Engagint the psychological dynamics behind why the right-for-us clothing can contribute to your confidence, raise your self-esteem, and help move you upward in the workplace. It is the realm of business image, style, and personal branding that people with executive presence are paying attention to.
In business, it’s important to dress in a way that shows respect to your audience. That’s the overwhelming message heard throughout the business world. When it comes to giving an important presentation to a new client, at a conference or even to a single influential person, you need to prepare. Part of proper preparation is dressing for the part.
Your Attire Sends an Immediate Message
The outfit you choose says a lot about you. It directly influences your personal branding goals because it’s one of the first things your audiences notices. Your attire sends an immediate message about your position as well as the audience you’re speaking to. By making the wrong choice, you risk distracting your audience with your attire and having your message lost.
The first step to having a strong executive presence is to find clothing that fits you like a glove.
During a presentation, people are looking at you all the time. You don’t want to be fiddling with your clothes. If you do, you’ll turn your clothes into the subject matter. You don’t want to be pulling on your shirt or readjusting your pants if they’re too tight or snug. If something doesn’t fit you properly, you’re likely to keep pulling on it, distracting your audience from what you’re saying.
Getting a tailor-made outfit, or finding a brand that fits your body shape, is essential to proper presentation preparation. As you sift through your current wardrobe or go to the store to find an outfit that meets these criteria, think too about the color and style.
Dress for Your Audience and Occasion
You have to do your due diligence and find out who your audience is and then dress for them.
An example I like to give is of a farmer giving a speech. If you’re a farmer and you’re going to come in and talk about agriculture, probably to a bunch of CEOs in three-piece suits. You don’t want to come in in overalls, even though that might be appropriate to what you wear on a daily basis. You don’t have to come in a three-piece suit either.
You need to stay consistent with your brand while also showing the appropriate respect for the audience. If you don’t, the people looking at you might not listen. Using the farmer example, CEOs are more likely to pay attention to a well-dressed farmer who isn’t wearing overalls. Although overalls are appropriate for his job, he needs to get the people to listen to him by mirroring and paying attention to their body language.
The opposite of this example is true too. If you’re a top executive who is used to wearing a suit, you might need to dress down depending on your audience. For example, if you’re a government official visiting a school to talk to students, you should opt for something slightly more casual, such as jeans and a sport coat. This way, you can come down to the students level, allowing your audience to warm up to you faster and hear your message clearer.
Typically, it’s Better to be Overdressed than Underdressed
One common concern I hear is whether dressing down will cause you to lose respect. The answer is no. It’s possible to find a healthy balance between dressing in a way that respects both your audience and your position.
I’ve been in situations where I’ve come in overdressed and the person I was meeting with was underdressed. I didn’t care or judge them but I’d rather be overdressed than underdressed.
The reality is, your dress depends on the situation. You have to know the audience first. You need to research them as part of your preparation process. When are jeans appropriate? When aren’t they? With those factors in mind, choose an outfit that will fit you comfortably so the focus is less on your attire and more on the subject matter you’re presenting.
If you’re not sure about the message you’re sending to your audience, join me in one of my image consulting services. I’ll help you command respect no matter which audience you’re presenting to.