PodiumWise | Tips for advanced presentation skills

It was easy years ago. The dress code for any presentation was what we now call business formal. Flip a coin. Navy blue or gray?

Then along came business casual. It was okay to leave the suit in the closet and wear something more comfortable—as long as it was reasonably professional. The guidelines blurred despite all the clarifying memos from the Human Resources department.

I think we can now safely say that the “casual” in business casual has definitely won out over “business.”

The question is: Do people still make judgments about you based on how you are dressed?

Ask people, and they will tell you it definitely is still important what you wear. Yet you wouldn’t know it to see the way many of them are dressed when they take to the front of the room.

It’s hard to know any more if they are simply clueless or they believe it’s cool to affect a casual, “Who cares?” demeanor.

And yet, in contrast to how little effort they put into their own appearance, they worry for days about the appearance of their slides. Somehow, less-than-attractive slides will compromise the presentation, but their own appearance is irrelevant.

The next time you look in your closet on the morning of a presentation, think it through. Your own appearance will be part of the message you deliver—like it or not. Boardroom formal may be inappropriate, but a good impression is only going to help.

It’s unlikely anyone will say anything if you show up looking like you didn’t give it a second thought. But they will have a thought or two that will not to be to your advantage.

2 Responses to “How we dress still counts.”

  • bsteele says:


    Whether giving a talk or going on a job interview, the way you dress is going to be a big part of the first impression people have of you. Then, whatever you say is going to be filtered through that impression. I would say acceptable dress definitely is similar for these two occasions–appropriate for the audience and sending a message that you care.


  • paulab says:

    Hi Bill.

    I see this casual “Who cares?” demeanor more and more with job interviews as well. Is acceptable dress for these two occasions similar? I would think so.


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