  |  December 14th, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    j crew always has great jackets, suits, etc. I recommend going down a size in the pants though. Have a work presentation? See some more corporate-looking pics here.
    http://what2wearwhere.com/ListItems.aspx?pt=Event&q=15

  • 4. Kristina  |  January 1st, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Nice blog! I know what for Work presentation best wear something what make you look slim and taller .Less layers, and make sure you really fill comfortable and love really love way how you look, this will add you confidence. look feminine and strong same time. This is really will help you get the best result. thank you. Good luck

  • 5. CWB  |  January 2nd, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    A tip I got from a senior faculty member in grad school was that you should always have 5-7 colors near your face. I thought she was nuts, and then I wore a wildly patterned blouse to give a talk and someone took photos–it actually works. Especially if you’re behind a lectern or podium, it gives the audience a focal point. You should also always wear dark lipstick because if they can’t see your mouth, they can’t hear you.

  • 6. Kayla  |  March 19th, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    What about a college student going in for a graphic design internship where the dress is business professional. I’m having a hard time finding pieces that work for business professional dress code but also show my creativity as a designer… help?

  • 7. Judy  |  May 9th, 2010 at 5:50 am

    It is highly recommended to wear (any) decent cloths having lighter shades and less jewelry in any presentation.

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